By: T. Jeffersonian
Historically, Afghanistan has always been a major interest regarding national security in every new Whitehouse administration, and The Biden administration is no exception. Regardless of your preferred party, across the country there is little appetite to keep our troops deployed in Afghanistan. However, there is a risk of Taliban empowerment and major resurgence of terrorism. After the Trump Administration struck a peace deal with the Taliban in February of 2020, the United States vowed a phased withdrawal of troops. Under this promise, all foreign troops were to be removed by May, 1, 2021. For their part, the Taliban committed to engage in peace talks with the Afghan government, end attacks on American military forces, and publicly denounce all ties to Al Qaeda and other extremist groups. On February 19, 2021, the new U.S. Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, said that progress regarding Afghanistan and the end to U.S. military involvement depends on the reduction of Taliban attacks. The U.S. Defense Secretary recently described the Afghan violence as being too high. However, he refused to say whether the United States would meet the May 1, 2021 deadline for full troop withdrawal, or if America and our NATO allies will attempt to renegotiate with the Taliban.
U.S. troops have been deployed in Afghanistan for nearly 20 years. American forces currently make up nearly 2,500 of the roughly estimated 10,000 foreign troops that train and advise the Afghan military and security forces. Despite the May 2021 deadline, the Biden Administration is methodically and deliberately reviewing all available options. Secretary Austin told NATO leaders that they will remain informed as the United States deliberates. He further assured NATO leaders that the United States will not launch a hasty or disorderly withdrawal from Afghanistan, putting NATO forces or the Alliance’s reputation at risk.
To NATO’s Credit, allies have also signaled a willingness to continue Afghan operations if necessary. This week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that her country is willing to keep German troops in Afghanistan longer. She stated that they will remain in Afghanistan in order to ensure that the country does not descend into chaos due to the wrong forces gaining control again. The NATO Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg, also warned that an early withdrawal carries the risk of Afghanistan becoming a safe haven for terrorist organizations, and the positive impact that NATO has had in the area would be squandered.
NATO is still holding onto the hope for an energized movement for peace that would take steps toward a cease-fire and lasting political accord in Afghanistan. Secretary General Stoltenberg thinks that if NATO maintains its presence in Afghanistan past May 1, 2021, it will lead to more violence and attacks against NATO troops. Conversely, he is also hesitant to commit to a continued presence in Afghanistan, as that would also be costly. Additionally he warned if troops are prematurely withdrawn it could carry hidden costs, as Afghanistan could completely unravel and descend into chaos.
Recommended Way Forward
The United States has been in Afghanistan for nearly 20 years. If Afghanistan were Japan after the end of World War II, we would have been talking about Japan in 1965. Despite having two atomic bombs dropped on them and being decimated by war, Japan in 1965 was rebuilt, later becoming the world’s second largest economy. American military forces have been in Japan for the past 76 years. However, after occupying Afghanistan for a mere 20 years, while having the population of California, it has an economy smaller than the state of Vermont.
There is a very distinct difference between America in the Twentieth Century and America in the twenty-first century. Twenty-first century America does not employ all of the instruments available to uplift and embrace a new nation. For Japan after World War II, we used all of our national power to help and rebuild their country. As a result of that effort, Japan became the second largest economy in the world. With regards to Afghanistan, we have secured their country, but we have not helped their country restore their economy. A national restoration operation for Afghanistan would have enabled us to build up a country in dire need and ensure that Taliban and international terrorists continue to hide.
We have mishandled the opportunity to make Afghanistan a thriving nation over the past 20 years. Like the late Representative Charlie Wilson (Texas-D) proposed in the late 1980s and early 1990s, there should be schools built in Afghanistan. Greater global awareness through standardized education could have broken the radical extremist hold, but we did not build schools in the late Twentieth Century and we still have not built a standardized Afghan education system in the Twenty-First Century either.
Afghanistan has considerable mineral deposits and petroleum. Some of the mineral deposits are rare earth metals needed for renewable energy and high-tech communications. Estimates of Afghanistan’s untapped mineral wealth range from $1 trillion to $3 trillion. Afghanistan also has a strategic geographic location allowing Central Asian Republics to transport their mineral and petroleum products to big consumer markets in both China and India. Afghanistan can also transport domestic minerals, petroleum, and agriculture products to these markets. During the 20 years that the United States and NATO have been in Afghanistan, none of their economic potentials have been optimized to their full potential. These lost opportunities are themselves the fertile ground from which the Taliban and international terrorists endure.
The United States and NATO must commit to keeping troops in Afghanistan past May 1, 2021. The Taliban will never reduce their violent activity and they will never denounce international terrorism. The Taliban and international terrorist organizations want foreign troops to be removed, so they can again take over and have the freedom to attack the West. Why are we negotiating with the Taliban anyway? After September, 11, 2001, we condemned the Taliban and made no distinction between them and the Al Qaeda terrorists that they safely harbored. Why are we giving them a seat at the table to dictate and decide any peace?
Comparatively, today we would not remotely consider giving the Nazis, Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, or confederate Americans a seat at the table to dictate peace. The Taliban gave asylum to terrorists who murdered 3,000 of the world’s citizens in the most devastating terrorist attack the world has ever witnessed. If Al Qaeda had a nuclear weapon, the Taliban would have helped them use it on the United States, Israel, and other allies. The Taliban forfeited their rights to exist freely on 9-11. Trump was wrong to give the Taliban another chance and Biden is wrong if he continues to give them any more opportunities.
The 10,000 NATO troops that are currently in Afghanistan must stay. Schools must be built and Afghanistan’s economy must be optimized to its full potential. Afghanistan as a nation must be built so that the conditions that the Taliban and international terrorists require are replaced by the conditions for lasting peace and economic prosperity.