Image Courtesy: Arg, Afghan President’s Palace

‘U.S. Will Regret Abandoning Afghanistan Prematurely And Irresponsibly Again’

M. Ashraf Haidari Colombo, Sri Lanka 8 February 2019

The New York Times’ editorial of February 3 titled “End the War in Afghanistan” is punctuated with defeatism against the overwhelming optimism of the Afghan people for a future of peace with liberty and dignity, which is achievable with continued international support. As an Afghan citizen—who experienced first-hand the atrocities of the Taliban, factional infighting, and the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan from 1979 to 2001—I can warn that the U.S. would regret abandoning Afghanistan prematurely and irresponsibly again.

Let’s review history: like President Donald Trump, President Bill Clinton cited domestic priorities over peace-building missions overseas, famously stating “it’s the economy, stupid.” This underpinned his decision to halt spending on the post-Cold War stabilisation and reconstruction of Afghanistan after the Soviet occupation forces withdrew from the country and the communist regime, which they had been backing, collapsed in 1992.

Indeed, the Afghan people felt betrayed when the U.S.-led “Free World,” on whose behalf Afghans had fought and defeated the Soviet forces, disengaged from Afghanistan in the 1990s. But President Clinton’s fateful decision soon came back to haunt the Bush administration less than a decade later when the U.S. negligence of Afghanistan enabled the country’s takeover by radical Taliban, who harbored Al Qaeda and later refused to hand over Osama Bin Laden to the U.S., even after he had successfully organised and implemented the 9/11 terrorist attacks on Americans.

Hence, the commonsensical question: why should the U.S. repeat the same mistake it once made, which forced its re-intervention in Afghanistan in the first place? Does domestic “politics get in the way of strategy” again where a legitimate, UN-mandated winnable mission for peace and democracy, unlike Iraq and Syria, is disregarded for further support? Of course, as a strategist with foresight, President Trump doesn’t have to repeat the same past mistakes on Afghanistan and rethink his decision by sticking to his South Asia strategy, in line with which President Ashraf Ghani has made an unprecedented peace offer to the Taliban with no preconditions.

Last November in Geneva, President Ghani reaffirmed his firm commitment to immediate, direct talks with the Taliban for negotiating a sustainable, win-win political settlement. The key outcome of such a settlement seeks an honourable withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan against a self-inflicted “honourable capitulation,” which entails far-reaching repercussions for U.S. national security and international peace. 9/11 is a timeless reminder!

(The author is Afghanistan’s ambassador to Sri Lanka and a senior international security fellow at New America in Washington DC. Views are personal)


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  • The US withdrawal from Afghanistan will mainly impact 2 countries adversely. First, its Afghanistan itself & secondly its India. After the US withdrawal, Taliban will quickly occupy more territory, reducing the authority of the democratically elected government in Kabul further. This will be possible as Pakistan will rampup Taliban’s firepower further. There is only one way to prevent it. The international community must aggressively arm the Afghan military to counter Taliban. Here, India must take the lead by giving indigenously developed weapon systems like Pinaka MBRL, Dhanush towed artillery guns, Rudra ALH, etc to Afghanistan. These weapon systems must be shipped through the Chabahar port in Iran. Only then can India regain its geopolitical influence in Afghanistan. Arming Afghanistan will have other strategic benefits for India. With an aggressive Afghan National Army taking on the Taliban, Pakistan will be forced to redeploy some of its troops to its western border with Afghanistan. This in turn will reduced the number of Pakistani troops facing India. Hence, India must shed its pacifist attitude & aggressively arm the Afghan government.

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