America’s president Joe Biden has announced a complete withdrawal of American soldiers from Afghanistan’s soil. The announcement shall be executed by September 11, 2021, which marks the ever-haunting anniversary of 9/11 attacks and would consequently mark the end of the longest war of America’s history. The President of America has made the announcement, on the basis of lack of purpose. He reiterated that the purpose of neutralizing the leader of Al-Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden was duly achieved a decade ago and the terrorist threat in Afghanistan has evolved ever since. Therefore, he added that the purpose of American troops staying in Afghanistan is unclear and indistinct.
The former US President Donald Trump showed great confidence in bringing and sustaining peace in Afghanistan following the Intra-Afghan Peace Talks held in September 2020, in Qatar. While U.S. Defense Secretary Christopher C. Miller indicated the plans of withdrawal of American forces in 2020 in furtherance of Trump’s statement, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned that withdrawal of troops would lead Afghanistan into becoming a haven of terrorists, reinstating Islamic Caliphate.
The predictions by NATO stood the test of time. Afghanistan is now vulnerable and aggrieved to increased Talibani insurgencies, resulting in a catastrophic first half of 2021.
With 360,000 people been uprooted from their homes and record-level casualties surfacing every day, Afghanistan is currently in the worst phases of political, economic, social and religious turmoil. The Taliban is now fighting against Afghan forces for control of provincial capital states like Kandhar. With already 34 provincial states including the fifth-largest city Kunduz under Taliban’s control, Afghanistan’s current governance paradigm and sovereignty is facing a constant threat.
The country is currently witnessing mass displacement of people. It has already become the country to have produced the second largest displaced population in the world after Syria with almost 30,000 people fleeing from the country on a daily basis. However, the current number of such dislocation of people is expected to rise exponentially. While president Biden indicates that there is no genuine purpose to let America’s troops stay in Afghanistan, hundreds of thousands of people have internally been displaced due to the increased conflict, terror and chaos.
Moreover, the people residing under such abhorrent and adverse conditions have now resorted to undertaking desperate measures. To extend the family’s lineage in this quest for survival, domestic families have encouraged early marriage for their daughters.
In addition, distinct schools, small businesses, local vendors and marginalised sections have faced unignorable damages due to the violence. Hundreds of storefronts and local shops have been destroyed in consequence of the fighting and warcry. The owners of such shops are left to yearn and suffer without an income until their businesses are restored and rehabilitated.
The locals are in fear. They are in an absolute state of dreadful shock. The violence from both sides has rendered the innocent locals to endure daily exploitation. Reliance on air attacks from Afghanistan’s government has resulted in domestic chaos and civilian casualties. The plight of civilians is such that they refrain themselves from rushing the aggrieved to the hospital in case of emergencies as the hospital area is under the direct control of the Taliban. The civilians, therefore, sadly tend to manage medical complications on their own. In case of deaths during domestic medical tendency, selected family members move to the nearest cemeteries for the burial of the departed.
Women have also faced the wrath of the current turbulence. Eminent journalists, radio jockeys and daily officials have been vehemently threatened by the Taliban to stay indoors, as they do not want women working in the media or even stepping out in public. As a result, women were instigated to flee away from the province.
Certain provinces of Afghanistan, including Kunduz, have witnessed significant growth in crime and the drug trade. The residents have accused the government of being friendly with the Taliban. The government is believed to have reaped monetary benefits, while the Taliban-backed local mafia engaged in drug trades. The locals have further remarked that the third capturing of Kunduz is a clear testament to the government’s incompetence.
The latest violence is alarming and inexplicably atrocious. Even after two decades of battles, mutiny and negotiations by the U.S and its allies, Afghanistan had to retreat and witness its downfall.
History of Taliban Resurgence after 9/11 attacks
The attacks of 9/11 acted as the driving force for the U.S. to send thousands of its troops to various parts of the South-Asian countries in 2001. The rushed move by the Bush administration resulted in smooth victory in toppling the then, Taliban regime in Kabul.
However, following the stunning victory in Afghanistan, the U.S. eyed Iraq and intended to neutralize Saddam Hussain’s regime in Baghdad. This shift in focus from Afghanistan to Iraq resulted in the destabilization of a war-torn country in the hands of the newly formed NATO-led International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF). With American forces being relocated to Iraq, the terrorist institutions found the fallow land of Afghanistan best to further their resurgence. Eventually, Afghanistan witnessed an exponential growth of Taliban’s troops and faced innumerable attacks and heavy casualties. As a result, America had to reinstate its soldiers again in 2011 which was said to be the highest number of stationing of foreign troops in any territory. The foreign troops, since then, have been assisting, aiding and fighting against the mighty Taliban for restoring peace and harmony in Afghanistan.
Why did America fail to restore peace and instate a sound system of democratic governance in Afghanistan?
Two-decade long occupation of American troops in Afghanistan’s territory coupled with never-ending peace talks, negotiations, ratification of distinct agreements, speaks volumes about the graveness of the situation. While America may have had its clear intentions of neutralizing the Taliban post 9/11 attacks, the shift in focus and leniency on the part of American Defence, led Afghanistan into a deep pit of despair, terror and chaos.
There are certain absolute reasons that explain why the American troops and their undying valour was rendered inefficacious in the long run. Primarily, the early rejoicing after a minor victory in the 2001 post 9/11 attacks may have been a wrong stance for America to operate upon. The untimely invasion of Iraq prior to the post-war reconstruction in Afghanistan further aggravated the terroristic resurgence. In addition, America’s approach towards distinguished negotiations, conciliations and agreements lacked clarity and focus. The primary intention and unhinged focus were drawn onto the neutralization of Taliban and Al-Qaeda operatives, rather than rehabilitation, remediation and restoration of innocent Afghans caught in the crossfires. Furthermore, America, from the very inception of its deployment on Afghan soil, was of the opinion that the elimination of Al Qaeda and Taliban would naturally result in peace and harmony. However, peacebuilding has always been a multilateral process furthered by a multi-faceted approach. It involves intricate courtship games and strong bureaucracy to furnish and cater peace to the population.
The U.S. approach of harmonizing Afghanistan lacked far-sightedness, inclusiveness and conciliatory mentality. Regimes after regimes in America provided different ways of fruition of peace but none hit the bull’s eye. Gradually Afghanistan became a liability to America and the exit policy of American troops seemed to be the best option.
What follows now?
Afghanistan’s government and its citizens are in a grieving position of unrest and turmoil. The Taliban now controls most of the provincial states. Unless steps are taken to abate the current chaos and violence, Afghanistan would see the highest number of casualties. The democratic sovereignty of the country, which is already on its knees, would cease to exist. As a result, the Taliban would instate its call for the country to be governed through the Islamic system and rebuild its caliphate.
About the author: Hamza Jamal is presently reading law and writes for The Wonk on polity and world affairs.