President Joe Biden has taken a precarious decision of putting an end to America’s longest war, something none of his predecessor dared to step into. After almost 20 years of war in Afghanistan, Biden administration has announced withdrawal of US troops from the country by September 11. It also signals Biden’s affirmation of foreign policy shift over overseas resources. The White House said on Tuesday that all of remaining 2500 troops in Afghanistan would commence withdrawal before May 1, with all of them returned before September 1 that will mark 20th anniversary of 9/11 attacks which had triggered the US led invasion to Afghanistan and the subsequent war that took away thousands of lives.
The agenda is clear – the objectives set at onset of 2001 war have been met by the US. And now is the time to focus on challenges positioning in 2021. The current challenges that need to be tackled by the new government under President Joe Biden include ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, competition with China and broad terrorism threats across nations and new arenas including cyberattacks. White House official underlined, “Doing that requires us to close the book on a 20-year conflict in Afghanistan and move forward with clear eyes and an effective strategy to protect and defend America’s national security interests.”
But as bright as it may appear, the decision comes with its own set of risks. Experts of one school of thought wonder if the decision of upending troops from Afghanistan after 20 years would cost in country’s stability. Experts say that this decision can bring US back to table in a more assertive position globally and bring it closer to some allies with realigned relations, like India and Pakistan. Withdrawing troops from Afghanistan would also bring US to more credible position to speak and assert in ongoing issues in Ukraine and South China Sea.
Laurel Miller of the International Crisis Group remarked, “There’s a cost for the United States in continuing to be participating in a war that doesn’t have a clear strategic purpose or plausible end to it. The US is looking at those kinds of costs and risks in comparison to other priorities that it has around the world and is seeing that the cost of staying in Afghanistan, the troop deployments, the money, the attention that it requires pulls away from other things that the administration thinks are more important for us.”
Some analysts also believe that pulling out troops would not end the conflict in Afghanistan, but might precipitate into a rippled effect in form of escalated domestic and international politics, bringing the catastrophic country to cliff with more risks. There is always a big chance of Afghani government being taken over by Taliban, leading to harboring of Al Qaeda – and of this happens Biden administration would be at centre of all blames and questions. The Taliban and Afghanistan government peace deal will most likely be not carried out in absence of US troops on ground. The catastrophe that it will instill in country is beyond imagination, with women and children being at the maximum receiving end.
Human rights abuses of women and children will escalate, experts fear. Annie Pforzheimer, a retired US career diplomat who was deputy chief of mission in Kabul in 2017-2018 and acting deputy assistant secretary of state for Afghanistan until March 2019, believes that the decision of troops withdrawal will make the peace process in the country a tough and tricky job. “I believe this announcement negatively impacts the human rights of women, minorities and young people by making the Taliban less likely to negotiate with the government and those who support the constitution, and more likely to attempt a forceful takeover once international troops have departed,” she noted.
Eliot Cohen, dean of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies said, “Nobody’s going to leave Afghanistan alone, so you can expect the Pakistanis and the Russians, the Chinese, the central Asians and the Iranians to continue to play there. This is not the end of the Afghan wars. This is the end of the overt American phase of the Afghan war.”
The decision will steer America’s foreign policy but also change dynamics in Afghanistan. How it is going to steer over time will greatly impact multi-faceted arenas globally.