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US War in Afghanistan - Withdrawal and Thereafter

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July 05, 2021

What is the issue?

  • The last US combat troops prepare to leave Afghanistan.
  • But naturally, the question of whether the war is really over or not arises. Here is a look at the various aspects of the troops withdrawal and ending of the war.

How will the future support be?

  • Soon, all the U.S. combat troops, and 20 years of accumulated war materiel will be gone.
  • However, the head of US Central Command, Gen. Frank McKenzie, will have authority until September 2021 to defend Afghan forces against the Taliban.
  • He can do so by ordering strikes with US warplanes based outside of Afghanistan.
  • After the withdrawal, strike aircraft, along with any logistical support for Afghan forces, will be done from outside the country.
  • Inside Afghanistan, US troops will no longer be there to train or advise Afghan forces.
  • An unusually large US security contingent of 650 troops is based at the US Embassy compound.
  • This will protect American diplomats and potentially help secure the Kabul international airport.
  • Turkey is also expected to continue its current mission of providing airport security.
  • McKenzie will have authority to keep as many as 300 more troops to assist that mission until September 2021 (3 months from now).
  • Possibly, the US military may also be asked to assist any large-scale evacuation of Afghans seeking Special Immigrant Visas.
  • The U.S. administration is concerned of the Afghans who helped the US war effort.
  • They are thereby vulnerable to Taliban retribution, and will not be left behind by the U.S.
  • In effect, as many as 950 US troops will be present until September 2021 and there is potential for continued airstrikes.
  • So, the war is probably not over yet.

How then wars end?

  • Unlike Afghanistan, some wars end with a flourish.
  • World War I was over with the armistice signed with Germany on November 11, 1918 and the later signing of the Treaty of Versailles.
  • World War II saw dual celebrations in 1945, one with Germany’s surrender and other with Japan’s surrender.
  • In contrast, other endings have been less clear-cut.
  • The US pulled troops out of Vietnam in 1973, in what many consider a failed war that ended with the fall of Saigon two years later.
  • When convoys of US troops drove out of Iraq in 2011, a ceremony marked their final departure.
  • But just 3 years later, American troops were back to rebuild Iraqi forces that collapsed under attacks by Islamic State militants.

What is the case with U.S. war in Afghanistan?

  • As the war draws to a close, there will be no surrender and no peace treaty, no final victory and no decisive defeat.
  • For the U.S., it was enough that US forces dismantled al-Qaida and killed Osama bin Laden.
  • The NATO Resolute Support mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan security forces began in 2015.
  • At the peak of the war, there were more than 130,000 troops in Afghanistan from 50 NATO nations and partner countries.
  • That dwindled to about 10,000 troops from 36 nations for the Resolute Support mission, and most had withdrawn their troops now.
  • Some may see the war ending when NATO’s mission is declared over.
  • But that may not happen for months.

What are the impending threats?

  • Lately, violence in Afghanistan has escalated. Taliban attacks on Afghan forces and civilians have intensified.
  • An emboldened Taliban insurgency is making battlefield gains. Meanwhile, the prospective peace talks are stalled.
  • Some fear that once foreign forces are gone, Afghanistan will dive deeper into civil war.
  • Though degraded, an Afghan affiliate of the Islamic State extremist network also exists.
  • Given this, the US leaders insist the only path to peace in Afghanistan is through a negotiated settlement.
  • Also, the US troop withdrawal does n0t mean the end of the war on terrorism.
  • The US has made it clear that it retains the authority to conduct strikes against al-Qaida or other terrorist groups in Afghanistan if they threaten the US homeland.


Source: The Indian Express

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