On Tuesday, President Trump ordered the withdrawal of more troops from Afghanistan and Iraq. Leaders within his party, as well as global allies, shared their concerns that leaving “too soon” could have a high cost.
In a statement to CNN, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned that, “the price for leaving too soon or in an uncoordinated way could be very high.” He stated that global security continues to be at risk from international terrorist groups who might organize attacks from Afghanistan.
Trump’s announcement has been met with opposition from his strong supporters in the Republican party as well. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called it a “mistake” and warned against “any earth-shaking changes in regards to defense and foreign policy.” Another top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Mac Thornberry also voiced his opposition to the move, calling the troop reduction “unjustified” and that it ignores “dangers on the ground.”
Stoltenberg went on to say that NATO went into Afghanistan to support the U.S. after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and not to allow Afghanistan to become a safe haven for terrorist groups again. He also called on NATO allies to honor their commitment to withdraw at the right time saying, “We went into Afghanistan together. And when the time is right, we should leave together in a coordinated and orderly way.” He asked his NATO allies to “live up to this commitment, for our own security.”
Despite several warnings from security experts and allies, including from his own party, Trump is set to further reduce U.S. troops from Afghanistan from 4,500 to 2,500. While withdrawing from Afghanistan was one of Trump’s campaign strategies, on his way out from office he is insisting on withdrawing more troops without regard to the reality on the ground.
In a memo to the White House, recent former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper also objected to the U.S. troop withdrawl. He warned that it was the “unanimous recommendation of the chain of command” that the U.S. does not reduce or withdraw troops from Afghanistan. Several sources have indicated that this might have been the reason for Esper’s removal from office by Trump. Soon after Trump fired Esper in a tweet, he installed his apparent loyalists in the Department of Defense.
The Afghan people, especially Afghan women, do not want the U.S. to stay in Afghanistan “forever”. Women’s rights groups and civil society as well as the Afghan government do not want the U.S. to leave now. They demand that the U.S. leave when things improve domestically and in a timely order.
The Afghan government has also expressed their concerns about the existence of several terrorist groups and that they “need help from the U.S. to defeat them.” Since the intra-Afghan peace talks began in September, violence has been at its peak in the country. The Taliban, while still engaging in the peace talks, increased their attacks on the Afghan people. The group has specifically targeted what is referred to as “soft targets,” including women leaders, members of civil society, public servants, and journalists.
The Taliban use of violence as leverage at the peace talks has been condemned by Afghans and global allies, including the U.S. However, the U.S. has not been able to convince the group to agree to a comprehensive ceasefire or reduction in violence. The two sides have yet to agree on the ground rules of the negotiations. The talks have been frozen for weeks.
The Taliban demands to use the U.S.-Taliban agreement as the base for their political negotiations and the Hanafi Jurisprudences as the base for Islamic issues. The Afghan government refuses to accept the U.S.-Taliban agreement on the grounds of not being party to the agreement. The Afghan government also disagrees with only basing Islamic issues on the Hanafi Jurisprudence while ignoring all other religious minorities in the country.
In February of this year, the Taliban and the U.S. signed a peace deal in which the Taliban agreed to not attack the U.S. and allied troops but refused to agree to not attack the Afghan people and the Afghan army.
Sources: CNN 11/17/2020; CNN 11/13/2020; WashingtonPost 11/14/2020; BBC 11/18/2020; Twitter 11/09/2020; Tolonews 11/18/2020; U.S. News 11/17/2020