07.05.2021 Author: Vladimir Danilov

Where are the US and NATO Withdrawing their Afghan Troops to?


On May 1, US President Joe Biden announced the beginning of the official withdrawal from Afghanistan of the remaining troops — about 3,000 American troops and about 7,000 fighters of NATO countries.

There is no reason to talk about even a ghost of victory for the US in this war, and Joe Biden did not try to cover this up when he announced his decision: “It is time to end America’s longest war. It is time for American troops to come home.” For now, the Afghan campaign is famous only for being the longest in American history, the most expensive, and, given the Pentagon’s lackluster results, also the most embarrassing. That is why the White House administration stretched the process of evacuating the military until September 11.

In order to resolve its stay and the further situation in Afghanistan, Washington, being in a frankly losing position in this war, back in 2018 had to go to direct peace talks with the terrorist organization Taliban (banned in Russia). However, throughout the negotiations with Washington, the Taliban outplayed their opponents and built a dialogue from a position of strength. In particular, they refused to recognize the modern constitution of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, and they deemed the government in Kabul illegitimate. And in fact they still do, eagerly awaiting the withdrawal of US and NATO troops. Today, many experts admit that official Kabul, which is in fact supported and paid for by the United States, was not able to stand up to the Taliban even before the withdrawal of US and NATO troops from the country, and no one dares to predict what will happen next.

Under these conditions, the US occupation contingent has been concentrating its main forces in Kandahar and Jalalabad for the last few years, in fact only guarding itself in an attempt to somehow contain the Taliban in their coup attempts. While ostensibly stating that the Afghan army was “well-prepared to fight the Taliban,” Washington’s actual activities were mostly anti-terrorist efforts against underground Pakistani militias, which led to the relocation to Afghanistan several years ago of a drone strike control center previously set up by the CIA in Pakistan.

The withdrawal of NATO coalition troops from Afghanistan posed a number of serious challenges to Washington, including the disposition and deployment of the withdrawn forces and equipment, and ensuring the security of the operation itself. For example, Washington has already moved strategic bombers, multiple rocket launchers and additional special forces to enhance security measures. In light of Washington’s disruption of earlier agreements with the Taliban to withdraw all foreign troops from the country by May 1, the Taliban have already made threats to resume strikes against coalition forces because of their failure to deliver on their promises. The Pentagon is prepared to respond with the traditional disproportionate retaliation of missiles and bombs, under which many Afghan civilians may once again be killed and there is a possibility of another disruption of the American evacuation, as already happened in 2012-2014.

For now, however, evacuation actions by coalition forces continue. As early as 2013, NATO leaders made an informal request to the Russian Defense Ministry for information on the 1989 withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan, hoping to use some of the security measures Moscow had taken for itself at the time.

With about 10,000 Pentagon and other NATO troops now in Afghanistan, it won’t take long to evacuate them. The US military contingent in Afghanistan is already preparing to withdraw some US military bases, has begun dismantling and collecting its equipment, and orders have been given to suspend service contracts for the US contingent. The Pentagon has already announced its intention to transfer three bases and a military airport in Kandahar Province to the Afghan side within the next two weeks.

After the departure of the US and NATO troops from the country, the current Afghan authorities can only hope for the support of about twenty thousand mercenaries from the US PMCs. Thus, according to a Pentagon report, as of January there were more than 18,000 contract servicemen in Afghanistan, and the official number of US troops was down to 2,500. Washington expects to keep the employees of its PMCs inside the country in any case, to further influence domestic political processes. However, this “protection” for the Kabul authorities is rather arbitrary, since the PMC fighters themselves often behave as terrorists.

Washington’s further use of PMCs in Afghanistan will undoubtedly follow the same strategy of secret war, which was conducted in 1959-1975 in Laos. Recall that there the CIA worked with hundreds of civilian contractors who flew spotter aircrafts, operated ground bases and radar stations in civilian clothing, while raising their own private army among the Hmong to fight the pro-Communist Laotian authorities. It has already been reported in several media outlets, how the CIA, special forces and PMCs tried to recruit tribal elements in Afghanistan and, as in Laos, were involved in tribal and sectarian feuds.

Since Biden announced the start of the US troop withdrawal on April 15, only about 60 troops have left the country. The removal of selected equipment by the military had already begun a few weeks ago on C-17 cargo aircrafts. Now the military is taking an inventory of its assets, deciding what to send back to the US, what to give to Afghan security forces, and what will be sold at Afghan markets as unnecessary. Experts estimate that over the past two decades of armed intervention in that country, the US has spent more than $2 trillion in Afghanistan, so the nature of the thoughts of the US military about the sale/disposal of weapons and equipment imported here is quite understandable.

As for the future deployment of coalition forces from Afghanistan, this issue has not yet been worked out definitively in Washington. A senior White House official told the United News of India that President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw some troops from Afghanistan would allow the military to redeploy to the Indo-Pacific region.

At the same time, the redeployment of another part of the coalition troops to Eastern Europe and a number of Asian countries (including some Central Asian states) is now being actively worked out by the US military and political representatives in their intensified contacts in the relevant states. Washington hopes to persuade such countries to provide at least temporary military bases for the United States for the time being in order to cooperate against “the threat of terrorism from Afghanistan”. 

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