The American war in Afghanistan was considered a thorny file that haunted successive US administrations during the past two decades, until Trump announced his candidacy for the presidency in 2016, and one of the main promises on which he built his campaign was to bring all American forces home and end the “eternal wars” that the United States entered. . But year after year in his administration, he revealed to him how difficult it was to make a big decision such as withdrawing American forces completely from Afghanistan, so that in 2017 he was forced to increase the strength of his forces there, to come months before the end of his mandate and decide to withdraw American forces in Afghanistan and keep 2,500 soldiers Only, and set a deadline for this task, which is the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. In this analysis compiled by Jim Golby, a non-resident senior fellow at the Center for American Studies, and published by The Atlantic, Gulby discusses the Trump administration’s shaky bad handling of the Afghanistan file, and the chaotic implications of this approach for the Afghan people and the administration of President-elect Joe Biden.
Since President Donald Trump set foot on the White House and he cannot decide whether the United States should continue its war in Afghanistan or not, his recent impromptu decision to reduce the number of American forces there, by January 15, is no different from this. Approach. Because of Trump’s desire to end the “eternal war”, as it is called, which is far from over soon, he has placed the 2,500 soldiers who will remain in Afghanistan at greater risk. It was already bad, but Trump made it worse, while throwing the problem into the hands of President-elect Joe Biden.
Trump’s self-proclaimed dealmaker campaigned in 2016 and 2020 on his promise to end the war that began in 2001, but instead reluctantly followed the advice of his military advisers and decided to raise the number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan to 4,000 in August 2017. But this political debate cast a shadow, and Trump began to realize that the officers he described as his “leaders” were not on the same line with him, and Trump felt – as Obama felt before him – that the Pentagon was besieging him.
Fed up with the leader’s approach, Trump entrusted the task to Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, the former US ambassador to Afghanistan. Trump assigned Khalilzad to conclude a deal with the Taliban under which American and NATO forces would evacuate from Afghanistan while continuing to protect American targets to fight terrorism, which Khalilzad completely implemented last February.
Khalilzad affirmed the commitment to withdraw American and NATO forces completely by May 2012, in exchange for guarantees that the Taliban would stop targeting US forces and major Afghan cities, start peace talks with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, and stop allowing terrorist groups to use Afghan soil to launch international attacks . But despite the fact that the NATO Allies Special Envoy has repeatedly asserted that the anticipated troop withdrawal process depends on fulfilling field conditions, the Taliban never lived up to the expectations of the Pentagon and allied military leaders. The death toll has risen in recent months, and the Afghan-Afghan talks have stalled, while the number of American forces has decreased to about 5,500 currently, and the Taliban still refuses to sever their links with Al Qaeda, which is the initial US demand that was not part of the final deal.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper, at the time, urged Trump and US military commanders to halt any new troop withdrawals there until the Taliban fulfill their promises. But this advice, as well as some political skirmishes with Trump, simply marked the end of the Esper era, as Trump removed him from his position with several Pentagon leaders shortly after the election.
After the dismissal and replacement of three of the Pentagon’s most senior civilian officials, the consequences of the decision on Afghanistan rests entirely with Trump. Although Trump may try to blame others, he cannot blame anyone for having recently taken a last breath of coherent policy. Any remaining credibility of the Khalilzad agreement has been destroyed, and Trump’s barely concealed desire to withdraw American forces has been exposed, as is his weak administration and his inability to choose a specific political vision and adhere to it. The deal with the Taliban has caused more damage than would have occurred if Trump had simply ordered a troop reduction.
Even if American forces are stationed with up to 14,000 soldiers, as was the case in 2018, the United States has no way to defeat the Taliban there. For years, US de facto policy in Afghanistan has been to maintain a sufficient number of forces to prevent the Taliban from taking over the US-backed government in Kabul and allow terrorist groups to use the country as their base of operations again. Trump’s decision to withdraw more troops, despite the Taliban underestimating their obligations, may score political points for Americans disturbed by this war, but it puts the remaining US forces there at greater risk.
Trump’s mismanagement of this war had other consequences as well.During my service as a defense policy advisor, with the United States’ NATO mission, I saw how Trump’s lack of commitment to the agreement put his NATO ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison in an unenviable position while trying to reassure NATO allies and Afghan partners that the United States was It will involve them in any major decision it takes, which the United States has not done. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg made sharp statements in which he warned of the danger that “Afghanistan will once again become a base for international terrorists to plan and launch attacks on our country.” These statements reveal a feeling The Allied leaders grow frustrated. Trump’s willingness to ignore the conditions his special envoy imposed on the Taliban is a disrespect for our allies and partners who, although not attacked on September 11, have stood by our side for 19 years, sacrificing more than a thousand of their soldiers and billions of dollars from their coffers. Trump’s approach makes cooperation difficult and questions the credibility of the United States.
Moreover, Trump’s maneuvering has weakened Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, while legitimizing the Taliban by viewing them as a trustworthy negotiating partner. Ghani, who is in his second term in office, won elections last fall that remained unresolved for months. In addition to the Taliban, Ghani faces powerful opponents in Afghanistan and even within the government he leads. Rather than helping him do so, Trump and his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pressured Ghani to give the Taliban unnecessary concessions while he was not getting anything worth doing.
After nearly two decades of war, no sustainable progress appears yet on the horizon. Many Americans, especially those who served and made sacrifices in Afghanistan, may be understanding or even sympathetic to Trump’s tendency to rush out of there, but based on my research with researcher Peter Fever of Duke University, more than 40% of Americans choose Not expressing any opinion when asked regarding this war.
A complete withdrawal is likely to have devastating consequences. The war in Afghanistan may escalate dramatically, and the greatest burden falls on the shoulders of innocent Afghans. Although talk of imminent threats to terrorist groups – including al-Qaeda and the Islamic State – is sometimes exaggerated, the chaos that a full US withdrawal may leave may clear the way for them to reclaim their potential.
These potential repercussions – in addition to the logistical challenges to the rapid withdrawal of troops – are most likely what convinced Trump to turn away from withdrawing all forces. Now, with Trump ordering the withdrawal of American forces except for 2,500 soldiers and setting an arbitrary date for the completion of the mission by the date of Biden’s inauguration, he is leaving behind an unsustainable presence in Afghanistan, a disaster for the Afghan people, and chaos for the Biden administration and his deputy, Kamala Harris.
In addition, NATO allies are almost certain to reduce their troop commitments. Of necessity, US and NATO forces will be stationed in fewer locations around Kabul in the first place, with limited capabilities to direct Afghan special forces and airmen outside the capital. Most likely, US commanders will make their mission priority, in combating terrorism and air support, is to help Afghan security forces defend large settlements.
As Trump does, he refuses to follow the example of the presidents who immediately preceded him, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. When faced with the decision about whether to increase the number of troops in Afghanistan in 2008, Bush postponed the decision so that Obama could implement the strategy he chose. Likewise, during his last days in office, Obama avoided making a major decision to arm Kurdish forces in northern Syria to attack ISIS in his stronghold of Raqqa, leaving the new administration to chart its own path. On the contrary, Trump is deliberating with all his power to make the situation in Afghanistan insurmountable to the Biden administration and thus to the US forces there.
Perhaps deliberately, maybe out of incompetence, or maybe just hatred and arrogance, Trump created the conditions to put the United States in a position that was frequently repeated before, when he interfered in wars abroad in a way that was enough to remove a deadly opposition, but not strong enough to protect the people of these countries. Afghanistan was already in a terrible situation before Trump’s recent announcement of troop withdrawals, but the outgoing president has made the situation worse, and perhaps unbearable. And the new administration must act quickly to tidy up the mess left by Trump.
This article is translated from The Atlantic and does not necessarily represent the Meydan website.