- The Biden Administration might make changes
Raja Furqan Ahmed
After the 9/11 attacks, the USA has been fighting the longest war ever in its history in Afghanistan to eliminate the threat from its soil, but the USA and its allies have not been successful in defeating their enemies. The Bush Administration declared the War on Terror after the 9/11 attacks of Al-Qaeda in te USA. Later on, the war changed dimension due to the political changes.
President Bush started the War on Terror and during his two terms, he was more focused on an offensive strategy. In his tenure, he also opened new fronts such as the Iraq invasion which affected the Afghan war. Kabul’s policies, as well as its political decisions, were made in Washington. Later on, the Obama Administration emphasized the military used, but he also provides the gateway to the Taliban for opening the office in Doha, Qatar. There were more than 100,000 US troops present in Afghanistan during that time.
Will the USA really withdraw troops from Afghanistan? The simple answer is “NO”. First, because this war is not looking to be ending because of a lack of seriousness by both the Taliban and the Kabul government. Secondly, the upcoming US government policy will likely to shift as the peace process pace is moving so slowly, so eventually the USA will extend the time frame. Due to the instability inside Afghanistan and the political crises between the multi-ethnic groups so, success in the peace deal needs all parties should stay on the same page which is difficult, looking at Afghan history
On 18 June 2013 Taliban opened their first ever office and announced its willingness to open peace talks with US officials. It took more than two years for negotiations over the opening of the office, but it was also the Obama Administration’s success that the Taliban, who were initially not ready for talks, came and sat in the office for the negotiations. After Trump came into power, the war shifted from the military perspective to the table talks and negotiations.
Recently, the Political reshuffle in the USA has raised many questions about the future US policy towards the global issues, by Joe Biden who defeated incumbent President Donald Trump in the 2020 US presidential election. It was predicted that the military establishment will favour Biden because Trump’s policies did not support the USA as they wanted. During the election campaign, nearly 800 former high-ranking military and security officials also wrote an open letter in support of Democratic candidate.
Trump also adopted a dismissive attitude towards US allies, particularly the European Union, and thus NATO, on which he imposed extra tariffs. He cut deals with nations and organizations that benefited the USA, like the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the Iran nuclear deal, and the Paris Agreement. He also opened a new conflict with China. Despite that, China built its economic, diplomatic and military power, while the USA became bogged down in endless wars and suffered an economic crisis. But the one thing Trump understood was that the solution for any issue was through negotiation, dialogue and talks. He decided to pull the USA out of the Afghan war.
In US politics mainly two institutions are prominent and rival to each other; the State Department, responsible for carrying out foreign policy, and the Defence Department, focusing on the matters of defence.
In the Trump era, the State Department played a vital role in the Afghan conflict. The 20-years of war which started with weapons now looks to end with negotiations. Earlier this year, the USA and the Taliban signed an agreement in Doha aimed at ending the war in Afghanistan. Under the agreement, all US forces would be withdrawn by May 2021, but, in theory, only if the Taliban fulfil certain conditions which seem to have not been met yet.
Despite that deal, the Afghan politicians raise their genuine concern about not having been taken into confidence. They also put some hurdles for delaying the release of prisoners. Several times, the talks between the Kabul government and Taliban were suspended. Later on, In September the long delayed Intra-Afghan talks started in Doha, but the process was slowed down to set the terms and conditions before the formal talks begin. Currently, the terms and conditions have been set between both parties and at the end of November, the official talks will start, according to sources.
The US President tweeted in October that all 4500 US troops in Afghanistan would be home by Christmas, which shows that Trump wants complete withdrawal before year-end but later on, US military officials claimed there was no actual plan to withdraw troops by Christmas.
After Trump lost the 2020 election, the policy also shifted from complete to half withdrawal. Trump is pushing to accelerate withdrawals from Afghanistan as well as Iraq and Somalia by the time he leaves office. As top military and national security aides were against that decision, Trump eventually agreed to the smaller drawdown. On the other side, the Taliban appreciated Trump’s decision.
Due to the sudden policy shift and speed-up, NATO as also raised serious concerns that the price for leaving too soon or in an uncoordinated way could be very high. Afghanistan risks becoming once again a platform for international terrorists to plan and organise attacks on NATO homelands, worry alliance members.
It is expected that the Pentagon will reverse the decision and send more troops or military support, especially airpower, when Biden officially takes charge. Many US experts believe that conditions on ground are not suitable for a troop reduction, as the balance of power may shift in favour of the Taliban.
Biden in a recent interview said that he would maintain a troop presence in Afghanistan and Iraq. He has pressure from the military establishment to put troops on Afghan soil. He will try to be tougher on the Taliban, such as by threatening to delay a US troop withdrawal until violence reduces. A reduced US military presence in Afghanistan will also put Biden in a tough position. The Trump decision is to withdraw half the troops, so now it is expected the remaining 2000 will stay for a long time.
As a concern, the only person suffering is the ordinary Afghan. But will the USA really withdraw troops from Afghanistan? The simple answer is “NO”. First, because this war is not looking to be ending because of a lack of seriousness by both the Taliban and the Kabul government. Secondly, the upcoming US government policy will likely to shift as the peace process pace is moving so slowly, so eventually the USA will extend the time frame. Due to the instability inside Afghanistan and the political crises between the multi-ethnic groups so, success in the peace deal needs all parties should stay on the same page which is difficult, looking at Afghan history.
The writer can be reached at [email protected] or @furqanraja1122 on Twitter.