WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden’s debut speech at the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday marks a major test to his message that "America is back" on the world stage as he looks to defend a series of bruising foreign policy decisions that have raised questions about U.S. credibility.
The shadow of COVID-19 looms large over the annual summit, which took place virtually last year due to the pandemic, but it also comes as the Biden administration struggles to contain the fallout from a series of recent diplomatic blunders, including a chaotic and deadly evacuation effort in Afghanistan after the Taliban swept to power amid the U.S. military withdrawal last month.
The Pentagon acknowledged Friday that 10 civilians , including an aid worker and as many as seven children, were killed in a drone strike in Kabul in the final days of the 20-year war. Separately, France recalled its ambassador to the U.S. and Australia after it was rattled by a new partnership between the two countries and the U.K. that rendered a French submarine contract obsolete. The president will also face foreign leaders who have criticized his campaign to give Americans a COVID-19 booster shot before prioritizing countries where people have yet to receive their first vaccine dose . And Biden is facing renewed scrutiny over his immigration policies after the administration began deporting Haitian migrants after thousands gathered seeking asylum at the southern border.
"Our allies and adversaries have to make one judgment: are these missteps a headline that will pass or are they a trend line?" said Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a former State Department adviser.
The president headed off some criticism Monday when the administration lifted a travel ban on vaccinated foreign nationals after European officials expressed frustration over his refusal to lift the restrictions, which were implemented under former President Donald Trump.