US’ plan to withdraw troops from Afghanistan is advantageous for militants
US President Donald Trump’s announcement of plans to withdraw nearly half of his troops from Afghanistan has raised alarms amid a deepening state of chaos in the country. According to a report filed by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan last year, the Afghan National Forces (ANF) are incapable of taking on the complete responsibility for the country on their own and, therefore, the removal of foreign troops could create a power vacuum that could be filled by warlords, radicalized militant organizations, and proxy groups sponsored by neighboring states.
The immediate pullout of 7,000 troops has left the US’ allies surprised. Perhaps, the withdrawal plan could have a demoralizing impact on the ANF, too, as they continue to need ground and air support provided by the US-led coalition forces to protect their cities, including the capital, Kabul.
The protracted asymmetrical warfare has not only destroyed the political and economic infrastructure of Afghanistan but has also created a favorable environment for transnational radicalized militant organizations to establish their sanctuaries in the war-torn country. Moreover, the US-led coalition and Afghanistan’s government have failed to completely crush the militant organizations and destroy their sanctuaries in the country.
Today, several radicalized terrorist organizations continue to have safe hideouts in Afghanistan. This is because nearly 50 percent of Afghan territory is under the control of the Afghan Taliban. Additionally, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government enjoys very limited powers in the country. Even the US-led coalition has failed to improve the control of the Kabul government in recent years. In reality, last year’s increase in the number of American troops failed to improve the law and order in the country.
The protracted asymmetrical warfare has not only destroyed the political and economic infrastructure of Afghanistan but has also created a favorable environment for transnational radicalized militant organizations to establish their sanctuaries in the war-torn country.
Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal
In 1998, the withdrawal of Russian forces from Afghanistan and the total abandonment of the US-led western nations resulted in a prolonged civil war in the country. The internal turmoil of the country facilitated Osama bin Laden to establish an Al Qaeda-led militant sanctuary in the country, from where it would export terrorism across the globe. A repetition of a similar situation is unavoidable when the US-led coalition forces withdraw from Afghanistan.
Indirectly, the Trump administration has accepted the demands of the Afghan Taliban and is presently engaging with them to end the 17-year-old war in Afghanistan. The direct talks between the US and the Taliban in Abu Dhabi and Doha have exposed the powerlessness of Afghanistan’s National Unity Government to bring the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table. Moreover, it exposed the Afghan Security Forces’ inability to restore the writ of the state despite being backed by the US-led NATO’s air and ground support. In fact, they are unable to destroy the sanctuaries of radicalized militant groups.
The continuous presence of safe havens for violent extremist groups such as Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, remnants of Al Qaeda, Daesh, Central Asian, and Chinese militant organizations in Afghanistan is terrifying. The sudden withdrawal could thereby boost the morale of militant groups and encourage them to undertake more activities as they pursue their aggressive agenda within Afghanistan and beyond.
Afghanistan’s turmoil has a direct impact on Pakistan and, therefore, it continues to be at the receiving end of the impact of the Operation Enduring Freedom launched by the US in 2001. The coalition forces were victorious in overthrowing the Taliban government in Kabul within a few months but failed to prevent the outbreak of an insurgency and the escape of Al Qaeda members to neighboring states, particularly Pakistan.
– Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal is an Islamabad-based analyst and professor at the School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University.
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