Mistakes in the U.S’s Afghan Policy

Synopsis:  This article outlines the strategic mistakes in the U.S’s Afghan policy. It has now left America to compromise on its goals of ending ‘terror in Afghanistan’.

Background
  • The U.S invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 to target its enemy, al-Qaeda, after September 11 attacks. After the invasion, the U.S declared to destroy the Taliban too, which was supporting al-Qaeda.
  • The Taliban is an indigenous militancy with deep roots in Afghanistan’s Pashtun majority.
  • After 20 years, the Biden administration has finally decided to withdraw the U.S troops from Afghanistan before the deadline of 11/09/2021.
  • However, it has to be said that the American goals, to evict the Taliban from Afghanistan and to rebuild a centralised “democratic” state in Afghanistan, are not achieved.
  • And now, the U.S. is leaving Afghanistan to the mercy of the Taliban, in return for assurances that they would not assist the terrorists such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.
  • On the other hand, the Power and influence of the Taliban is strengthening day by day. They are now scattered across Asia and Africa, from eastern Afghanistan to the Sahel region.
What went wrong with the U.S’s Afghan policy?

The U.S. made three fundamental mistakes, which led to the superpower’s humiliating exit from this Afghanistan.

  • One, the US, overlooked the History of Afghanistan.
    • For instance, Britain and the Soviet Union that invaded Afghanistan in the 19th and 20th centuries faced disastrous consequences.
    • Both the countries, Britain due to the Afghan resistance, and Russia due to Mujahideen resistance were forced to pull back their troops.
    • The U.S given the mistakes the British and the Soviets committed, could have had a strategically focused campaign, targeting its enemy, al-Qaeda.
    • But the U.S., driven by neoconservative globalism wanted to topple the Taliban and rebuild a centralised “democratic” state in Afghanistan. This was their first mistake.
    • Instead, the U.S should have attacked the terrorists, destroyed their networks, and then withdrawn.
  • Two, the Iraq invasion by the U.S before getting their job done in Afghanistan was their second mistake.
    • After the U.S gained control over the Taliban and al-Qaeda, the U.S. had a chance to stabilize the country with help from its different factions and leave.
    • But the U.S decided to stay back to defeat the Taliban. After vowing to defeat them, the U.S. launched the Iraq invasion to topple Saddam Hussein.
    • The U.S relied on Pakistan’s tactical support for its war on terror, overlooking the fact that Pakistan had deep strategic ties with the Taliban.
    • But Pakistan played a double game by supporting the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan while at the same time offering refuge and support to the Taliban.
    • When the U.S. declared victory in Afghanistan prematurely and went on to invade Iraq in 2003, it became easier for Pakistan to assist the Taliban’s regrouping. The Taliban made a steady comeback in Afghanistan’s hinterlands.
    • By the time the U.S. shifted its focus back to Afghanistan, after defeating the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria the Afghan war had already been lost.
  • Three, the U.S conceding to the Taliban’s terms to pull back its troops was their third mistake.
    • The presence of U.S troops ensured that the conflict between the Afghan Government and the Taliban was in a stalemate.
    • The U.S. should have used this stalemate, coupled with mounting pressure on Pakistan, to extract concessions from the Taliban.
    • Instead, the Trump administration went for talks with the Taliban on their terms while the Afghan government was kept out of the whole process.
    • And the U.S. struck a direct deal with the Taliban, without addressing any of the Afghan concerns. The American exit would decisively shift the balance of power in favour of the Taliban.

Source: The Hindu

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