WASHINGTON D.C., April 13th 2021. Upon completing a long and rigorous review, the White House has announced that a withdrawal of all American troops will begin immediately, but that will pass the May 1st deadline made in the agreement between Trump and the Taliban, and that will finish before the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Many questions remain, as the end to the Pentagon’s longest war in history was almost denied when multiple air strikes were launched against Taliban positions, breaking an almost year-long ceasefire, and later when Biden stated that making a May 1st deadline would be “tough”.
However a senior official briefing reporters on Tuesday answered many of them. Most critically the withdrawal, contrary to previous ones, is not “conditions-based,” meaning that the U.S. will only leave if certain conditions in the country are achieved, an approach that has never worked before.
“The President has judged that a conditions-based approach, which has been the approach of the past two decades, is a recipe for staying in Afghanistan forever,” said the official.
The official carried on to explain the U.S. would keep enough security assets in the region to keep watch on the country, seemingly forever, to protect against a possible al-Qaeda resurgence, and maintain a robust “humanitarian, diplomatic, and economic toolkit” to ensure Afghanistan remains a member of the community of nations.
The draw down will begin immediately, and include all NATO forces as well. On Wednesday, German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said that NATO would also likely be out by September.
“We always said: we’ll go in together, we’ll leave together,” she told ARD public television. “I am for an orderly withdrawal and that is why I assume that we (NATO) will agree to that today”.
These are just a few of the major points that have come out regarding the end of the White House/Pentagon-led invasion, occupation, and war in Afghanistan.
The devil(s) in the details
Clear were the statements made by the official on the fact that troops would be brought down to zero, that counterterrorism forces would be repositioned, and that the only military presence of any kind would be the one that is routinely dispersed around the globe charged with protecting diplomatic missions.
Unclear and unaddressed is whether the large amounts of armed security contractors, which in April 2019 numbered around 2,500, will leave as well, or stay on for purposes unknown. Going back to reporting on Blackwater private security and their heavy-handed, mayhem-inducing tactics in the Iraq War, the Global War on Terrorism has always featured tens of thousands of contractors, from civilian labor to outright mercenaries.
Obama and Bush before him both used armed security contractors to guard personnel or bases, and oversight into their activities or methods was rarely carried out.
On a separate topic, the official mentioned that any attacks on U.S. or NATO forces in their withdrawal from the country will be revenged with prejudice, potentially creating the conditions for a continuation of the war simply through revenge killings.
Al Jazeera and local news reports that the Kabul government, as one of the most corrupt in the world, considers the unconditional withdrawal reckless and dangerous. But the country is tired of war, and the Afghan Security Forces have never proven capable of fending off Taliban assaults without the help of U.S. air strikes.
For them withdrawal of U.S. forces would always come sooner or later, and critics of the Kabul government have said they should have made more efforts to make peace earlier, knowing that they would not always be able to count on the U.S. military for protection.