US President Donald Trump’s plan to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan could create a breeding ground for terrorists that would be “disastrous” for global security, warns a political analyst.
The caution follows Mr Trump’s sudden decision to scrap secret peace talks with the Taliban after the militant group confessed to a suicide car bombing last week in Kabul which killed 11 people including an American soldier.
“I immediately cancelled the meeting and called off peace negotiations,” Mr Trump tweeted late on Saturday evening (local time) as Kabul slept.
“What kind of people would kill so many in order to seemingly strengthen their bargaining position?”
….an attack in Kabul that killed one of our great great soldiers, and 11 other people. I immediately cancelled the meeting and called off peace negotiations. What kind of people would kill so many in order to seemingly strengthen their bargaining position? They didn’t, they….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 7, 2019
Days later Mr Trump tweeted that he had also sacked his national security adviser John Bolton, who he regularly disagreed with on Iran, Afghanistan and other global challenges.
Despite declaring peace talks with the Taliban “dead”, Mr Trump has indicated he still plans to uphold his 2016 election promise to bring US troops home from Afghanistan.
Ending 18 years of occupation and the longest war in American history is expected to be a key part of his 2020 election campaign.
“We have been serving as policemen in Afghanistan, and that was not meant to be the job of our Great Soldiers, the finest on earth,” Mr Trump tweeted.
We have been serving as policemen in Afghanistan, and that was not meant to be the job of our Great Soldiers, the finest on earth. Over the last four days, we have been hitting our Enemy harder than at any time in the last ten years!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 9, 2019
But a political analyst has warned that a hasty withdrawal of military forces from Afghanistan would be “hugely disastrous for everyone”.
“It would be disastrous – not just for the Afghan civilians who are dying every year in huge numbers, but also for international security, for everyone,” Deakin University’s Dr Niamatullah Ibrahimi, an expert on Afghan politics and human rights, told The New Daily.
“Without significant international and US military and financial assistance, the Afghan government… cannot sustain itself against the Taliban insurgency, which also now includes the Islamic State.”
While the Taliban and the Islamic State remain separate militant groups, the two share the same goal of imposing a radical interpretation of Islamic law.
A victory for the Taliban would likely be seen as a victory for ISIS too.
“The Taliban’s capacity to emerge as a victorious force … may inspire similar groups across the world,” Dr Ibrahimi said.
However, he was quick to add that even if Washington did abruptly abandon its military commitments in the region, the Afghan government would not collapse immediately.
First, it would likely try to save money by cutting funding from other critical services to support the “expensive” Afghan National Army, he said.
Cutting essential government-run services would have the unintended effect of hurting the Afghan people, which would inevitably create more opportunities for the Taliban to assert its leadership.
“Afghanistan is quite a difficult situation,” he said.
Why is it so hard to pull out ?
The question of how to get American troops out of Afghanistan after invading it in 2001 in response to the September 11 terror attacks has proven an increasingly difficult one to answer.
Long before British forces invaded Afghanistan in 1838, the country was marred by civil conflict and political unrest, made worse in relatively recent times by Soviet Union intervention.
Today, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) has about 17,000 troops from 39 ally countries and partner countries in Afghanistan monitoring the precarious security situation.
The danger of withdrawing troops from Afghanistan is that it creates a power vacuum for violent insurgent groups such as the Taliban and al-Qaeda to move in again and reassert their control, obliterating international efforts to foster peace in the country.
Despite repeated efforts by former US President Barack Obama to withdraw US troops between 2009-2017, he failed to completely exit Afghanistan.
Under the proposed agreement with the Taliban, Mr Trump would have immediately begun to reduce US coalition-troop numbers to 8600 and withdrawn completely by the end of 2020, closed five US military bases and released thousands of Taliban prisoners in Afghan-government custody.
The country’s name would have reverted back to the Taliban’s preferred name, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, and the governance of the country would be left up to the Afghans.
The agreement did not require the Taliban to commit to a cease-fire – all it had to do was promise not to allow Afghan territory to be used as a base for terrorist organisations against the US.
America’s allies, who have been fighting alongside the US for 18 years, would receive no such protection.