On April 14, 2021, White House Chief of Staff Joe Biden said that beginning May 1, the United States will begin withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan, and that the last American soldier will leave the country before the 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Is this decision timely?
Over the past year, the US has been experiencing a number of fairly serious domestic problems, both economic and social. According to statistics, nearly one in ten citizens of the United States has been infected with the coronavirus (more than 30 million confirmed infections in a population of about 330 million). A great deal of federal money has been thrown at the pandemic, and this budget has also been underfunded by the lockdown and border closure crisis. A great deal of federal money has been spent on fighting the pandemic, and this budget has been underfunded by the lockdown and border closure crisis. This negatively affects the morale of troops, including those stationed in Afghanistan.
It should be noted that every year China increases the size of its army, modernizes its armaments and builds up its military presence in the Asia-Pacific region. Washington does not want to stand on the sidelines, which is why the US is also trying to locate as many military facilities in the region as possible.
A large part of the NATO military contingent in Afghanistan is American troops. The US military operates all military installations in the country. US withdrawal from Afghanistan would mean the departure of virtually the entire foreign coalition, since the proportion of troops of other countries in the military contingent is insignificant.
The US and its coalition allies began reducing their military presence in the country in 2011 as the situation in the Republic of Afghanistan has gradually stabilized since the start of the operation in 2001: more than 6 million refugees returned home from Pakistan and Iran, the Islamic Emirate (banned in Russia) was eliminated and the new government of Afghanistan was established in its place. After all, the founder of al-Qaeda (banned in the Russian Federation) and one of the most dangerous terrorists in history, Osama bin Laden, was killed in neighboring Pakistan in 2011. The terrorist organization, which had its main forces and resources in Afghanistan, suffered a heavy blow, leaving it as weakened as possible and no longer posing the same threat to the world as it did before. The coalition has accomplished all of its goals in Afghanistan.
US Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump have talked about the need to withdraw the US military contingent from the Republic of Afghanistan during their terms as president, but for one reason or another during their time in office, these long-term plans have not been fully implemented. However, the number of US troops in Afghanistan has been steadily declining year by year. There were 90,000 US troops in 2011, 25,000 in 2019, and only 3,500 US Army soldiers and officers are deployed in Afghanistan today.
Back in early 2002, with the help of the US and NATO countries, the formation of the new Afghan armed forces began. At the same time, Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed a decree creating the “Afghan National Army,” which provided for the formation of a 70,000-strong army by 2009. By September 2008, the Afghan army had 70,000 soldiers, and the presidential decree was fulfilled even ahead of schedule. In November 2009, the Afghan army’s strength was 97,200, and as a result the plan was actually exceeded. Today there are about 200,000 men serving in the Afghan army. While in the early stages of building Afghanistan’s new armed forces the army was content with weapons and equipment left behind by the Soviet Union a decade ago, over time the United States and its NATO allies have supplied new and modern weapons to Afghanistan. In February 2007, the US handed over to the Afghan army 213 Humvees and more than 12,000 small arms. In 2008, the US Air Force signed a contract with Italy’s Alenia Aeronautica to supply 18 C-27A military transport aircraft to the Afghan Army Air Corps, and in February 2013, the US Army ordered 900 pieces of 60mm mortars worth $5.9 million from the state-owned artillery factory Watervliet Arsenal, which were delivered to the Afghan Army under the military assistance program. To summarize the above, in twenty years Afghanistan has built a combat-ready army from scratch, capable of withstanding a serious threat.
For its part, the Russian Federation is also actively involved in stabilizing the situation in the region. Since April 11, 2013, Afghanistan has been an observer state in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), of which the Russian Federation is the leading country. In the 2010s, the CSTO helped Kyrgyzstan, not far from Afghanistan, organize the search for troublemakers and coordinate cooperation to suppress the activities of terrorist groups that were controlled from Afghanistan, fight the drug mafia that was operating in southern Kyrgyzstan, and more. After a decade under radical Islamist rule, the people of Afghanistan began to view the secular government and Mohammad Najibullah, Afghanistan’s president from 1987 to 1992, who was not highly regarded during his rule, much more positively. In a 2008 sociological survey, 93.2% of Kabul residents cited the pro-Soviet Najibullah regime when asked which of the political regimes of the past and present they considered most in their interests.
From the abovementioned, it can be concluded that over the years of its presence on the territory of the Republic of Afghanistan, the United States has done some work to rid the country of terrorism. In 2021, the NATO military presence in Afghanistan came to a tidy and logical end.
Petr Konovalov, a political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.