By Ollie Campbell
President Biden’s plans to remove troops from Afghanistan will not create the peace he dreams of.
Since the turn of the millennia Afghanistan has turned to total chaos. The Taliban have created one of the world’s strongest rebel groups and throughout 2000-2010, almost daily attacks on American troops were occurring. This polarised the President and Vice-President of the time. Obama argued that the Jihads were too dangerous to be left and therefore, however flawed the elected rulers may be, still deserved protection. His Vice-President Joe Biden strongly believed that only a small group of anti-terrorist troops were necessary and henceforth all other troops should be removed. However, Biden lost the debate and an additional 17,000 troops were flown in from America to protect the Government in Kabul.
A decade later and the dilemma remains the same. The Taliban are a similar strength to what they previously were and the Afghan state that has continually been backed by NATO forces is now dwindling. The only difference is that Biden is now President. Current plans would lead to almost all troops leaving by September, the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 attack. This will leave a small number merely to guard the embassy. Donald Trump may have created the façade of only going his own way, but throughout his presidency he did listen to the advice of America’s top Generals when they warned him against pulling out of Afghanistan. The same cannot be said about Biden.
It is quite easy to comprehend why Biden feels pulling out troops is the better option; world peace is almost everyone’s dream. The Democrat campaign before the presidential election was to end the seemingly endless wars in the Middle East, and this gained a lot of momentum with American voters. However, the decision is quite clearly not well thought through. Troops have already been reduced to a mere 2,500 and not a single American soldier has died in Afghanistan for over a year. The cost of maintaining these troops is a drop in the ocean for the defence budget of $750 billion plus. In contrast, the benefits are multiple as US troops guarantee the security of the NATO troops who are training Afghan troops to be self-sufficient. In the future, a potential removal of troops could be a good thing, but in its current state, Afghanistan will crumble. NATO troops will surely leave very quickly after the Americans do.
Across the globe, America has given protection to a number of democracies that are faltering due to rebels. The lack of media coverage leaves the population oblivious. Most Americans would not be aware of the support their military gives to South Korea, for example. The message sent to all Americas allying countries after Afghan troops are removed is perspicuous. Removal of troops can only lead to more bloodshed. Reports from the UN have announced that civilian casualties are mounting massively. The first three months of 2021 saw a 29% increase in civilian casualties than the previous year. The Afghan Government does still have power over a number of cities, only some (including Kabul) are under siege and suicide bombers are rife. With the removal of troops, a repeat of the 90s is on the table, where the Taliban managed to slaughter Afghanistan’s leaders after the Soviets collapsed. A replica of this would lead to the implication of a modern tyranny, without the benefits of economic growth that China has experienced.
For the removal of American troops to work, Biden needs to take small steps to reduce the probability of total disaster. If the 90s are anything to go on, the state did not collapse when the troops were withdrawn, rather when the money ran out. To begin with, a cease of subsidies to Afghanistan will allow for self-sufficiency for when the troops are no longer available. The Taliban has to know that should they take over, the country will become a social outcast, with no artificial income streams. Currently, the Taliban are living off of foreign donors as Taliban held districts are receiving huge amounts of aid from international philanthropy, with none of the donors fully aware of how their money is being spent. Should money supplies slowly come to end, the current Afghanistan President, Ashraf Ghani, would need to realise that American is not always there as a bailout and therefore he has to seriously amend his foreign affairs strategies.
Worryingly, the Taliban must be gaining confidence at a ridiculous rate. They have “defeated” the biggest global military superpower. No matter how the Taliban gain power over Afghanistan, the current constitution has no hope. Should the 2004 Afghan constitution come to end, there is little chance of the legal protections of any civil liberties, especially women’s, lasting. The ties between Al-Qaeda and the Taliban are not getting any weaker, so Biden may pull troops out, but a successor may need to send them back in.
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