Withdrawal of US Troops: The Ramifications in Afghanistan & Its Geopolitics -Ahmad Bhuiyan
On July 2, in the darkness of night, The U.S. military stealthily left Bagram, their largest military base in Afghanistan. No farewells, no festivities, or no bugles were heard. They left the main gate of the once fortified base unsecured, and did not even have time to inform the local administration. The local people have taken the opportunity to pick up whatever they found in the base. This is the result of 20 years of tireless efforts by the world’s number one military.
President Biden announced to withdraw all US troops by September 11, the twentieth anniversary of the Twin Towers. In 2001, as part of ‘War On-terror campaign’, it launched the assault in Afghanistan & occupied the city of Kabul. The 20-year US military rule in Afghanistan is breaking down because the cost must be reduced & the loss must be avoided. There is no point in wasting money where America has no choice but to install a puppet government. But why so much waste of arms and manpower for 20 years? Nearly 2,500 US troops have been killed in the long war in Afghanistan. More than 20,000 have been injured. Trillions upon trillions of dollars have been spent. The United States thinks the need to keep them there is over. Presumably, the question arises, has their peace establishment dream been fulfilled in the last two decades nor they left the country in a mortuary?’
Since the fall of the monarchy in the 1970s, Afghan people have lived through years of civil war and foreign aggression. The Soviets launched a full-scale military operation in Afghanistan in 1969. During the nine-year long war, the PDPA government wholeheartedly received military support from the Soviet Union, while the Mujahideen received aid from the United States, Pakistan & Saudi Arabia. Afghanistan,then, turned a ‘proxy battlefield’ for communists and capitalists. Even then, peace did not come to Afghanistan.
After the withdrawal of U.S troops, India-Pakistan animosity is expected to play a major role in the escalating shadow wars surrounding Afghanistan. Of the parties involved in the Afghan conflict, the most important player is Pakistan. So far, the country has repeatedly taken paradoxical stances on Taliban issue. Pakistan has been the first to recognize Taliban since they first came to power. It also joined the US-led alliance after 9/11. In the face of pressure from Washington, Islamabad has sided with the Taliban, but Pakistan’s Afghan border tribes have been supporting Taliban in various ways.
But at present, Pakistan’s relations with the United States are not going well. As a result, at the moment, Pakistan has no obstacle to wage its own shadow war behind any party for its own interests. However, if the US military presence was prolonged, Pakistan was more likely to benefit diplomatically. Because Washington had to be more dependent on Islamabad. In that case, this dependence would have created an opportunity for Pakistan to win Washington’s support in its enmity with India. However, in the current situation, the opportunity does not sustain anymore. Until now, the main goal of Pakistan’s Afghanistan policy has been to prevent India from gaining influence in Kabul. Therefore, Pakistan’s position depends on the outcome of the peace process in Afghanistan. If the process fails, Pakistan may come forward in support of the Taliban in a bid to deal with India.
On the other hand, India’s interest in Afghanistan is also noteworthy. Like Pakistan, India has always wanted to prolong the US military presence in Afghanistan. Prolonging the US military presence will confine the activities of local militant groups, including the Taliban. The longer the issue lasts, the more favorable the environment will be for India to increase its diplomatic and economic presence in Afghanistan. There is also a possibility that other militant groups, including al Qaeda, could become active again if Taliban return to power in Afghanistan. These militant groups can be a big headache for India on various issues including Kashmir. In that case, India does not want Taliban to return to power in Afghanistan. Even if they come to power again, Delhi will always look for their quick collapse. In that case, India’s involvement in this shadow war is inevitable.
However, there is little risk of a new war in Afghanistan. Because, Russia has appeared on the scene with the peace agreement. The United States, Russia, Pakistan and Afghanistan met with Taliban representatives in Moscow last month. During the talks, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called for the participation of the international community in the reconstruction of Afghanistan. In fact, the international community is Russia, China and Iran, No one else.
In terms of the situation, it seems that the United States is going to face Russia and Iran in Afghan issue. China has been associated with it too. The consequences will probably be the same as was in Syria. The United States cannot hold on to Afghanistan, nor can leave it. Whether the United States withdraws its troops or not, it will no longer be able to make decisions on Afghanistan alone. In 2001, Taliban was alone. But now they are getting support from Russia, China and Iran.
Taliban took the initiative to establish relations with Moscow, Beijing and Tehran. In particular, they have sought to improve ties after the Washington announced the cancellation of peace talks. Taliban leaders have been successful in this case as they visited Moscow, Tehran and Beijing more than once.
Russia can therefore mediate the implementation of the peace agreement at the last minute or leave the US troops and find a new way. The United States needs to think about the future of Afghanistan, taking into account Russia’s views. History revenges itself. In the eighties of the last century, the Taliban and the United States fought a joint war against Russia. After nearly 41 years, the Taliban and Russia are plotting to oust the United States. Because Russia considers the presence of the United States and NATO as a big threat.
Meanwhile, China is quietly building its ground in Afghanistan. Taliban has never impeded Chinese investment in Afghanistan. They did not even speak openly about the Chinese persecution of Uyghur Muslims. On the other hand, Afghanistan is also important for China to implement China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Therefore, it is expected that China will try to bring Afghanistan under its sphere of influence through one side of the war. China may continue its shadow war with the support of its close ally, Pakistan.
Iran, too, is now more flexible about the Taliban, excluding Shia-Sunni accounts. The situation in Iran is similar to that in Russia. Iran considers the Taliban safer than the US presence at home.
In this situation, the United States is under trinomial pressure from Russia, Iran and China. It had various accounts behind the Afghan war. One of the objectives was to establish its own dominance in the regional politics of Central Asia.
But after the indiscriminate killing of civilians and the massive bombing of thousands of tons, it seems that the United States has failed miserably. The trinomial power joined with Taliban to drive the United States out of Afghanistan, pursuing the policy of “enemy of the enemy means our friend.” After spending huge money, weapons and labor, it will be difficult for the United States to return Afghanistan to Taliban, Russia, Iran and China.
No one in Afghanistan should be unhappy with the US retreat except the Kabul government. The Afghan people are quite happy as they have measured the imperialist Russians and the Americans on a par. Even with the withdrawal of US troops, a number of other factors will work in Afghanistan. They are Afghan government, Taliban and regional states.
Though the government of Kabul is the official government, but most of Afghanistan is out of its control. America’s retreat is therefore going to be a huge gain for Taliban. The foreign powers that want to stop the Taliban are not sitting still. Attacks in Afghanistan have increased sharply since an agreement was reached between the United States and Taliban in Qatar last year. While the two sides are seeking peace, the attacks have raised suspicions. While the United States has almost agreed to leave Afghanistan at the behest of the Taliban, it is hard to believe that the Taliban was involved in these attacks. Taliban authorities have not claimed for the attacks. So is there a third party playing in Afghanistan? Obviously, it will reveal on time.
There are currently two ethnic armed groups fighting against Taliban in Afghanistan – one for Shia Hazaras and the other for Tajiks and Uzbeks. They were able to win the confidence of the Americans. But without foreign military support, they have never been a challenge to Taliban. So after the departure of the Americans, Afghanistan could fall into the old civil war. There is a political way, of course, and that is to compromise with Taliban, to walk the path of unity.
The Afghan government has so far dealt with the Taliban’s covert attacks with the help of the United States But retreat of the United States means leaving the Kabul government at the mercy of the Taliban. The US intelligence report says the Kabul government does not have the strength to resist the Taliban.
Not just Taliban, but IS has become stronger in several parts of Afghanistan. As Taliban’s power has increased, so has the power of IS and other terrorist groups. Afghan neighbors are therefore mostly worried about the situation.
In any case, if a government consisting of the Taliban and other Afghans is possible, the loss of US troops in Afghanistan could be offset. But if that doesn’t happen, it could plunge Afghanistan into civil war.
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