Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal |
The United States military establishment did not appreciate President Donald Trump’s announcement to withdraw half of the more than 14,000 of US troops stationed in Afghanistan by the end of 2019. The Pentagon’s strategy paper, submitted to Congress in the last week of December, clearly differs from Trump’s plan to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.
Perhaps, the resignation of Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis confirmed that the President overruled the Department of Defense’s Afghanistan policy. On December 30, former top US commander in Afghanistan, retired General Stanley McChrystal opined, “If you tell the Taliban that we are absolutely leaving on a date certain, cutting down, weakening ourselves, their incentives to try to cut a deal drop dramatically.”
On December 31, he tweeted, “I campaigned against the never-ending wars, remember! I am the only person in America who could say that ‘I’m bringing our great troops back home, with the victory,’ and get bad press.”
Previously, the US Military Chief General Joseph Dunford warned, “I have not recommended we leave Afghanistan, because again in my judgment leaving Afghanistan would not only create instability in South Asia but … would give terrorist groups the space to plan against the American people, the homeland, and our allies [as they did on Sept 11, 2001].” He added, “They have, today, the intent and they, in the future, would have the capability to do what we saw on 9/11.”
The Pentagon strategy paper said. “DoD (Department of Defence) will continue to apply direct and indirect military pressure on the Taliban, while supporting nascent efforts by the Afghan government to facilitate local peace initiatives, including de-escalation, defections, and declarations of neutrality.”
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The American hawks and DoD sound realistic. However, President Trump is unwilling to listen to their concerns, and he reminded them that he ran his election campaign on the promise of getting out of Syria and other places including Afghanistan. He was very critical of those who questioned his withdrawal plan.
On December 31, he tweeted, “I campaigned against the never-ending wars, remember! I am the only person in America who could say that ‘I’m bringing our great troops back home, with the victory,’ and get bad press.” He added, “Now when I start getting out the Fake News Media, or some failed Generals who were unable to do the job before I arrived like to complain about me and my tactics, which are working.”
It increases the violence in the Afghan society and creates the 1990s like a situation in the country that had facilitated the Taliban to overthrow the government and establish the theocratic regime in Kabul.
Indeed, one cannot ignore the logic of President Trump’s critics completely. In asymmetrical warfare, one does not reveal or expose one’s military strategy. Especially, when your adversary believes that ‘you have watched and he has time.’ In such a situation, an announcement about the withdrawal of troops boosts the morale of a party which is using guerilla warfare tactics. The insurgents in Afghanistan have been successfully employing guerilla warfare tactics. Therefore, US generals both in service and retired are worried and upset over the President Trump withdrawal plan.
Moreover, it is an open secret that President Ghani Government and Afghan National Forces (ANF) are incapable of taking on the complete responsibility for the country. Even today, with the ground and air support of the US-led coalition forces, ANF is incapable of establishing the writ of the State in the country. With time, the Taliban’s territorial control in Afghanistan has been increasing. Besides, several radicalized terrorist organizations continue to have safe hideouts in Afghanistan.
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Presently, everyone is supportive to Afghan-owned, Afghan-led reconciliation process. Both the United States and Afghanistan National Government conceded to a negotiated end of the 17-year war. However, Afghan Taliban is reluctant to establish direct contacts with President Ghani Government. They had refused to talk with President Ghani’s representative in the forthcoming meeting scheduled in Saudi Arab.
Nevertheless, Islamabad has a different take from the American hawks. The Foreign Minister of Pakistan Shah Mehmood Qureshi expressed his optimism over the United States’ decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. He believed that US-led coalition troops withdrawal would lead to peace in Afghanistan.
The Pentagon’s strategy paper, submitted to Congress in the last week of December, clearly differs from Trump’s plan to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.
However, the critical review of Afghanistan history indicates that the departure of foreign forces from Afghanistan intensifies the tribal feuds and ethnic conflicts. It increases the violence in the Afghan society and creates the 1990s like a situation in the country that had facilitated the Taliban to overthrow the government and establish the theocratic regime in Kabul.
Indeed, everyone desires peace in Afghanistan. However, without adequate planning, the withdrawal of the US-led coalition forces from Afghanistan produces an advantageous situation for the radicalized militant groups, such as Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, remnants of Al-Qaeda, Daesh, Central Asian and Chinese militant organizations, etc.
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They could exploit the Afghan territory for pursuing their aggressive agenda regionally and globally. Thus, a hasty withdrawal of the United States would increase the chaos and intensify Afghanistan’s civil war, which is fitting for the militant groups’ endurance in the country. To conclude, sooner or later the US-led troops have to leave Afghanistan. However, the timetable of withdrawal of the troops is very critical.
Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal is Associate Professor, School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. He is also an advisor on Non-Proliferation to SASSI, London and a course coordinator at Foreign Services Academy for the Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Email: email@example.com. This piece was first published in Pakistan Observer. It has been republished with the author’s permission. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.