America’s Withdrawal from Afghanistan; an Admission of Failure or a Long-term Plan?
USA leaves the Trojan horse on the doorstep of its competitors Russia and China
Afghanistan opened a new page in its history with the announcement by US President Joe Biden on April 14, 2021 that his country and members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization "NATO" would withdraw their forces from it.
But what happened in the following four months revealed horrific scenarios, according to what the Turkish "Anadolu Agency" says in an article by writer Mehmet Kanji.
The writer explained: "The Taliban has taken control of the borders of Iran, Pakistan and Tajikistan."
While it captured 5 provincial centers within 72 hours in the first week of August, the Taliban had controlled about 85 percent of the country by the 10th of the same month, advancing slowly towards power.
However, is it possible that the political and military decision-makers in the United States had not considered that the Taliban would be able to overthrow the Afghan government in a short period of time?
Did the United States, the superpower, miscalculate the Taliban? Or is this what it really aspired to? The writer asked.
He continued: Can we assess the situation in Afghanistan today as "a new episode of lack of insight added to a chain of incompetence"? Or was the United States deliberately leaving a Trojan horse on the doorstep of Central Asia, South Asia, the Asia-Pacific region, and the Middle East?
To get an idea of the answers to these questions, let's take a quick look at the statements of US diplomats on August 6-9.
The United States changed the language of its rhetoric after seeing that reality contradicted the messages it was sending to the world that the Afghan national government would maintain the military balance with its air support and that it would persuade the Taliban to come to the negotiating table.
For example, US Defense Department spokesman John Kirby stated on August 9 that the Taliban had made field gains during the term of former President Donald Trump as well, which means that the movement's progress is not linked to the decisions of the Biden administration.
While expressing his concern that 5 provincial centers would fall to the Taliban within 72 hours, he placed the responsibility of protecting the cities on the shoulders of the Afghan people and the Afghan government.
Kirby stated that answering a question about continued US air support for the Afghan government would be controversial, giving the impression that this support may also become limited.
Although US air support with a B-52 bomber inflicted heavy losses on the Taliban, the cost of the operation made it unsustainable for the long term.
The United States used these planes in Vietnam, and although they were enough to persuade North Vietnam to come to the negotiating table, the probability that they will be enough to do so with Taliban is only an uncertain expectation.
The United States sent Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad to Doha on August 8, to find out the impact of B-52 bombers on the Taliban and to stop its expansion, according to the Turkish writer.
On the other hand, the indications so far are that the influence of the "Taliban Political Bureau" and the "Political Affairs Committee", which conducts the peace negotiations and which Khalilzad met in Doha, is limited.
There is no concrete evidence that Taliban representatives in Doha have any influence on the Military Affairs Committee on the ground.
He added, “Also, the United States did not have any opportunity to meet Maulvi Haibatullah Akhundzada, who has led the Taliban movement since 2016, or his deputy, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, or Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob.”
This means the failure of the United States and countries in the region to establish a dialogue that goes beyond the fourth layer of the Taliban chain of command.
This also means that developments on the table in Moscow, Doha and Tehran are advancing in a completely different path and direction from the operation field.
He pointed out that the Taliban is following a line not very different from that in 1996 of carrying out assassinations targeting national government officials, media professionals and teachers in a move to establish its hegemony in the country. This is, at a time when countries such as Britain and China expect the Taliban to follow a more moderate policy in the hope of demanding international recognition.
He added: “As another example of the US administration's changing rhetoric on the course of Afghanistan, reference can be made to the statement at the United Nations Security Council on Friday, August 6th.”
The United Nations envoy to Afghanistan, Deborah Lyons, declared that Kabul is going through a dangerous turning point, referring to "the human rights violations carried out by the Taliban after taking over the district centers."
Thus, the developments confirm fundamental changes in the US discourse on Afghanistan after August.
The writer considers that the occupation, conflict and civil war that surrounded Afghanistan for 40 years led to the start of an endless wave of migration.
Two million and 800,000 Afghans live in Pakistan, while the number of Afghans in Iran reaches 800,000, according to data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
However, unofficial data indicate that this number is close to three million.
The number of Afghan refugees in Turkey is 200,000, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
However, the number of those who arrived in Turkey between 2014 and 2021 registered more than 500,000.
Therefore, it is inevitable that a large wave of migration from Afghanistan to Australia, Europe and the Central Asian republics will begin if the Taliban takes over the whole country.
About 60 percent of the Afghan population today is made up of groups with ethnic and religious identities that are at odds with the Taliban's approach.
To understand the extent of the risk that may be taken by those who wish to escape from the Taliban regime, we can reconsider the hijacking of the plane that occurred on February 6, 2000, says the Turkish writer.
He explained this by saying: A Boeing 727 passenger plane was hijacked by 9 Afghans who wanted to escape from the Taliban regime.
It is not hard to speculate that the Afghans might cling to more desperate attempts.
It should be noted that Afghan illegal immigrants who are still arriving in Turkey from Iranian territory are not part of the expected major migration wave.
It is not difficult to predict that if the wave of immigration begins, their numbers will exceed the number of immigrants from Syria exponentially.
He continued: As the potential wave of migration moves towards Europe, Australia and the Central Asian republics, the costs for those countries will increase.
While high on the agenda is the possibility of imposing new sanctions on Iran, which is said to have enough material to produce nuclear weapons within ten weeks, the wave of immigration, which could reach millions, will complicate the equation for Tehran.
He noted that immigration was not the only problem that accompanied the progress of the Taliban, as the uncontrolled circulation of large quantities of conventional weapons was also on the agenda.
Especially since the Taliban seized large quantities of light and heavy weapons and vehicles that Western countries provided to Afghan security forces.
It was reported in British news channels that the Taliban had seized a container full of mortar shells from bases abandoned by the United States.
It seems that we will see these weapons and ammunition, which exceed the needs of the Taliban, transfer to groups linked to the Islamic State and other terrorist organizations in the Philippines, Thailand, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Africa and the Middle East.
The Taliban will also feed those who pose a direct threat to Russia and China, according to the author's predictions.
However, the United States said: “The process they started in Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks was not technically an invasion, that they did not aim to build a state, and that their only goal was to eliminate the al-Qaeda threat.”
It justified its decision to withdraw, saying that there was no terrorist threat left in Afghanistan targeting American soil.
He added, "But won't Afghanistan continue to be a threat to Asia and the Middle East, since the Taliban and the groups generated by the Islamic State consider it a safe fortress?"
Certainly, but it seems that the United States decided to place the burdens of Afghanistan on the countries of the region, especially Russia and China, after it paid the price for its intervention with more than a trillion dollars it spent to keep Kabul under control.
With this decision, it actually leaves the Trojan horse on the doorstep of its competitors, to occupy threaten their security and to drain them financially.
The writer concluded his article by warning of the aggravation of the problem between Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan in the event that the wave of immigration from Afghanistan moves in its direction, especially as it is currently engaged in a struggle over water resources.
While food and water security in these countries will be threatened, the threat of terrorism will increase on the southern and central lanes of the Chinese Silk Road to Europe.
The exercises launched by Russia to confront the imminent threat on the borders of the Central Asian republics have already begun to impose new burdens on the defense budgets of both the countries of the region and Russia, according to the Turkish writer.