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article imageOp-Ed: US Afghanistan pullout- Asking for trouble

By Paul Wallis     Oct 13, 2020 in World
Washington - The baffling ability of the United States to politically lose wars which it has won militarily apparently continues. The troop pullout from Afghanistan is looking like a serious mistake.
The news from Afghanistan is usually grim. The removal of US troops from the country can’t help that situation. More likely is an instant power vacuum into which the Taliban and possibly Islamic State will move. Regional fragmentation, political disunity, clan wars, and a hopelessly battered economy will tell the story.
The United States military isn't too happy about the idea. Senior military figures have rightly raised multiple objections to withdrawal, with good reason. There are some extremely serious ramifications of this withdrawal, and the matter should not be trivialised, even during the usual insanity of an American election.
The United States moved troops in Afghanistan after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. The military campaign was difficult, but the Taliban government was removed, its forces marginalised into remote areas, and its effective territorial control drastically reduced.
Strategically, the military outcomes were acceptable, if not spectacular and under-supported. Al Qaeda lost a base of operations, and the Taliban military forces took a severe beating.
The war was not technically "won" in the conventional sense, but without external support, the Taliban could not have survived. It’s quite easy to criticise US military operations, policies, and methods in Afghanistan, but ignoring critical external factors is not an option.
Ignoring the realities of terrorism is also not an option. Terrorism is as much an industry as it is anything else. Terrorist groups have shown a capacity to reform and regroup on an almost monotonous basis. Afghanistan was and is a base for multiple terrorist groups.
These groups have been fighting their wars for generations. They keep fighting unless defeated. Setbacks and temporary defeats are common and not final. Usually overlooked are the latest number of vested regional and local interests in these wars.
Terrorism has an impact far beyond mere ideology and pseudo-religion. Terrorist groups are often proxies for state interests, economic interests, and even criminal interests. Support often comes from multiple sources on this basis.
Terrorist groups effectively act as a form of oppression for their supporters. On a regional basis, southern Asia and the Middle East are classic cases of those operations. If militarily defeated and unable to operate, their supporters are effectively neutered. In any other scenario, the terrorists and their supporters simply take up where they left off.
Afghanistan conflict
Afghanistan conflict
The US military withdrawal from Afghanistan
To put it simply, "The job hasn't been done." The idea of a US withdrawal is myopic at best. Afghanistan is in no condition to stand on its own two feet yet. With a continuing US military presence, the Taliban simply cannot take control.
Without that military presence, a new civil war is inevitable. As in Vietnam, Afghanistan’s government forces cannot realistically be expected to manage the Taliban, ISIS, and Al Qaeda.
Yet again, US politics has managed to lose a war that its military had basically won. The political motives for a withdrawal are highly questionable at best. No useful purpose is served by the withdrawal. If Afghanistan comes back to life as a terrorist haven, the war may have to be fought again, from scratch.
Previous experience shows that this is exactly what's likely to happen. Islamic State moved house from its defeats in Iraq and Syria and set up shop in Afghanistan almost immediately afterwards. Al Qaeda, too, is nowhere near its former glory, is also still present in Afghanistan.
The last thing Afghanistan and southern Asia need is a resurgence of these groups. Between them, they have killed millions of civilians, destroyed whole economic structures of entire countries, and waged war in foreign countries. There is nothing to be said for tolerating this situation in any form.
Historically, political objectives and military objectives need to be on the same page to work at all. In this case, it’s a matter of opinion whether politics is even reading the same book.
There may be a few political brownie points in bringing the troops back. There is no practical, strategic, or even good theoretical value in this withdrawal otherwise. As with the equally inept proposed troop withdrawal from Syria, the US simply loses all input into geopolitical strategy in the region.
Arguably as bad or worse, America is sending a message that it will simply walk away from a fight against people who attacked it on American soil. This message is totally counter-productive and likely to encourage future attacks.
America went into Afghanistan to defeat the people who attacked it on September 11. Since then, the question has been whether American politicians have the courage of their convictions. I would suggest a better question would be whether or not American politicians have the courage and convictions of American troops and the American people.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Afghanistan, US military withdrawal from Afghanistan, Al qaeda, September 11, Islamic state
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