The US Senate has called upon the executive branch to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan within one year. President Trump has already expressed a desire to draw down, and with negotiations with the Taliban showing positive signs, it seems America’s longest war is coming to an end. However, politics always lags behind reality. There are still a sizeable number of powerful Washington officials opposing the decision to close down the war and advocating for a better deal. Actually, they are finding it difficult to digest the hard truth that the US has lost the war in Afghanistan.
The US has lost the war in Afghanistan as per its stated war aim
The US institution of democracy and the project of nation-building in Afghanistan have failed. The US military has neither been able to pacify the Taliban insurgency nor created a viable democratic government that can maintain order without external support. The Taliban now hold more territory, about half the country’s districts, than at any point since 2001. Last year Afghanistan witnessed the highest recorded number of civilian deaths since 2009.
As per the recent Afghan Inspector General Report, the strength of the Afghanistan security forces is stressed. Afghan security forces are suffering from desertions, depressed morale and low re-enlistment. A shocking 45,000 Afghan police officers and soldiers have died since 2014.
The US has tried everything, increased aid, troop surges, regional cooperation and even coercion to neighbouring countries. Nothing has brought the US closer to her objectives in Afghanistan. The Taliban appear to be determined to fight until a full U.S. withdrawal and attainment of political power in Kabul.
Most Americans do not like to hear that they have lost a war. During Vietnam, officials in Washington had privately acknowledged as early as 1965 that they had lost, but to avoid the humiliation of defeat the US continued fighting for another ten years. It is time to face the hard truth. The US has lost the war and failed to achieve its war aim. Therefore, they should cut their further losses, leave Afghanistan and come back as friends after a few years if their presence is really crucial.
There are no more terrorist heaven in Afghanistan working against people of United States
The security rationale for continuing to fight this lost war is to prevent a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan from being a sanctuary for terrorist groups. But Al Qaeda’s current presence in Afghanistan is negligible unless new warriors are imported to the area by Washington’s allies. In an age of instant global communications, a territorial haven in remote, land-locked Afghanistan is not essential to terrorist groups plotting to attack the United States or her allies.
In any case, terrorism is not a kind of existential threat warranting unending war. It is a relatively manageable threat. The US expenditures around $75 billion in annual anti-terrorism homeland security, could be cut by changing US traditional foreign policy approach of ‘regime change and political engineering’ in the third world. The war in Afghanistan has cost the US about $2 trillion on top of that.
In negotiations with the U.S., the Taliban have agreed in principle not to allow Al- Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan in the future. This has been their de facto position for a long time, but if the Trump administration is looking for a face-saving way out of a lost war, they should take advantage of this “success” and leave.
Things will get messy post-withdrawal Afghan.
This is the concern of everyone in the region and beyond and we should not expect peace after US withdrawal. There may be infighting, increased militant activity, or even a low-level civil war. However, there is also a possibility that regional players desperate for increased economic activity might contain the anticipated violence. The political instability in Afghanistan is no one interest in the region except India. India alone wants to entangle the US in Afghanistan for strategic gains and to keep Pakistan under check on her western borders.
Afghanistan’s location is fantastic; it is the only land bridge between South and Central Asia. Regional power transmission lines, gas pipelines, and railway and highway projects — such as the Turkmenistan Afghanistan Pakistan India (TAPI) gas pipeline and (Central Asia – South Asia) CASA 1000 — are in the implementation phase with tangible outcomes. These projects will fulfil South Asia’s energy needs and bring vital revenues.
China’s security concerns are also behind its stepped-up Afghan diplomacy. Officials in Beijing worry that continued instability in Afghanistan could encourage terrorist groups, including the anti-China militant group the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), to foment problems in the western border region of Xinjiang.
The United States can control the post-withdrawal governance of Afghanistan through soft power and diplomacy with the Taliban for which they would be more than willing to do. However, from the western standard, the prospects for democracy, human rights, and protection of women, among other things, will take a hit. That is just the reality. But the Kabul regime has not been a shining success either.
The United States nevertheless remains the world’s central power. It spends more on defence every year than the next seven countries combined. It has more allies and potential partners than any of its rivals. Its economy despite gross inequalities remains the biggest and most innovative in the world. Energy; oil and gas once US vulnerability, now a considerable advantage, with technology having unlocked vast natural gas resources and advances in clean and renewable energy.
The US could use these advantages, and update the international order to reflect new realities. The US political elite should not be hesitant to pursue liberal values in the world. On the contrary, Trump has recently recognised the illegal annexation of Golan Heights by Israel and tarnished the US icon by not conforming to international law.
The US policymakers must learn the limits of U.S. military power and refrain from adopting egoistic and ambitious missions for peripheral interests. The US military has been ensuring inexpensive contracts for American Multinational Companies (MNC) in most part of the world for a very long time. In a changed world, it is now time to re-evaluate the contractors’ gains vis-a-vis cost of war, inland security expenditure and not to mention the related human losses and US image in the world.