President Joe Biden has announced that the United States will withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan by September 11. His predecessor, Donald Trump, began the process in December 2018, committing a similar act on May 1 this year. In preparation for this, the United States held several rounds of talks between the Ashraf Ghani-led Afghan government and the Taliban, but made no progress. The U.S. withdrawal at this time could be devastating to the people of Afghanistan, causing negative consequences for a wider region, including India, and contributing to the cause of Islamist jihad around the world.
There are only 3,500 American troops left in Afghanistan. 14 months ago, on February 8, 2020, the last American enemy-fire accident took place on Afghan soil. Since 2015, the U.S. role has been largely limited to training and support. It is the Afghan army, not the Americans, that is fighting the Taliban. Today, there are 53,000 U.S. troops stationed in Japan, 33,000 in Germany, 26,000 in South Korea and 4,000 in Bahrain, with U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan. However, the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan this year could have detrimental effects, as U.S. forces also have a high token value in token numbers. So will their departure.
The Taliban see the withdrawal as a decisive victory. It already controls 40% of Afghanistan’s territory, and within hours of Biden’s announcement, Haji Hekmat, a militia leader for Balkh Province, told the BBC: “We have won the war and America has lost.” Kabul, trust the Taliban, is now well available.
The first stated goal of the US-sponsored talks was to establish a ‘transitional government’ that would oversee the country’s return to peace. This did not happen. One, as expected, is that no one can figure out how this transitional government can balance the Taliban’s theocracy-state goal with democracy. In fact, the Taliban have made it very clear that they want to restore the full-fledged Sharia-compliant Islamic state they ran until they were ousted from US military power in 2001.
Two, the Taliban promised a ceasefire several times and immediately withdrew those promises. In fact, they increased their attacks and captured more territory. Again, only the innocent or the desperate did not turn a blind eye to this.
Three, the Taliban insisted that Ghani must resign in order for the peace process to move forward. The mine, at the same time, is in a strange state. The Taliban call him a “US puppet,” but the United States intends to sell him and his government to the river.
On March 11, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken wrote a letter to Ghani; The tone of the letter was described by some observers as “threatening” and “neo-immigrant.” Blinken blamed the Afghan government for the failure of the peace talks. The letter was also unaware of the obstacles the Taliban constantly raised during the talks, their repeated rejection of promises or the fact that they had done nothing to sever ties with groups such as al-Qaeda. Blinken even pulled a rabbit out of his hat: America is now asking Turkey to convene a meeting between the Kabul government and the Taliban, whose president Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a well-known Islamist leaning. It feels like the withdrawal of troops and the abandonment of Afghanistan to the medieval Taliban.
On top of all that, the day before Biden’s announcement, the United States Director of National Intelligence released its annual threat assessment report, which said: “(In Afghanistan) the chances for a peace deal are slim next year. The Taliban are likely to make a profit on the battlefield, and the Afghan government is struggling to contain the Taliban if the (US-led) coalition withdraws support. Kabul continues to face setbacks on the battlefield, and the Taliban is confident that it can achieve military victory. “
The Biden administration’s decision in Afghanistan will further shake the confidence of American allies in Washington.
In fact, the people of Afghanistan are experiencing very dire consequences. The Taliban are now powerful. When the group was in power in the 1990s, it imposed strict Sharia rule, banning women, music and photography who had lost almost all their freedoms. There is no reason to believe that they will behave differently at this point if they succeed. They are already achieving moral success and this will definitely inspire jihadi forces around the world.
All of this is not good news for India, which has consistently supported the Afghan government and is the second largest donor to the country after the United States. If the Taliban return to power in Kabul, they could start working with their long-time sponsor and ally Pakistan to incite Islamist terrorism in India.
Sadly, Biden doesn’t seem to have learned much from the experience. As Vice President to Barack Obama, he oversaw the US military withdrawal from Iraq in 2011. But, by January 2014, the Islamic State had taken over large parts of Iraq and became a global threat. America has no choice but to withdraw its forces. Biden was there, did that work and had to cancel.
Sandeepan Deb is the former editor of ‘Financial Express’ and the founding editor of ‘Open’ and ‘Swarajya’ magazines.