With the Biden Administration more than halfway through its planned troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, people are starting to raise serious concerns about the nation’s future.
Troop withdrawal “will have an impact on the negotiation with the Taliban,” warns Abdullah Abdullah, head of Afghanistan’s National Reconciliation Council. “[Taliban leaders] may find themselves further emboldened and they may think – some of them at least – that with troop withdrawal, they can take advantage of the situation militarily.”
Already, Taliban forces have started to reclaim land lost during the past 20 years. As reported by The Hill, there is fighting in at least 80 of Afghanistan’s roughly 400 districts.
When asked last week by NATO officials how he plans to aid the Afghan government after troop withdrawal, Biden offered few answers:
“Our troops are coming home, but we agreed that our diplomatic, economic, and humanitarian commitment to the Afghan people and our support for the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces will endure,” he said.
US Army General Mark Milley confirmed Biden’s intentions to maintain an embassy in Afghanistan and to continue funding Afghan security forces, but added there is “no guarantee” these things will actually happen.
In February 2020, former US President Donald Trump signed a landmark deal with the Taliban designed to end the war and bring US troops home. President Joe Biden has continued that effort with plans to pull all 2,500 US troops from Afghanistan by September 11th, 2021. The withdrawal also applies to NATO troops stationed in the region, of which there are roughly 7,000.
Both Trump and Biden understand the Taliban may fail to uphold their end of the deal, but remain committed to troop withdrawal even if things end poorly for the Afghan government.
It is the responsibility of the Afghan people to lead their country, said Biden during a televised speech in April.
“Our diplomacy does not hinge on having boots in harm’s way,” said Biden. “We have to change that thinking. American troops shouldn’t be used as a bargaining chip between warring parties in other countries.”
Our reasons for staying in the country following the assassination of Osama bin Laden in 2011 are “unclear,” he continued. “It’s time to end America’s longest war. It’s time for American troops to come home.”
In addition, the threat of terror has spread far beyond the borders of Afghanistan and it just doesn’t make sense to keep “thousands of troops grounded and concentrated in just one country.”
Instead, we should focus on current threats such as China, cyber warfare, and the coronavirus pandemic.
“[We’ll] be much more formidable to threat adversaries and competitors over the long term if we fight the battles for the next 20 years, not the last one,” said Biden.
Critics, however, warn that troop withdrawal could allow terror organizations to flourish and create a new threat.
Speaking to lawmakers last week, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin warned that an extremist group such as al-Qaeda or ISIS could rise to power within two years if American troops are not present.
Keeping US troops in Afghanistan was “an insurance policy against the rise of radical Islam in Afghanistan that could pave the way for another attack against our homeland or our allies,” warns Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
Removing that insurance is “dumber than dirt and devilishly dangerous,” he said. “To announce full withdrawal sends a signal of incredible weakness to adversaries like al-Qaeda, ISIS, Hezbollah, China, Russia, and Iran.”
Other critics, including Senators Jeanna Shaheen (D-NH) and Susan Collins (R-ME), worry about the effects of troop withdrawal on women and children.
“I’m very concerned that Afghanistan is going to fall to the Taliban and that we once again will see the imposition of Sharia law and that girls and women will not be allowed to pursue an eduction or participate fully in society,” laments Collins.
Lawmakers have also asked President Biden to evacuate and grant visas to Afghans who helped US troops during the war.
“If he doesn’t act and he doesn’t get these people out, blood will be on his hands and on his administration’s hands,” argues Rep. Michael Waltz (R-FL). “The time for talk, the time for debate, is over.”