19.04.2021 Author: Vladimir Danilov

A Way Out of the Afghan Stalemate?


For decades, Afghanistan has been one of the hottest spots on the planet. Twenty years of presence of American and NATO troops on its territory has unfortunately never solved the main problem of the peace settlement. Recall that under the Doha agreement, signed in 2020 by the Donald Trump administration and the radical Taliban (banned in Russia), all foreign troops must be withdrawn from the IRA by May 1. In this regard, Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem Wardak said he would not participate in any conference that would take decisions on Afghanistan until all foreign soldiers are out of the country.

US President Joe Biden recently said it would be difficult to withdraw troops from Afghanistan by May 1 for tactical reasons, stressing, however, that the American contingent “will not stay there long.” For its part, the Taliban said it would resume attacks against foreign forces if troops were not withdrawn. In this regard, shadow governors and Taliban military commanders were summoned to Peshawar in late March for explicit preparations for war, according to a statement by Nazar Ali Wahidi, deputy head of Afghanistan’s National Security Directorate.

Even a letter sent by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in March with ultimatums to Kabul to quickly accept American proposals on the Afghan settlement, where the main things were the formation of an interim government and reduction of violence within 90 days, as well as the establishment of a commission to develop a new constitution did not help soften Taliban’s position. In addition, the American plan to form an interim administration involved maintaining the current political system, but with minor changes: the introduction of several deputies from the Taliban to the parliament, the formation of the Supreme Council of Islamic Jurisprudence, which would audit the current laws for compliance with Islamic norms, with participation of the Taliban.

Responding to the stalemate, US President Joe Biden said on April 14 that the withdrawal from Afghanistan would begin on May 1, and that the withdrawal itself could be completed by September 11, the 20th anniversary of the attacks in New York. Biden stressed that in the event of a Taliban attack during the troop withdrawal, the US would resist and defend itself “with all means available.” In addition, Joe Biden promised to ask other countries, including Pakistan, Russia, China, India and Turkey, to support Afghanistan.

During a White House speech on the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, Joe Biden noted that the presence of American troops in Afghanistan would not help Kabul establish a stable government.

According to a CNN report, President Biden made the decision to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan by September 11 against the advice of several aides, including, among others, General Mark Milley, chairman of the US Army Chiefs of Staff, General Kenneth Franklin Mackenzie, head of the Central Command (CENTCOM) of the US Armed Forces, as well as several State Department officials. According to the channel, Biden was repeatedly warned of the danger that the radical Taliban movement “could regain strength.”

Former US National Security Adviser John Bolton also sharply criticized Biden’s decision, stressing that withdrawing troops now would be like giving power to the Taliban. He also criticized Donald Trump’s administration for making concessions to the Taliban and making deals behind Kabul’s back, and expressed doubt that countries in the region would provide the necessary assistance to resolve the Afghan crisis.

CIA Director William Burns pointed out that the withdrawal of troops entails “significant risks” and that after the withdrawal of the American military presence, the Islamic State and al-Qaeda (both groups banned in Russia) may regain their influence in Afghanistan. In addition, as noted the other day by The New York Times, US intelligence agencies informed Joe Biden’s administration that the Taliban could seize most of Afghanistan’s territory within two to three years if foreign troops are withdrawn from the country.

As reported in the US media, US lawmakers criticized US President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan by September 11.

US Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called such a rapid withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan “a fatal mistake.”

Influential US Senator Lindsey Graham (Republican from South Carolina) was also very critical of Joe Biden’s decision: “The decision to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan is faulty. It results in nothing good, it is the worst-case scenario.” According to the Republican, such a decision “would nullify the guarantee that would have prevented another 9/11.”

Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen also criticized her running partymate Biden:

“I am very disappointed in the president’s decision to set a September deadline for the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan. Although this decision was made in coordination with our allies, the US has sacrificed too much for stability in Afghanistan to leave without verifiable assurances of a secure future.”

Biden has already discussed the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan with IRA President Mohammad Ghani, who said that Afghan security forces will be able to defend the country on their own. For his part, Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin has assured that the United States will continue to fund the payment of salaries to Afghan security forces even after the withdrawal of American troops: “We intend to continue to fund key resources, such as the Afghan Air Force and the Afghan special operations aviation unit. We will also seek to continue to pay salaries to Afghan security forces. We will also continue to work closely with them and our allies to maintain counterterrorism capabilities in the region.”

Though in February the Pentagon press service quotes Lloyd Austin as saying that the Pentagon head should not withdraw his troops from Afghanistan too hastily, on April 14 he already emphasized that he “fully supports the decision of US President Joe Biden to completely withdraw American troops from Afghanistan by September 11.”

Based on the statement of the North Atlantic Council, during a videoconference on April 15, the NATO foreign and defense ministers also decided to begin the withdrawal of Alliance troops from Afghanistan.

Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio even called the decision “historic” and “epochal.” Recall that the Italian contingent in the NATO forces in Afghanistan has about 800 soldiers. Previously, Italy had repeatedly stated its intention to reduce its numbers or cease participation in the operation, but at the request of the US it maintained its presence, mainly in the area of Herat. A total of 53 Italians were killed during the mission in Afghanistan, more than 30 of whom were victims of terrorist attacks and suicide bombings.

Reacting to the US decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, German media noted that it was “painful and bitter.” In essence,

“The West capitulates after expending enormous human and financial resources in Afghanistan, but you can’t make progress with bombs… .”

However, behind the statements already made about the withdrawal of US and NATO troops from Afghanistan by September 11, nothing is said about the continued presence of the many thousands of representatives of PMCs of the United States, Britain and many other Western countries in that country. Nevertheless, in recent years they have played a key role in carrying out the tasks formerly traditionally assigned to national armed forces. And according to US experts, such military corporations will play an increasingly important role in local armed conflicts and wars in the future. But will the Afghans, who insist on the withdrawal of all foreign troops from the country, agree to their substitution and the continued presence of the Western PMCs in Afghanistan?

Vladimir Danilov, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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