The security situation in Afghanistan shows that the presence and activity of foreign troops in the country for nearly two decades has not been very effective, so that during these years not only the level of conflict, activities of terrorist groups, as well as cultivation, production and trafficking of narcotics have not decreased but the developmental components such as welfare, corruption, poverty, education, etc., have not grown significantly. This paper discusses some of the dimensions and consequences of the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.
During his election campaign for the presidential race four years ago, Trump criticized the “fruitless” war in Afghanistan and promised to pull out troops from the country. Of course, Trump’s other Democrat rivals have taken a similar stance, emphasizing the futility of continued military presence and the need for US troops to withdraw from Afghanistan. Perhaps the only difference between Trump and his rivals is over the departure mechanism from Afghanistan.
Since Trump came to power, many efforts have been made to resolve the issue of the withdrawal of US troops within the framework of the agreement with the Taliban.Trump has finally succeeded in obtaining the necessary guarantees from the Taliban by signing a deal with the Taliban. It has been several months since the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, and in less than two months, the number of US troops will reach a certain level. The withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan in the current situation could have several consequences in various dimensions.
Afghanistan’s Domestic Dimension
One of the strategic consequences of the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan is increased tensions and insecurity inside the country. In recent years, the Afghan government, with the help of foreign states, has sought to advance Afghanistan’s democratization process, but as insecurity intensifies, the security environment will be overshadowed. This security environment can be imagined at different national and local levels and in different ethnic and religious forms.
The withdrawal of US troops could affect domestic power balances in Afghanistan, and it is likely that a change in power relations in Afghanistan could lead to a power vacuum in the country.
Increasing conflict and escalating ethnic and religious strife are important effects of the power vacuum in Afghanistan, which could lead to a change in the political and military alignments. One of the consequences of the power vacuum and the change in the domestic political alignment in Afghanistan is that the achievements of the Bonn Conference are overshadowed. Given the position of ethnicity in Afghanistan’s social structure, weakening the achievements of the Bonn Summit could damage the government’s social base.
The withdrawal of foreign troops could affect the capacity, power and performance of Afghanistan’s security structure and defense forces. Reducing the combat and defense capabilities of the military may lead to the disintegration of the defense structure, paving the way for troops to flee the army and join ethnic militias. As the army shrinks it could be disbanded. With the dissolution of the army, terrorist groups will have more opportunity to take destructive action and intensify insecurity in Afghanistan. Under these circumstances, it will be possible for ISIS to take advantage of local forces and even citizens of neighboring countries more than before.
One of the consequences of the troop withdrawal is the economic vulnerability of the Afghan government. It appears that if foreign forces withdraw, Western governments will lose their incentive to provide financial assistance to the Afghan government. By cutting off financial aid to the government, the administration of the state affairs will be disrupted and the government will be disappointed in the most obvious matters, such as the payment of salaries and wages to its employees.
The government’s weakness in running the country will lead to the spread of corruption in the society and will further spread poverty and corruption among the masses. The increase in na4rcotic drugs cultivation and production and the activity of drug trafficking gangs are among the issues that may pose serious challenges to neighboring countries.
The formation of a large influx of migrants and the influx of Afghan nationals into the borders of neighboring countries to escape insecurity are among other consequences of the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, which will impose numerous costs on neighboring governments.
The withdrawal of troops will intensify regional rivalries in Afghanistan. India, which has invested heavily in Afghanistan’s infrastructure projects over the past two decades, sees the withdrawal as a barrier to its influence in Afghanistan. Delhi, which is concerned about the infiltration and destructive actions of radical groups such as al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and sees it as a breach of its security, believes that the withdrawal will increase Islamabad’s influence in the region. This concern will exacerbate tensions between India and Pakistan on the question of Kashmir and make New Delhi adopt tough policies against Muslims in Kashmir.
The rift in the structure and nature of the security system in the subcontinent is another consequence of the withdrawal of troops. Conflicts between India, China, and Pakistan over the region’s security and competition within the region, and their efforts to compensate for the power vacuum in Afghanistan, pave the way for a change in the security system in the region.
Another consequence of the troop pullout is the negative impact on the development of Chabahar Port. Instability and insecurity in Afghanistan will undermine the country’s trade, which could negatively affect the development of the port of Chabahar. At the same time, there is a possibility that power relations between Iran, Pakistan and India will change through this negative development. Reducing the volume of foreign investment in Chabahar Port is one of them.
Saudi Arabia’s efforts as the intellectual and spiritual leader of the Salafi-Wahhabi movement; and the actions of the Turkish and Qatari governments, as the intellectual and political leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, to influence Afghanistan, could lead to the expansion of their rivalries with Iran in Afghanistan. The withdrawal of forces, as it may accelerate the growth of militant ideological groups such as al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, will turn Afghanistan’s territory and geography into a place where various readings and political ideas of Islam collide.
Despite its importance to European countries and other US allies, Afghanistan has lost some of its appeal to governments because of the high costs it has incurred over the years. With the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, European governments no longer see any reason to continue their presence in Afghanistan, and their preference would be to leave the country. Even now, European governments are unable to respond to public opinion about their presence in Afghanistan. With the US exit from Afghanistan, other governments appear to be looking for a way out. NATO officials have made some comments on this issue.
Withdrawal of forces will intensify the sensitivities of China and Russia in Afghanistan. The security of Afghanistan has a direct impact on the security of Russia and China, and these countries will try to do the least damage to their security. This will lead to increased activity in Beijing and Moscow on the future of Afghanistan.
With the troop withdrawal a new spirit will be blown into the body of extremist groups, and extremist currents and terrorist-Takfiri groups will increase the volume of their activities around the world, convinced that there is a possibility of US defeat. Although Afghanistan may become a haven for extremist and Takfiri groups in the future, each of these groups will move to other areas and continue their terrorist activities there. As the heart of Asia, Afghanistan seems to be a place for terrorist groups to be pumped into the region and even to distant lands, targeting vital arteries in the region. As in the past, we have witnessed ISIS operations in European countries such as Spain, France, UK or even Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, and so on.
Finally, another strategic consequence of the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan is a sense of danger by the regional states about the future of Afghanistan and an increase in strategic cooperation between countries in the region to manage the insecurity in Afghanistan. The meeting of the Secretaries of the supreme national security councils of the regional states, which was attended by high-ranking security officials from China, India and Russia, is one of the cases that have already been active. They should discuss the need for cooperation on US troop pullout and take joint action.
With the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, the level of insecurity in the country has increased. According to the authorities, the number of civilian casualties has increased in recent months compared to previous years. The Taliban’s spring attacks and ISIS attacks on innocent people of Afghanistan prove this claim.
The US military presence in Afghanistan over the past two decades has not only failed to bring significant development and security to the Afghan people but as admitted by the Afghan security officials the number of terrorist groups in Afghanistan has mushroomed in recent years. Today there are 20 terrorist groups operating in the country. Nearly two decades of US presence in Afghanistan has helped to form a military force in Afghanistan, but this presence cannot be considered an achievement of the United States in Afghanistan, because now that US officials have decided to leave Afghanistan, many of their commitments to Afghanistan’s structure remain intact, and many of the promises they have made have not materialized. This has caused that the withdrawal of US troops without training Afghan forces and fulfilling the responsibilities they have accepted over the past 20 years make the Afghan people to be worried.
What is clear is that the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan must take place sooner or later, but the point to be noted is that just as the presence of US troops was done in coordination with the Afghan government, their withdrawal too must be coordinated and in interaction with the Afghan government and after completing the missions for which they were responsible. Although the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan is important and necessary but given their shortcomings in carrying out their commitments, especially in training Afghan forces, it may have significant implications for the future of the country and the region, the consequences of which must be acknowledged and they should pay the damages.