USA: an Inglorious Finale of the Afghan Tragedy
Washington was all but overwhelmed by a tsunami wave of either euphoria or hysteria following the agreement reached between the US and the radical movement Taliban (banned in Russia). It is quite understandable. After all, against the backdrop of the Trump administration’s constant failures in Iran, Syria, Iraq and other countries of the Middle East, any sort of deal with the Taliban seems like a great achievement. The American president spoke of it wherever possible—he gave several speeches on TV, gave numerous interviews to newspapers and formally wrote about his ‘great victory’ on Twitter.
But what, exactly, was signed in Doha, Qatar, and is it really an important document worth blabbing about at every corner?
Officially, the key points of this deal are as follows:
- * The US will reduce its forces in Afghanistan from about 12,000 to 8,600 and will close five military bases by mid-July. The remaining troops will be withdrawn by May 2021.
- * The Taliban will not allow militant groups to use Afghan land to threaten the United States and its allies.
- * The Afghan government will release up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners in exchange for 1,000 Afghan security forces held by the Taliban.
- * The US will work to lift sanctions from Taliban members.
- * The Taliban and the Afghan government will begin negotiations for a comprehensive ceasefire in March.
Mike Pompeo admitted that the agreement contains some provisions that cannot be disclosed to the public, but will be available to members of the US Congress. The content of the secret part of the deal concerns the security of US military personnel. “There are no additions to the agreement that aren’t available to members of Congress… We have no secret agreements,” said M. Pompeo, as reported by American news agencies.
At the same time, Trump threatened to ‘quickly redeploy’ troops to Afghanistan in case of any violation of the terms of the deal.
According to analysts, the signing of a peace agreement was beneficial to both sides, since no one could have secured a win in this confrontation. At the same time, experts are convinced that the US is not going to completely withdraw from Afghanistan; they believe American instructors and private military companies will go on operating within the country.
Moreover, the editorial of France’s Le Monde is of the opinion that this deal does not mean that the Americans have weakened their influence and completely left Afghanistan. The US will retain its influence there, using not troops, but intelligence services, instructors, private military companies or guards of some important strategic commercial facilities. Afghanistan is too important for the USA, the newspaper said, for it to leave the country completely.
To understand Trump’s new strategy for Afghanistan, one should probably refer to his April 2017 speech when he said that the US would continue to help the Afghan government in its struggle against the Taliban and that he would not quickly withdraw military personnel from Afghanistan. The withdrawal of the US military ‘will create a vacuum that will be filled by DAESH and al-Qaeda terrorists (both terrorist groups are banned in Russia), as it happened earlier in Iraq,’ especially since there exist about 20 terrorist organizations Afghanistan and Pakistan today. That number is higher than anywhere else in the world, the American president emphasized. However, ‘the US no longer intends to engage in the creation of a democratic society in Afghanistan,’ Trump announced. Instead, they will ‘eliminate terrorists.’
The sharp turn came suddenly when the President personally directed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to achieve a peace agreement with the Taliban at any cost. The extremely wealthy nation of Qatar, which has good ties with the Taliban, has been engaging actively in this process. For 19 years, the United States has had only one principle in Afghanistan: a good Taliban is a dead Taliban. And now their president calls the Taliban ‘good fighters’, which, he said, the USSR had discovered as well. The latter is probably part of the reason he forgives them now for humiliating ‘the strongest army on planet Earth.’ After all, the Americans signed this ‘deal’ and are leaving the country not because Trump said so, but because the Taliban kindly allows them to do so. The movement let them go in peace. A conditional peace, at that, which means that it was built on their terms. The Taliban gets everything they can under the current circumstances. For example, opium poppy cultivation has expanded more than 40 times, as has the production of narcotic drugs. The Taliban’s influence has also grown—half the country is under its rule. The only thing that displeased the Taliban was the presence of the US But they seem to have coped with that, too, and sent the brave American soldiers back home.
In other words, everything went back to the status quo of 2001, when Washington decided to show the world its flabby military might. Over the years during which the US supposedly helped train the Afghan military and form a civilian government, the ensuing battles resulted in 2,309 deaths of American soldiers and 20,660 injured, costing the USA over $2 trillion. And all of this came up with zilch.
Afghanistan became a trap for Americans. The victorious war failed. The US ended up in a situation when it is both impossible to leave (because it would be a harsh blow to its reputation) and would be destructive to stay (because there is no end to the war in sight). After 19 years of US military presence in Afghanistan, the situation there remains tense. Regular reports of American military deaths arrive from the country. The last such death occurred in February 2020, when information about the death of two US soldiers surfaced.
This agreement, or, rather, a simple deal, has provoked mixed reactions in the world, and above all from Afghanistan’s neighbors. “The US invasion and subsequent presence in Afghanistan ended in surrender,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said. ‘American occupiers should never have invaded Afghanistan. But they did and blamed everyone else for the consequences. Now, after 19 years of humiliation, the US has proposed an act of surrender. Whether it’s in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq or Yemen, the US is the only problem. They will leave a complete mess behind when they withdraw,” the Iranian Foreign Minister wrote on his Twitter.
Besides, Abbas Musavi said at an online press conference that Tehran will continue the dialogue with representatives of the Taliban (banned in Russia) after they reach an agreement with the US, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman. “We will continue negotiations with the Taliban and, as before, the Afghan government will be informed about it,” he said. “This event [the signing of the US-Taliban treaty] will have no impact. According to the Foreign Ministry spokesman, the Taliban are a reality of Afghanistan that cannot be ignored. But problems in the country need to be solved through intra-Afghan talks.
Moscow welcomes the signing of a peace agreement between the US and the Taliban (banned in Russia) and the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan. Russia considers it an important step to end the war in the Islamic republic, the Russian Foreign Ministry comments. The Russia believes that this event marks an important step towards ending the war and the early launch of inter-Afghan negotiations on post-conflict reconstruction in the country.
For Afghanistan, though, this peace agreement is only the first step in a long peace process aimed at uniting the country devastated by the 19-year war. Now the Taliban and the Afghan government must negotiate a power-sharing agreement between the current government and the former Taliban government, which was overthrown during the US-led NATO invasion after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
Viktor Mikhin, corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”