By January 5, when state representatives gather in Washington to elect the new president, US forces in Iraq, currently numbering 3,000, are expected to be reduced to 2,500. The cut in US troops from Iraq will have a serious impact on the fight against ISIS in that country. But the consequences of withdrawing troops from Afghanistan will be much greater. Trump also wants to reduce the current 4,500-strong military force there to 2,500 as he approaches his last days in the White House. Many in Afghanistan today are worried that with more US troops out of their country, the Taliban would take the opportunity and seize all power in Kabul.
Representatives of the Trump administration in Doha negotiated with the Taliban and reached the agreement that the US should withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by the end of April 2021 so that the Afghan government could negotiate a power-sharing deal with the Taliban as soon as possible. Kabul hopes that with the coming to power of Biden, the trend of withdrawal of the troops from Afghanistan will slow down. The people of Afghanistan are deeply concerned about what Trump is doing because it will give the Taliban, an extremist and power-hungry group, the courage to seize all the power in Kabul. The Taliban are still conducting numerous terrorist operations despite negotiating with the Kabul government.
NATO believes that the cost of a rapid withdrawal of troops from that country will be very high, and with the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, the country will once again become a gathering place for the terrorist groups. This decision has been made by Washington at a wrong time. Criticism of the US withdrawal from the two countries continues even within the United States. The Republican leader in the Senate has also warned against the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. According to him, everyone in the United States wants their country’s troop return home, but the consequences of the security threat to the United States should be also taken into account. Rapid withdrawal from Afghanistan could also have a negative impact on the US allies in the West. The rapid withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan undermines the government’s position in Kabul in negotiations with the Taliban for power-sharing, and jeopardizes US interests in the fight against terrorism. All commanders in charge of Afghanistan are opposed to a cut in US troops until the situation in that country improves.
But, Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller considers the decision to reduce the forces to be in line and in coordination with heads of the Pentagon and chiefs of the army of his country. According to him, with only 2,500 troops remaining in Afghanistan who would only be protecting themselves, training of Afghan troops in other areas would no more be possible. Gen. McMaster, Trump’s former national security adviser, as the main critic of the decision, believes that by doing so, Washington has sided with the Taliban and against the Afghan government. The decision has undermined the government’s position in Kabul in talks with the Taliban for power-sharing, and confused US allies in Afghanistan.
What is unclear today is that what decision the new President Joe Biden will make when he enters the White House. As former vice-president, he was opposed to the large-scale presence of his country’s troops in Afghanistan, arguing that the United States should have a small force in that country to fight terrorist groups, especially the al-Qaeda. Regardless of who wins the US elections, US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are killed solely for the political and strategic goals of the decision-makers, therefore, a change in US military strategy in the Middle East and Central Asia is a fact that US officials must face with.
There is some evidence that the election of Antony Blinken to the State Department is a guarantee of the return to normalcy in the management of international relations. He knows many international leaders and has proven his ability for talks and believes in the usefulness of unity, cooperation and multilateralism. He is likely to consider the fact that the American public opinion are not interested in international commitments.
Countering the rise of anti-American sentiment in Afghanistan and Iraq, increasing anti-war sentiment in the domestic arena, growing differences between the government and the Pentagon and, the growing cost of military presence in the two countries are just some of the reasons for Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan and Iraq. In Afghanistan, the government has failed to establish a strong foothold and the Taliban are still alive; in Iraq, the United States has failed to live up to its claims of the so-called democratic reform; these two wars were costly wars that weighed heavily on Washington’s financial burden and left a deep wound.
According to Iran, the United States is trying to leave Afghanistan in such a way that the country will be embroiled in war and bloodshed. All Afghan parties and all groups must be able to talk to each other in a fully inter-Afghan process. War and violence do not bring peace, tranquility and development to the people of Afghanistan. If the Americans withdraw in this way, the Taliban may decide to end the conflict militarily and seize Kabul by force, raising concerns among countries, including Iran. Tehran worries about the rapid and uncoordinated withdrawal of American troops, conditions such as the time of the victory of jihad against the Soviet Union in which the Mujahideen clashed with each other and the long civil war broke out, Afghanistan will be involved in such an issue again and become the base for radical groups.
According to the Iraqi Foreign Minister, the reduction of the US presence in his country is affected by two issues. The first is the decision of the Iraqi parliamentarians for the complete withdrawal of American troops from the country, and the second is the change in the security situation in Iraq. The result of the talks between the two sides included the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq and approval of their withdrawal plan from Iraq.
The US decision to withdraw troops from Iraq is likely to shift the balance of power significantly in Iran’s favor, a negative development for Trump, who has sought to undermine Iran through “maximum pressure” throughout his presidency. The vacuum to be created by the withdrawal of American troops, along with the weakened power of the Iraqi government, could jeopardize one of the most important countries in the Middle East and under such circumstances Iran will take advantage of the situation as a potential player.
Another group claims that further reductions in US troops and the created vacuum are likely to entail increased destructive activities of the ISIS. In the absence of the American forces and the pressure from their allied forces, the quality and intensity of those attacks will definitely increase.