US President Donald Trump has commanded the Pentagon to hammer out a plan for the removal of around 7,000 US troops from Afghanistan, CNN reported the previous day with reference to informed sources. Around half of the US military contingent is at stake. Currently about 14,000 US servicemen are deployed in Afghanistan. Sources say that it will take a few months to withdraw 7,000 troops.
As a country directly interested in Afghanistan’s stability, Russia reacted to the news from the United States right away. It will only be possible to delve into the plans to reduce the US military presence in Afghanistan once it takes place, Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov believes.
“Of course, we need to look at what will happen in reality. Let us recall the previous president of the US and the promises made 6-7 years ago regarding the withdrawal from Afghanistan, and compare them to reality. That is why we prefer to wait patiently and analyze what actually happens. The Kremlin is primarily interested in a stable environment in Afghanistan, so that there is no place there for the spread of extremist ideology and radicals’ influence, so that the Islamic State (terrorist group banned in Russia) and other extremist organizations do not pick up steam,” Peskov said.
Meanwhile, another media heavyweight, The Wall Street Journal newspaper, also reported that the start of US troops’ return is a matter of several weeks. Notably, those media reports coincided with the official statement of the occupant of the Oval Office to remove US forces from Syria. Trump declared victory against the Islamic State in Syria, which was the only reason for keeping the US troops there. According to US officials, the pullout of over 2,000 servicemen will take from 60 to 100 days.
“Taken together, the Syria withdrawal and the likely Afghan drawdown represent a dramatic shift in the US approach to military engagement in hot spots around the world, reflecting Mr. Trump’s aversion to long-running military entanglements with their high costs and American casualties,” the publication said.
The paper refers to one of the sources: “I think it shows how serious the president is about wanting to come out of conflicts.”
That virtually marks the beginning of what most have been speaking about since Donald Trump’s first days at the White House coming true. Today’s administration is poised to make foreign policy ‘profitable’ and cost effective. As a businessman, Trump fails to understand (and even is reluctant to understand) what the United States needs an absolutely lossmaking and practically collapsed Afghan campaign for. That is one of the reasons, why Washington is looking for ways to pull out of Afghanistan.
Another reason is ideological. Donald Trump virtually belongs to those politicians who stand for a limited presence of the United States in problem-plagued global affairs, particularly in the Middle East. The issue is about the kind of a new generation of American politicians, ultra-pragmatics and Jeffersonians. They, including the so-called contemporary realists, suggest that if the US is more reserved on the global arena, that will lower the costs and risks of the global politics, as the US Professor Walter Russel Mead wrote about ideological disputes inside the US.
And last but not least, Trump keeps his pre-election pledges. He said that he would withdraw troops from Syria and Afghanistan. Now he has started turning his promises into reality.
As for the Afghan affairs as such, leading American analysts from the Pentagon, the State Department and intelligence services have come to the understanding that the United States will not be able to secure the upper hand against the radical opposition represented by the Taliban movement (outlawed in Russia). Previously, not a single representative of the American administration said about a deadlock in Afghanistan, whereas now highest officials have started voicing such thoughts.
It is interesting to recall the first meeting of President Trump and the Afghan leader Ashraf Ghani in New York in 2017. Back then Trump greenlighted the increase of the military contingent by 3,000 people. At about the same time, the new US strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia stipulating a larger role of the military in the campaign was made public.
What can the reduction of troops and, theoretically, their full withdrawal from Afghanistan feed into?
First, it should be noted that a stable Afghanistan is essential for an absolute majority of regional states sharing the borderline with it. That concerns both the Central Asian countries, Iran, and China. Russia sticks to the same view. Pakistan has a particular position, let us leave it alone for now. Consequently, the troop pullout or its considerable decrease can create a power vacuum and fortify the positions of local Taliban leaders. Further, that will reduce the desire (not strong anyway) to hold talks with the official Kabul. And since the talks are inevitable, the strengthened Taliban can take a far more rigid position.
Second, it is necessary to realize that apart from abovementioned reasons for the pullout, there is another one – intra-Afghan. A substantial decrease of the military contingent (50% is quite substantial) will serve as a reason for the official Kabul to take a more flexible position and bear with the negotiations process.
In any case, the talks are inevitable. The Taliban is too strong to continue the endless and senseless war with them. Whereas the reduction of military contingent may result in both negative and positive trends. A great deal depends on the positions of the Afghan conflict’s sides.