As the United States promises to withdraw military occupational forces from Afghanistan this May, enduring political stability in the region remains uncertain.
In recent weeks, a frightening scene has been playing out in the hotly contested regions of Afghanistan. From the south, Taliban fighters have pummeled local resistance, taking districts surrounding the city of Kandahar (New York Times). Many of these districts had been secure from the horrors of Taliban occupation for decades. Meanwhile the northern capital of Kabul is seriously threatened. By seizing strategic Afghan military outposts, armories, and prominent highways in the neighboring cities of Kudzu and Pol-e-Khomri, the Taliban has placed a grasp on the heart of local resistance (New York Times).
This aggressive flex by the Taliban precedes an imminent United States withdrawal by this May. The complete removal of all US troops from Afghanistan garnered wide bipartisan support, enthusiastically backed by both former President Trump and President Biden (Foreign Affairs). Under Trump, a peace arrangement was brokered between NATO forces, the Afghan government, and the Taliban (Council on Foreign Relations). This accomplished three main goals. It ushered in settlement talks between the Afghani and Taliban parties — promised total withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan — and held the Taliban to stop fostering transnational terrorist activities against the United States (Council on Foreign Relations). However, many officials in the state department are weary about a hasty withdrawal. General Kenneth F. McKenzie, United States Central Command, warned during the Trump administration, “If we left precipitously right now, I do not believe they [the Afghans] would be able to successfully defend their country. I don’t know how long it’s going to take” (Cato Institute).
Without US backing, the Afghan government will face the full scale of terrorist aggression, with no future guarantee of US military support. The Taliban, while continuing to strengthen its position militarily and territorially, appears to benefit from the promise of withdrawal, and will continue to compete for regional dominance. Best case scenario: the two competing interests can reconcile peacefully through settlement talks independent of US intervention or mediation. Worst case scenario: civil war destroys the already unstable local government, and Afghanistan once again becomes a haven for the outsourcing of Islamic terror.
ARTICLE: DAVID NISSING
WORLD NEWS EDITOR: LUKE LEBAR
PHOTO CREDITS: POLITICO