Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, September 24th, 2021

Concerns Continue about Adverse Effects of Troop Pullout

The withdrawal of US troops has caused serious concerns for neighboring states, which fear the spillover of the conflict and extremist incursions. It also triggered the concerns of some Afghan politicians and US military veterans and high-ranking officials.
When the Trump administration declared troop pullout in 2018 from Afghanistan and Syria, James Stavridis, a retired US Navy admiral, called it a “big mistake” and “calamitous”. He said, “It would lead to the resurgence of the Taliban, who would welcome al-Qaeda back with open arms,” James is cited as saying. Meanwhile, a number of US lawmakers also said that since Donald Trump had never set foot in a conflict zone, he lacked the credibility to make decision about the troop pullout in Syria and Afghanistan.  The drawdown of US troops from Afghanistan was predictable since Trump, declaring his strategy about Afghanistan and South Asia back in 2017, said, “Shortly after my inauguration, I directed Secretary of Defense Mattis and my national security team to undertake a comprehensive review of all strategic options in Afghanistan and South Asia. My original instinct was to pull out. And historically, I like following my instincts.”
But the time-sensitivity made this decision unpredictable and unbelievable as Trump added three major points in his strategy regarding Afghanistan: First, seeking “an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made”. Second, he warned about the horrible consequences of rapid exit adding that “a hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum for terrorists, including ISIS and Al Qaeda”. He also disapproved of his predecessor for a hasty withdrawal from Iraq. Third, he stressed the serious security threat as he stated that “20 U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organizations are active in Afghanistan and Pakistan”. Then, US officials espoused the very three facts Trump maintained in August 2017, in turn, Jim Mattis resigned as a result of Trump’s decision on military drawdown.  The US troop pullout based on the US-Taliban Doha agreement signed on February 29, 2020, the Taliban have already interpreted it as their own triumph. But, unlike the Taliban, being generous at the negotiating table will lead to horrible consequences. I believe that since the conditions are not mutually accepted, the withdrawal of US forces will be one step forward, two steps back.   Although the Biden administration, supporting Trump’s decision, declared to withdraw all the American troops before September 11, he Taliban still seek to play a foul game at the table as they refuse to declare ceasefire or reduce violence. The Taliban have intensified their attacks against the Afghan government, killing Afghan soldiers and civilians. In short, the US-Taliban Doha agreement did not bring any positive changes in Afghanistan’s security situation. Worst, the situation has been deteriorated. The Taliban are involved in large-scale killings of Afghan civilians as well as imposition of their radical ideology.  The troop pullout prompted the Taliban, in addition to haggling over higher price at the table and, to refuse to declare ceasefire and spread a stronger sense of fear and disappointment in the public air. Thus, Trump had better not follow the footstep of his predecessor in such significant issues and should go with responsible withdrawal so that “the extraordinary sacrifice of blood and treasure”, made in the last two decades, is preserved. Being at a crossroads, the Biden administration has to make the right decision. The Afghan government expects regional stakeholders to use their leverage on the Taliban and push them to declare ceasefire and negotiate with sincere intention. If the Taliban continue playing a foul game in the talks, the fragmented pieces of trust will be hardly reparable. All in all, the decades-long conflict has inflicted heavy casualties on both sides without any light at the end of the tunnel. The continuation of war will lead to further casualties and destructions without any end. With this in mind, all insurgent groups, mainly the Taliban, need to stop their militancy and settle their issue through meaningful negotiations.  Furthermore, the United Nations should take part in the Afghan peace process and push for a political settlement, as Article 1 of the UN Charter stipulates the purpose of the UN is “to maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace”.