The withdrawal of the US has little hope for many Afghans
Gul Muhammad joined the Afghan army in 2016 when he was just 22 years old, he wanted to serve his nation by fighting against the Taliban and to have an honest life as a soldier.
After the U.S. signed a peace deal with the Taliban last year, Muhammad felt increasingly desperate that the army had lost territory and suffered heavy casualties.
In December, Muhammad surrendered to the Taliban, one of four soldiers in his company, who deserted at the same time. “Our commander was irresponsible about the lives of the soldiers, they spread food and salaries to us without stealing and planning,” he said. “This war has no morale. The Taliban are stronger and more savage.”
Muhammad’s hope is endemic throughout Afghanistan, with U.S. President Joe Biden announcing plans to “end the war forever” and withdrawing all U.S. and NATO troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
“The war in Afghanistan should never have been a multi-generational action,” Biden said in a statement on Wednesday.
The US is leaving Afghanistan at a time when the government in Kabul is fragile, plagued by corruption and poisonous internal strife. Some of the Taliban are confident that they can install the Islamic Emirate if they want their time, a scenario that risks the U.S. effort to do the complete opposite, to support the democratization and modernization of Afghan society.
“Our jihad will continue until the Islamic regime is established and reinstated,” the former Taliban leader and governor of eastern Afghanistan told the Financial Times. “Our weapons and bombings are ready to attack the remaining forces in Afghanistan and the puppet regime.”
As the United States retreats, its neighbors in Afghanistan — Pakistan, Iran, Russia, and China — are waiting to enter power in the nineteenth century. At the end of the century there was a great power struggle in the region between Great Britain and Russia.
Sajjan Gohel, an expert on South Asia, an expert at the London School of Economics, said there are worrying parallels between the current US exit and the withdrawal of the Soviets 30 years ago.
After the fall of the Soviet regime, Afghanistan became a haven for Islamic militants around the world. “Karten’s house came down,” Gohel said. “Ungovernable spaces are the biggest asset for extremists to flourish.”
Biden set a withdrawal date when the Trump administration agreed to the agreement and “maybe it’s not what I would negotiate myself.” It set a timetable for the withdrawal of the Doha agreement signed between the US and the Taliban in February 2020. In exchange, the Taliban assured that they would not allow al-Qaeda to threaten the U.S. from Afghanistan and reduce the level of violence, they pledged that politicians would not comply.
The Taliban managed to free thousands of prisoners when they launched an ongoing attack on Afghan security forces and civilians. According to the UN, more than 500 civilians have been killed in Afghanistan in the first three months of 2021, 30% more than the previous year. The Taliban have been blamed for the wave of killings of journalists, judges and activists that have shaken civil society.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has suspended talks between the government in Kabul and the Taliban, and the Biden administration has called for a new multinational peace conference to be held in Istanbul. The Taliban have refused to attend.
Retired Army Colonel Christopher Kolenda, who negotiated with the Taliban, said the U.S. has little leverage after some “missed opportunities” to get out.
He warned that in the absence of a comprehensive regional approach to peace, “Afghan residents continue to influence the pot with their representatives and transfer security issues.”
Chris Alexander, a former Canadian diplomat, has made it clear that the US and its allies are not holding Pakistan accountable for its role in supporting the Taliban by providing funding and sanctuary to its leaders.
“The US and NATO allies have not yet tested the best strategy to end this war: sanctions against those responsible for it in Pakistan. With or without international military forces on the ground, joint political action is needed to end the war of Pakistani representatives, ”he said on Twitter.
Afghans are working for a future without the US to keep the Taliban away. Many, like Ghousuddin Fleet, are trying to escape to Europe or the surrounding countries.
“Because of the poor security situation and the targeted killings, I want to leave the country,” said Frotan, director of a social development organization, “I know many other people who want to leave.”
Madiha Afzal, of the Brookings Institution, said women’s rights have been jeopardized. “The Taliban leadership has learned how to avoid some of these questions about the rights to international legitimacy, but the group’s ideology remains the same,” he said.
A senior U.S. administration official said Washington will advocate for women’s rights through diplomatic channels and still have important counter-terrorism assets in the region to deal with a terrorist threat in Afghanistan, and that the Taliban will remain committed once it does not guarantee al-Qaeda. again threatening the US.
The Taliban are “encouraged” by the diplomatic legitimacy given to them by the U.S. agreement, said Afghan parliament member Naheed Farid. “They didn’t disconnect their ties to Al Qaeda. If the mission were to fight international terrorism, the mission would not be fulfilled. ”
A former U.S. military commander questioned the viability of the Biden administration’s commitment to providing assistance to the 300,000-strong Afghan national security force that the U.S. has been training and equipping for years.
“These extremist groups are anticipated [the US took military actions against] it will establish new shrines in areas not controlled by the Afghan government in the future, ”they said.
Muhammad, a former soldier, fears the Afghan army may not be strong enough. “Without U.S. and foreign troops, Afghans will be killed like chickens in a butcher shop.”