Thursday, April 15, 2021

Keeping Fingers Crossed As US Commits To Removing Military From Afghanistan

 Yes, President Biden has bitten the bullet to remove US troops from Afghanistan by the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attack that triggered our initial entry into that nation for our longest war.  Of course, we shall not quite be fully out as not only will there still be some Marines guarding the embassy in Kabul, but probably covert CIA forces will continue to operate and drone bombing will probably continue and possibly even continue the expansion that has been going on for some time, with over 7000 bombs dropped on the nation by the US in 2019 according to Juan Cole.  But, hey, still looking good.

Needless to say many are upset and whining and worrying.  David Ignatius in WaPo worries that the Taliban will take Kabul after a bloody war and allow al Qaeda or ISIS to establish themselves there, saying that the worst thing would be for the US to have to go back in again after having left the way we went back into Iraq after ISIS grabbed lots of territory after we left there.  But Biden has been through these discussions and decisions and was long reported to want out from Afghanistan way back when Obama was increasing troop levels up to about 100,000, with them now down to just a few thousand.  Most of the withdrawing has already happened, and with Trump having promised a May 1 withdrawal an effort to go back on that with lots of conditions would probably trigger an upsurge of Taliban attacks on US troops, making a mess of things.

Of course it is quite possible, maybe even likely, that this will lead to a full Taliban victory down the road, which will be awful for the women of Afghanistan at a minimum.  But Juan Cole argues that maybe the danger of all sorts of terror groups setting up shop there in that case may be overblown.  Apparently the Taliban did not approve of bin Laden's original 9/11 operation and have been not at all friendly to ISIS.  They might well keep those groups under more control than when they ran the country before. And Cole also notes that al Qaeda has substantial presence in places like Yemen and Syria without this leading to them organizing 9/11 style attacks on the US.  Even if they get a base in Afghanistan, such would likely be smaller and weaker than these, and in Syria the US has effectively allied itself with al Qaeda allies.

Another point Cole makes is that the chances for this to lead to a stable and peaceful outcome in which the economy and people of Afghanistan can get into better shape would be helped if immediate neighbors would imitate Britain and Russia in the late 19th century and early 20th when they put a stop to their Great Game and effectively declared Afghanistan to be a neutral zone.  Now the nations that should do it are India and Pakistan, with each backing different groups in Afghanistan. Cole suggests that maybe China can play a role in encouraging them, at least Pakistan to make such a move, with the presence of Uighurs in some of the Afghan groups possibly providing an incentive for them to do so, and with major Belt and Road Initiative money in Pakistan, China might even have the clout.  I suspect Cole is reaching for windmills on this matter, but it certainly would be a good thing if this US withdrawal were to be followed by such an agreement by outsiders to leave Afghanistan alone. Maybe peace might really come to this much troubled and fought-over land.

Barkley Rosser

9 comments:

Ken said...

Has there ever been peace in Afghanistan?

Simple rule: we can't win someone else's war. In Korea the South was all in and needed UN assistance. In Vietnam the South was divided--the crooked leadership vs. the Viet Cong, and a win wasn't possible. Ditto for Afghanistan and other wars we've failed to win for someone else (well, in Iraq we won that one for Iran). One can't win a war between religious factions. The war will continue until one side is wiped out. The Taliban oppression of women and girls is terrible, but how many American lives is that worth? The Afghans must handle that themselves.

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

Prior to the Soviet invasion in 1979, yes for quite a long time.

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