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US in Afghanistan

  • Category
    International Relations
  • Published
    19th Jul, 2021

Former US President George W. Bush has labelled the withdrawal of US and NATO troops from Afghanistan "a mistake”, he told that he fears for the fate of women in Afghanistan after American and NATO troops leave the country.

Context

Former US President George W. Bush has labelled the withdrawal of US and NATO troops from Afghanistan "a mistake”, he told that he fears for the fate of women in Afghanistan after American and NATO troops leave the country.

Background

  • The United States Armed Forces are scheduled to be withdrawn from Afghanistan by 31 August 2021, concluding Operation Freedom's Sentinel and NATO's Resolute Support Mission
  • The U.S. and allied forces invaded and occupied the country in 2001 following the 11 September attacks, with the resulting war becoming the U.S.'s longest military engagement.

Analysis

Timeline of events spanning nearly two decades

Year

Event Description

2001

Al-Qaeda operatives hijack four commercial airliners, crashing them into the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, DC

2001

President George W. Bush signs into a law which was authorizing the use of force against those responsible for attacking the United States on 9/11.

2001

The U.S. military, with British support, begins a bombing campaign against Taliban forces, formally launching Operation Enduring Freedom in full swing

2001

After the fall of Kabul in November 2001, the United Nations invites major Afghan factions to sign the Bonn Agreement. The agreement had instated Karzai as interim administrative head, and creates an international peacekeeping force to support security situation in Kabul.

2002

President George W. Bush calls for the reconstruction of Afghanistan. The U.S. Congress appropriates over US$38 billion in reconstruction and humanitarian backing to Afghanistan from 2001-09.

2003

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) assumes control of international security forces (ISAF) in Afghanistan, expanding NATO/ISAF’s role across the country.

2004

An assembly of 502 Afghan delegates agrees on a constitution for Afghanistan, creating a strong presidential system intended to unite the country’s various ethnic groups

2004

In historic national balloting, Karzai becomes the first democratically elected head of Afghanistan.

2005

More than six million Afghans turn out to vote for the Wolesi Jirga (Council of People), the Meshrano Jirga (Council of Elders), and local councils. Considered the most democratic elections ever in Afghanistan because nearly half voters were women

2006

Violence increases across the country during the summer months, with intense fighting erupting in the south in July. The number of suicide attacks quintuples from 27 (2005) to 139 (2006)

2008

Afghan and UN investigations find that errant fire from a U.S. gunship killed dozens of Afghan civilians, drawing condemnation and bolstering Taliban claims that coalition forces are unable to protect the population

2009

President Obama announces a new strategy for the war effort, linking success in Afghanistan to a stable Pakistan

2010

At a summit in Lisbon, NATO member countries sign a declaration agreeing to hand over full responsibility for security in Afghanistan to Afghan forces by the end of 2014. 

2011

On May 1, 2011, al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, responsible for the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington, is killed by U.S. forces in Pakistan

2011

The U.S. war in Afghanistan marks its tenth anniversary, President Barack Obama plans to withdraw all combat troops by 2014.

2012

Taliban strikes a deal to open an office in Qatar. But after 2 months, the Taliban suspends preliminary talks, accusing US of reneging on prisoner swap

2013

Afghan forces take the lead in security responsibility nationwide as NATO hands over control of the remaining ninety-five districts

2014

President Barack Obama announces a timetable for withdrawing most U.S. forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2016

2017

Taliban appears to be as strong as ever, and the U.S. military describes the war as a stalemate. Kabul experiences suicide bombings on a scale never before seen, while the Taliban control or contest more than a third of the country.

2020

U.S. envoy Khalilzad and the Taliban’s Baradar sign an agreement that paves the way for a significant drawdown of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and includes guarantees from the Taliban that the country will not be used for terrorist activities

2021

President Biden announces that the United States will not meet the deadline set under the U.S.-Taliban agreement to withdraw all troops by May 1 and instead releases a plan for a full withdrawal by September 11, 2021.

Implication of USA withdrawal

  • Regional Security
  • It is assumed that after withdrawal of the coalition forces from Afghanistan, the militants would be re-organized/restructured and could threaten the peace of the entire region by drawing the neighbouring countries in the war.
  • Thus the reduction/withdrawal can endanger stability of the south and central Asia.
  • Afghan Forces
  • The international community is prepared to help the Afghan forces by providing money, equipment and training.
  • But it is not known whether this help will be sustained over a longer period of time.
  • There is also a possibility of the ANSF disintegrating along ethnic lines, in case the Taliban, a predominantly Pashtun-majority entity.
  • Economy
  • As the country is dependent upon aid; it has been less focused upon trade over the last decade.
  • Unstable Afghanistan will lose investment opportunities and hence economic and political crisis can make the region extremely unstable
  • Political uncertainty
  • Government has no or very weak control beyond Kabul.
  • The Parliament is divided into disunited groups comprising of disgruntled elements, this disunity and hatred can pose a grave threat to political situation in Afghanistan.

  • Pakistan  Interference
  • Some researchers argue that the Pakistan military actively aids the insurgents through funding, the provision of weapons, strategic planning, and so on, which are bound to increase post US withdrawal.

Implication for India

  • The withdrawal can lead to a surge in international and regional terrorism, re-emergence of Taliban’s influence on Pakistan and the political instability it will create in the region.
  • India’s larger concerns are about the resurgence of Taliban, which can undoubtedly reassure and incite the extremist elements in Kashmir and other parts of India through India-focused militant groups such as Laskhar- e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, which are believed to have relocated to Afghanistan in large numbers.

Conclusion

India is wary of the future of the Afghan government without the support of the US military as it will trigger a geopolitical flux in the region and if peace talks do not fall through and there is a reneging of the terms of the Doha Accord by the Taliban then this consequence directly threatens India’s political, security, and economic interests in Afghanistan.

Therefore to safeguard its own interests, India needs to reorient its policies towards Afghanistan and deal with the changing dynamics of power shift in the region.

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