Difficult moment for US-Afghan ties: Country’s fate is in its own hands: Biden
The Nepal Weekly | June 29, 2021
By Arun Ranjit
President Biden pledged Friday that the United States will remain committed to Afghanistan after American forces leave the country.
“The decision to pull out nearly after two decades has handed down the future of the country is in its own hands,” Biden underscored.
“Afghans are going to have to decide their future, what they want,” Biden said to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani along with other Afghan leaders including reconciliation envoy Abdullah Abdullah, at White House’s Oval Office.
Ghani was last at the White House in 2015, when Biden was vice president who said “I respect Biden’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces”
The troop withdrawal Biden ordered in April could be substantially complete early next month. Biden had set a Sept. 11 deadline for ending the U.S. military mission, saying that the war he initially supported had ceased to be in U.S. interests. More than 2,000 U.S. service members have died in Afghanistan in a conflict that has cost trillions but often lacked a clear objective.
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul will remain, secured by a force of about 650 military personnel.
Meanwhile, according to the CFR report, officials in Afghanistan say as US troops are departing, Taliban are on a rampage in Afghanistan.
They have seized more than 50 districts since May and surrounded five provincial capitals.
Last week they captured Afghanistan’s main border crossing with Tajikistan. Beleaguered Afghan soldiers are surrendering rural outposts. The latest U.S. intelligence assessment says the Taliban could topple Afghanistan’s government within months.
Bilateral relations began to cool in February 2020, when the Trump administration negotiated an agreement with the Taliban in Doha of Qatar involving seven senior Afghan political leaders and the Taliban but without involving Kabul that stipulated a full U.S. withdrawal by May of this year.
The United States remains a critical player in Afghanistan, especially through its financial assistance and facilitation of the peace process. But the end of its military footprint lessens its leverage.
Afghanistan would be wise to work on deepening ties with its neighbors but that is no easy task. Its relations are tense with Pakistan, warm with India, cordial but complex with Iran, and slowly growing with Russia and china.
Unlike Washington, these governments will suffer the spillover effects of an increasingly destabilized Afghanistan. They all have an interest in working with Kabul to alter the country’s dangerous trajectory.
Yet 18 years later, after the U.S. spent nearly US $900 billion and more than 147,000 people died, the Taliban are growing more confident of returning to power. The militant group controls or contests half of the country, more territory than any time since they were toppled in 2001.
Since ousting the Taliban, the U.S. alone has spent about US $877 billion dollars until March 2019 to restore stability, rebuild the country and fight the Taliban and other insurgents, according to a report by Special Inspector General for
Afghanistan Reconstruction, a Pentagon Watchdog.
The US now has just 14,000 of the 22,673 foreign troops in Afghanistan, down from a peak of 100,000 in 2011. More than 2,400 US soldiers and 1,144 NATO coalition soldiers have been killed, according to icasualties.org that tracks
US and NATO fatalities in Iraq and Afghanistan, while more than 20,500 American soldiers were wounded, it said. A report by Brown University says a total of around 140,000 Afghan forces, civilians and Taliban militants died in the conflict. (Compiled from various sources)