Outcomes of US Troop Withdrawal from Afghanistan

Sneha Sharma

After the horrific attacks of 9/11, the United States, along with its partners, commenced military operations against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. In 2003, the United Nations-mandated International Security Assistance Force Mission (ISAF) was charged with sending troops to Afghanistan to reduce terrorism emanating from the country. The US, NATO, and other allied countries sent over 130,000 troops to Afghanistan.

The number of US soldiers in Afghanistan peaked in 2011, at about 100,000 troops. In 2014, the US began to withdraw troops as the Afghanistan Nation Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) got stronger. 2,500 US troops remained in Afghanistan as of January 15, 2021. 

In November 2020, after years of being entrenched in Afghanistan and having lost thousands of US personnel, President Donald Trump charged Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller with crafting a peace deal with the Taliban and enabling the US Troops to finally come home. On February 29, 2020, the US signed an agreement with the Taliban in which they had to remove all troops from Afghanistan by March 2021. Due to this agreement, over 2,000 US troops in Afghanistan and 500 troops in Iraq came home in January 2021. According to Miller, President Trump’s decision brought a “successful and responsible conclusion and to bring our brave service members home.” 

At a recent news briefing, the Pentagon spokesperson, John F. Kirby, disclosed that, “the Taliban had not met their commitments,” which led to questions if the new US President, Joe Biden, would re-evaluate the 2020 agreement with the Taliban and if the remaining troops would come home. As of February 9, 2021, no decision had been made. 

President Biden’s administration has the following options: (a) continue with former President Trump’s plan to bring all troops home from Afghanistan by May 2021, (b) declare the Taliban’s had reneged from their obligations, making the 2020 agreement null and void, therefore delaying the withdrawal of US soldiers. It is expected that President Biden is likely to cite the lack of progress or commitment by the Taliban and delay bringing the remaining US troops home. The Taliban is expected to refute and vigorously contest this claim and insist that the US troops bring their troops home from Afghanistan 

Without the US military to prop up the democratically elected government in Afghanistan, there is a high risk that it and the country will be overrun by the Taliban, and fall into the chaotic and lawless state it was prior to 2001. However, if President Biden refuses to bring the troops home from Afghanistan, the Taliban are likely to claim it as a violation of their agreement and use military, political, and social pressure on the United States to withdraw their troops. As the world awaits President Biden’s decision, either way the people of Afghanistan are bound to see turmoil and upheaval in their lives.

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