Can the US withdraw troops from Afghanistan? / News / News agency Inforos
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Can the US withdraw troops from Afghanistan?

The Islamic republic without foreign troops is a matter of intense debate both in the US and Afghanistan

05.03.2019 14:18 Georgy Asatryan, President of The Syndicate Consulting Group, expert of the Russian International Affairs Council

Can the US withdraw troops from Afghanistan?

There are intense debates around the situation in Afghanistan and formats of truce in that country.  How can a truce be concluded? The Taliban movement (outlawed in Russia) is ready to lay down arms and to become a political force only in case of the US pulling out of the country.

Currently, this is the most talked about topic in Afghanistan. The leading local media outlets such as The Tolo News, The Panjwok, The Arianna News, The Khaama News and others report about it on daily basis. This is also the matter of intense debate among Afghan political analysts and journalists. This question can be used as an important factor in the coming presidential elections, which are slated for the summer of 2019.   

Recently, Reuters reported referring to unidentified sources, that the Taliban movement and the United States had reached a preliminary agreement on ending the 17-year war in Afghanistan. One of the provisions of that treaty envisages the withdrawal of foreign troops from the country. According to the news agency, Zalmay Khalilzad, Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation at the US Department of State, who took part in the negotiations with the Taliban movement in Qatar, went to Afghanistan to inform the country’s president Ashraf Ghani about the results of the talks. It has been agreed that foreign troops should be withdrawn in 18 months after the final agreement is signed and stated.

In turn, the Taliban movement promises that the territory of Afghanistan won’t be used as the base by the Al Qaeda and the Islamic State groups (both outlawed in Russia). This issue is being considered in all aspects. For official Kabul the foreign troops’ pulling out is deathlike. At the same time it is a historical victory for the Taliban movement, which is becoming the main political force in Afghanistan. This was preceded by a number of events. In December 2018, media outlets reported that the US may reduce its military forces in Afghanistan. This triggered intense debates in the US about the consequences of this step for Afghanistan.  The analysts at the RAND corporation (known for its proximity to the Pentagon) believe that the withdrawal of the US troops may have the following consequences:

- the remaining forces of NATO will be also withdrawn from Afghanistan.

- civilian and humanitarian presence will be brought down to a minimum.

-  economic and security support from outside will also be reduced.

- the government in Kabul will start losing its influence and legitimacy.

- the power will start shifting from the center to the outskirts of the country.

-  the responsibility for security in the country will be more often shifted to provincial power centers, militiamen, local commanders.

- provincial power centers, provinces will start struggling for resources and influence on the national scale.

- the Taliban movement will lose interest in peace talks with the US.

- the Taliban movement will spread its control over the territory and the population.

- Afghanistan will enter a massive civil war.

- the number of deaths among the civil population will surge and the flow of refugees will increase.

- extremist groups including Al Qaeda and the Islamic State (both outlawed in Russia) will get additional opportunities to recruit people to mastermind and commit terrorist attacks against the US.

It must be admitted that the level of the RAND analytics is quite high. At least, everything, which is mentioned above, is close to reality in terms of analysis and forecasting. The thesis that there is no military solution for Afghanistan has become a common fact, the RAND analysts say, noting that this is only half the truth. The victory can be absolutely impossible there. The rapid withdrawal of troops, no matter how rational it is, means the defeat from the very start. This will affect the US authority, weaken the deterrence, lead to revision of the US influence and the growth of terrorist threat from Afghanistan. Moreover, this will create the environment in which the return of the US forces to Afghanistan becomes possible in the future.    

The United States plans to limit the military presence in the Middle East and Central Asia, in particular in Afghanistan. The US President wants to get rid of the heavy load of endless wars, his country has been conducting. Donald Trump believes that these wars are useless and the country’s campaigns in the East were mistake. Being a businessman by nature, he does not see any economic profit in a series of endless wars that were started by his predecessors. Afghanistan has adjusted itself to wars. It is unlikely that the “exodus” of Americans will reduce the bloodshed. However the complete withdrawal of the US forces from Afghanistan is out of the question. America can only limit its military presence in that country but it will have to stay there for a quite long time.  

According to the Brown university from the Ivy league, the war on terror, and if we take a broader look, the US campaign in the Middle East in 2001-2019, cost it almost six trillion dollars. That is an astronomic figure. This is more than GDPs of France and Germany put together, or approximately four GDPs of Russia.

Meanwhile the grassroots indignation is getting stronger. The Pew Research polls show that now the percentage of Americans, thinking that their country should “mind its own business” is as high as it was in the end of the war in Vietnam. Of course, in their view, Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq are not the businesses of the US.

Let’s take a look at figures. Donald Trump took office at the White House in 2016.  Since then the number of US troops in the East decreased by 30 %, that means that more than 32,000 servicemen came back home. The US forces in Iraq were cut by 13%.  The US also reduced the number of troops at its bases in the following countries:  in Turkey (by 22%), in Jordan (by 96%), in Egypt (by 45%), in Saudi Arabia (19%), in Kuwait (by 83%), in Qatar (by 84%), in the UAE (by 82%). Most recently the US promised to fully withdraw its 2,000 troops from Syria and to cut the military forces in Afghanistan by 50%.

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