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CWA # 78, 19 January 2019

United States
Afghanistan: Why Trump’s decision to withdraw will create more instability

  Kriti

After spending $900 billion and losing 2,400 soldiers, the President feels that it is time for them to return to their homeland. Does the situation in Afghanistan warrant an American withdrawal? Will this decision create more instability, and negate the successes so far?

Research Intern
International Strategic and Security Studies Programme (ISSSP)
National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS)
& Law Student
National University of Study and Research in Law, Ranchi 

 

After spending $900 billion and losing 2,400 soldiers, the President feels that it is time for them to return to their homeland. Does the situation in Afghanistan warrant an American withdrawal? Will this decision create more instability, and negate the successes so far?

 

Is the situation in Afghanistan under control? 

The present position of Afghanistan is worse than ever. If we compare the current position of Afghanistan to that of 2001, the Taliban holds more territory at this point in time than what was 17 years ago. With the passage of time over the years, the situation is more complicated than ever. The attacks have increased, not only in numbers but also in their intensity. They are bigger and deadlier. The Taliban had made a lot of efforts in the past one year to expand its territory, be it the invasion in Ghazni, Farah, Helmand or Kandahar. The number of civilians killed during such invasion is unprecedented. Even with the rise in such casualties, we cannot see any difference made by the American and NATO reinforcements.

A part of the actual problem is the title of “Most Feared Terrorists”. The general notion is that the Islamic States are now actually fighting over the said title. The ISIS has made claims over the bombing that took place in Kabul and the voter registration centres, whereas the Taliban had bombed the ambulance and had also turned the Intercontinental Hotel into a battlefield.

The terrorists have started targeting Afghanistan’s government. Repeated attacks on the ministries, elections, independent media, journalists have taken place. According to the US estimate, the government forces only have control over 60% of Afghanistan and the rest is under the control of insurgents. Thus, if the US troops withdraw their support from Afghanistan, the situation would be way out of hand to handle in the future.

 

How will Trump’s decision impact the Afghan government?

If Trumps actually withdraws troops from Afghanistan, the country would be in a series of problems. There are majorly three possible conflicts that the government needs to look out for. Firstly, the country is in an administrative paralysis. The results of the “October Parliamentary Elections” have still not been released. The election was held a month later than the actual date due the threat and increase in the number of violent acts taking place. The elections itself were termed to be the most violent one by the UN in over 17 years since the Taliban was overthrown.

Secondly, the government could collapse altogether. If the security umbrella of the allies of Afghanistan is removed the chances of a civil conflict increases. It would take no time for it to turn into a failed state.

The third possibility arises in case there is no result in the on-going war. Such a scenario will “fuel the tribal and sectarian divisions, destabilize both society and polity, and leave in its wake a bloody wake of death and destruction”.

The peace talks with the Taliban has been the centre of attraction. It is the US force that was able to initiate the process. So the next question we come up with is, what will happen to the peace talks if the troops are withdrawn?

In the year 2018, the US Diplomats worked hard to bring the Taliban to negotiation terms. But the entire year Taliban remained unwilling to talk. Various scholars are of the opinion that such groups tend to fight rather than negotiate. With all the efforts being made to arrange for a negotiation table, the Taliban is adamant on not talking to the Afghan government.

The Taliban has all along worked to eliminate the US government’s troops from Afghanistan. It has been able to not only take control of a major part of the country but also was able to inflict serious damages to the Afghan government. The presence of even 14,000 American troops along with Afghan forces could not stop them. With only half of the troops being left, they tend to increase the number of attacks. Now if the troops are being withdrawn from Afghanistan, the Taliban would gain confidence that their strategy is working. For them, it is easy to expect that sooner or later the US forces would completely leave the country. 

 

Will the Taliban come back to power?

If the US troops are reduced at this point in time, it would provide Taliban and Al-Qaida with an open gate to enter the region and carry out local and external operations. Al-Qaida is one of the strongest and most economical supporters of the Taliban. It can easily provide resources for its military campaigns. Together they can marshal the need for any international terrorist attack.

 

Is Afghanistan in a position to take control?

The Afghan intelligence agencies suffer from various deficiencies. With the support of US intelligence infrastructure, it is able to maintain pressure on Al-Qaida and the Taliban. Ariel surveillance and communication interception, and armed striking platforms such as drones are all strong points for the US. It is with their help that Afghanistan has been able to hold up.

Once the US troops withdraw and these services are taken back along with them, it is for sure that the terrorist groups be it Taliban or Al-Qaida will march back and take over the country. It is true that the terrorist groups will not be able to launch a major attack on the United States any time soon. It is not easy to penetrate the various layers of US counterterrorism vigilance. It is true that at this point in time it is no more economical for the US to continue carrying out operations in Afghanistan. But the question here is not about US security but of Afghanistan’s ability to take control.

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