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Leaving Afghanistan: US’ New Regional Policy

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Cyrus Faizee
Expert on Middle East & US Affairs

Ever since Taliban was overthrown, the Americans have been trying to present Afghanistan as a good model, in terms of human, economic and security development, for their global interventions in order to justify further cases of their interventionist policy. The real result, however, has been disappointing. Although the Americans are used to forceful achievement of their goals, they are now mulling withdrawal from Afghanistan and the current schedule shows that they have to take 30,000 troops out by the end of 2012. Canada has already withdrawn all its forces and UK is following suit with the United States. Although from a local standpoint, withdrawal of occupation forces is desirable, some experts maintain that it may take Afghanistan back to pre-2001 conditions if it is not paralleled with suitable arrangements to assure security and stability in that region. Here, I will try to shed more light on the US policy and provide a possible picture of the future situation in Afghanistan.

1. Following election of President Obama, the United States has become more conscious of its military presence in the Islamic world. They know that Muslims will not put up with foreign intervention for long. Therefore, they are showing respect for that general demand of the Muslim world in order to improve their position among Muslims. Meanwhile, the recent uprisings in the Middle East have been escalating and the Americans are not willing to be known as the mastermind behind those developments.

The withdrawal will also appeal to the public opinion in the United States by showing that Obama Administration is committed to its proclaimed nonmilitary approach to the Middle East.

2. The United States and a coalition of NATO member states are now engaged in Libya as the Middle Eastern uprisings are expected to engulf other countries as well. While the situation in Egypt and Tunisia is relatively peaceful, Libya is experiencing escalating violence and this model is expected in a number of other countries such as Syria. It may also happen to Bahrain, Yemen and even Saudi Arabia. As a result, by taking troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq, the Americans are making the world believe that their presence has been rational and only aimed at maintaining security and stability. This will provide good grounds for later cases of military intervention and is of high import to the Americans as it enables them to answer to domestic criticism and convince regional nations as well.

3. After killing Bin Laden, Washington assumes that it has reached a good point in the war on terror. The Americans maintain that killing Bin Laden has proven the United States powerful enough. As a result, they are trying to avoid further direct engagement with terrorism. Intelligence assessments have shown two dangerous pitfalls which the Americans are trying to manage. Firstly, they expect terrorist reactions to the assassination of Bin Laden in Afghanistan and other areas (possibly in the United States or Europe). Secondly, those assessments have shown that extremists are trying to set direction of the Middle Eastern developments. Extremist groups in Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries are apparently trying to do this. The Americans, therefore, are trying to create a security void in Afghanistan, thus, drawing renewed attention from those groups to Afghanistan and keeping them contained in that country.

4. The Americans and coalition forces in general, believe that neighboring countries such as Pakistan do not appreciate the security and stability that they have brought to them. Therefore, they are implying that from now on the burden of responsibility for security and stability will fall on the neighboring countries’ shoulders. Otherwise, they should suffer the consequences of insecurity. This is why Pakistan has been helping Taliban and other extremist groups like Hekmatyar’s Islamic Party to resurface. Recent border explosions and missile attacks from Pakistan to Afghanistan can be analyzed along the same lines.

Pakistan’s main policy is to export violence and extremism and the Americans consider it an unfriendly policy. In other words, Washington maintains that Pakistan is economically bankrupt and its people only care for the money when they are told to do anything even if the money is offered by extremist, terrorist groups to create insecurity in the region.

5. The Americans have reached the conclusion that security arrangements in Afghanistan are more complicated than anywhere else in the world. Afghans are indomitable and unpredictable. Firstly, Afghans are not easily daunted and cannot put up with foreign presence on their soil. During the past two months, Afghan youths’ resistance to foreign forces, especially in Konar province, made the Americans mistakenly strafe their areas. In combination with subsequent road clashes, they claimed the lives of more than 100 Afghans none of whom were really terrorists. Secondly, despite the Americans have introduced fundamentalism as the main factor of insecurity in Afghanistan, Afghan people are now more inclined toward fundamentalism. The government of Karzai has given in to such fundamentalist tendencies and approved their proposed laws, which are unacceptable to the United States. In addition, the Americans have spent a lot of money in Afghanistan to create a good model of human and economic development and justify further cases of intervention in other parts of the world. At the same time, they have been blaming state corruption as the main factor impeding economic and developmental projects. The Americans see themselves faced with a corrupt state which renders any developmental effort useless. Production of opium, for example, has been rising in Afghanistan during recent years and the country has been a leading producer of heroin in the world.

6. The US policy to withdraw from Afghanistan does not seem to be a basic policy, but more a tactical one. I believe that the Americans are planning to take some troops out in order to evoke international calls for not leaving the country. Thus, they will be able to draw more support for their presence. This will be optimal for the present US Administration which has been trying to show that it is not an interventionist government. Thus, the present policy should be considered just a measure to prolong US presence in Afghanistan by drawing more international support.

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