As the US closes the book on Afghanistan with the President declaring to end ‘the forever war’ in the country, the haunting memory of barbaric Taliban rule has gripped the nation again.
Announcing his decision to pull out the remaining US troops from the war-torn country by the 20th anniversary of 11 September, President Joe Biden said that the War in Afghanistan was never meant to be a multigenerational undertaking. He added, “We were attacked. We went to war with clear goals. We achieved those objectives.”
Right on cue, Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg also declared that the alliance would withdraw its forces from Afghanistan and the pullout would initiate by 1 May.
While the number of US troops in Afghanistan is close to 2500, over 7000 Nato forces are present in the country. In the longest war against terrorism in American history, over 2400 US troops lost their lives while more than 20,000 were wounded, costing over $2 trillion to the treasury. Together, over 3500 coalition forces were killed in the nineteen-year-old conflict which led to the deaths of more than 110,000 Afghans.
Delivering his address from the same White House Treaty Room from where former US President George W Bush announced the start of the war in Afghanistan, Joe Biden said, “We delivered justice to bin Laden a decade ago. And we’ve stayed in Afghanistan for a decade since. Our reasons for remaining Afghanistan have become increasingly unclear.”
While America has made its intent clear saying it can’t wait for ideal conditions for the withdrawal of its troops, the Taliban have not disappeared but they have gathered more strength over the years. Despite a deal signed with the US in the month of February, the Taliban is expanding itself in the country, launching attacks in districts across Afghanistan.
Now many Afghans fear that their country may descend into the vicious cycle of another civil war with no foreign forces present on the soil to keep them under check. The Taliban pushed by the bolstered Afghan government forces with the support of the foreign troops may wait out for the complete withdrawal in September and throw the country into the anarchic civil war which followed the Soviet retreat in 1989, when power brokers and warlords turned against each other.
The Taliban have committed in the agreement signed in Qatar that they would sever all links to terror groups like al-Qaeda and would not provide them shelters to hatch 9/11 like terror attacks, but with their shaky and shady past, it is too early to trust them. There are growing fears that as soon as the foreign forces leave, militias controlled by local warlords will raise their heads and return to power establishing their government based on their extremist view of Islam. Without the backing of the foreign troops, the Afghan government troops will not able to stop them.
Though Joe Biden even during his campaign trail had made it clear that he felt no responsibility for the consequence of US withdrawal on Afghan women and society as the official reason for the presence of the American troops was not to protect the citizens. He had said in a TV interview that the United States can’t be expected to wage a war against China to protect Uyghurs.
However, US President Joe Biden spoke to his Afghan counterpart Ashraf Ghani before making the announcement of the withdrawal of American soldiers. Ghani said that the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan respects the US decision and its security and defense forces are fully capable of defending the country.
Joe Biden has put the onus on Afghanistan’s neighbouring nations to bring peace to the country. He said that regional stakeholders like India, Pakistan, Russia, China, and Turkey should play a crucial role in stabilising the future of Afghanistan.