By Ali Ahmad
On Wednesday the 14th of April, President Joe Biden announced that the time has come for “American troops to come home” after nearly 20 years of intense warfare against the Taliban. The U.S. will complete the withdrawal of the remaining 2,500 forces from Afghanistan by the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks which forced the U.S. government to invade Afghanistan and oust the Taliban regime that had harbored the mastermind of these attacks.
“U.S. troops as well as forces deployed by our NATO allies and operational partners will be out of Afghanistan before we mark the 20th anniversary of that heinous attack on September 11th, but we will not take our eye off the terrorist threat,” Biden stated during his address about the removal of American troops from Afghanistan.
President Biden said that the U.S. troops went to Afghanistan for two main objectives: to deliver justice to Osama bin Laden, the former leader of Al-Qaeda and to ensure that Afghanistan does not become a safe haven for terrorists to attack American soil again. On the 2nd of May 2011, the U.S. forces spotted and killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, a small city near Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad.
Osama bin Laden received ‘justice’ ten years ago in Pakistan, but the troops are still in Afghanistan a decade beyond bin Laden’s death. Biden said that keeping his country’s troops in Afghanistan ten years beyond the killing of Osama bin Laden made no sense with billions of dollars of annual financial and human costs. As of the 14th of April, 2,488 U.S. soldiers lost their lives in the ‘war on terror’ in Afghanistan and another 20,722 have been wounded since the U.S. launched attacks against the Taliban in October 2001.
In February 2020, the Trump administration and the Taliban peace negotiators signed a peace deal in Doha to end America’s longest military engagement in Afghanistan. Based on that agreement, the U.S. will pull out their troops from Afghanistan by the 1st of May 2021 in exchange for guarantees from the Taliban to cut their ties with Al-Qaeda and other international terrorist networks. The announcement by Biden delays the withdrawal by several months and various reports indicate that there is still a strong relationship between the Taliban and transnational terrorist groups in Afghanistan.
“In keeping with that agreement and with our national interest, the United States will begin our final withdrawal, beginning on May 1st of this year,” Biden said.
The Taliban responded to President Biden’s announcement of the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces from Afghanistan in a statement published on their website and accused the U.S. government for breaching the agreement for prolonging the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan as stipulated in the 2020 Doha agreement. The group warned that the “American side will be held responsible for all future consequences, and not the Islamic Emirate” as the group calls itself.
Asking the wolf to look after the herd
Biden, in his speech, hinted of the role of regional countries “especially Pakistan”, that can play a role in a peaceful and stable Afghanistan. He did not, however, mention the support and shelter Pakistan provided to the Taliban and their international terrorist associates over the last 20 years that have been operating from inside Pakistan’s territory. Osama bin Laden is just one of the many examples of those who were killed in Pakistan since the U.S. led the first international forces into Afghanistan in 2001.
When President Biden announced the removal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan after 20 years of military engagement, a member of the Afghan diaspora in Austria and former military officer Ghousuddin Mir could not believe how the U.S. government destabilized his home country and gave Pakistan an upper hand to carry out its proxy war in Afghanistan. Mir argues that over the last two decades, Pakistan has been one of the main countries that provided all kinds of military and intelligence support to Taliban to fight the U.S. and the Afghan government.
“Biden has asked the wolf to look after the herd,” Mir referenced Pakistan as a wolf to assist the peace process in Afghanistan. Mir believes that Pakistan has raised Taliban as their slaves and should thus never be trusted in Afghanistan’s peace process.
Chris Alexander, the former Canadian Ambassador to Afghanistan tweeted that the U.S. and its allies have not even tried the best strategy for ending the war in Afghanistan. “Sanctions against those responsible for it in Pakistan with or without international military forces on the ground, united political actions is required to end Pakistan’s proxy war,” Alexander’s Twitter post reads.
Ghousuddin Mir, who fled Afghanistan and sought refuge in Austria in 1993 after the collapse of the Soviet-backed government in Kabul believes that the U.S. killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan and the world’s most notorious terrorist groups are still based in Pakistan. Despite the 9/11 attackers not being Afghans, the U.S. still invaded Afghanistan. Mir believes that if the Americans’ objective was to destroy international terrorist networks, then it failed as those networks are still operating in Pakistan.
The Turkey Peace Conference
Between the 24th of April and the 4th of May, Turkey will host a UN-led peace conference on Afghanistan and it aims to bring the Taliban and the Afghan government to an agreement on a ceasefire, an interim government and the fate of the remaining 2,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. As per Biden’s announcement, the withdrawal has been decided and will begin on the 1st of May and will be completed before the 11th of September.
The Taliban have refused to be part of the peace conference in Turkey stating that “Until all foreign forces completely withdraw from our homeland, the Islamic Emirate will not participate in any conference that shall make decisions about Afghanistan,” tweeted the insurgents’ spokesperson, Mohammad Naeem in response to Biden’s announcement.
A resident of Kabul, Mohibulla reacted to Biden’s decision to pull out U.S. forces from Afghanistan. “It is our country; we have to be able to defend it. We will support our army and police. If they (US troops) are the reason for the deaths and destruction in our country, they should go. We need peace.”
“We just need peace and foreign countries cannot bring us peace. They proved this to us in the past. It is now our time to prove that we are united and can make peace,” Ahmad Seddiqi, another Kabul resident said.