Afghanistan is repeating history. With the imminent withdrawal of international troops from the country announced by US President Joe Biden and supported by NATO countries, Afghanistan has experienced an increase in violence. The Taliban have made significant gains on the ground since the departure of troops began in May.
Nearly 60 districts of Afghanistan's 370 districts have fallen to the Taliban in just a month and a half. Just this week, armed fighters seized Shir Khan Bandar, the main gateway to the northern border with Tajikistan. Faced with this situation and the Afghan army's inability to cope with the Taliban's rapid advance, Defence Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi himself has urged the population to take up arms against the armed group.
The Afghan mujahideen (holy warriors) are also preparing for the imminent departure of international troops to confront the power and security vacuum in the Asian country, in a replica of the war they waged against the Soviets. Afghanistan faces a very bleak outlook. The United States is aware of the confusion created by its decision, and the Wall Street Journal has published a report by US intelligence services which states that the Afghan government could fall in just six months once the last international troops are withdrawn from the country.
The President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, has travelled to the United States to meet with his counterpart, Joe Biden, to discuss the withdrawal of US troops, as well as the logistical and economic support that the US will provide once the last soldiers have left the Asian country, scheduled for 11 September. The meeting was also attended by the President of the High Council for Reconciliation in Afghanistan, Abdullah Abdullah Abdullah. In statements prior to the meeting between the leaders, US President Joe Biden reaffirmed that the partnership between Afghanistan and the United States "is not ending" and that "it will be maintained".
The White House stressed that the United States "will support the Afghan people, including Afghan women, girls and minorities, through civilian, development and humanitarian assistance, as well as continued security assistance to support the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces", as well as US support for Afghanistan in the intra-Afghan peace negotiations currently at an impasse in Doha, Qatar.
Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani called the decision "historic" and said, "We are entering a new chapter in our relationship where the partnership with the United States will not be military, but comprehensive, as far as our mutual interest is concerned". Despite the Taliban's rapid advance and rising violence in the country, the US remains committed to withdrawing its troops from the country. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the increase in violence was "a real danger" and that if the Taliban tried to take the country by force, "we will see a renewal of a war or possibly worse".
Blinken also insisted that the Biden administration concluded that not withdrawing US troops, as the Trump administration had promised the Taliban in February 2020, would have been a bad option. The Biden administration believes that the Taliban would have resumed attacks against US forces, causing an escalation of the war. In the same vein, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki declared just two days before the Afghan president's visit to Washington that "if we had not begun to withdraw, the violence against our troops would also have increased because that is what the Taliban were clearly conveying".
More than 2,400 US troops have been killed and 20,000 wounded in the war since 2001, according to the Department of Defence. It is also estimated that more than 66,000 Afghan soldiers have died and more than 2.7 million have been forced to flee their homes, most of them to Iran. According to the AP, some 650 US troops are expected to remain in Afghanistan to provide security for diplomats after the main US military force completes its withdrawal.
While peace talks in Doha remain stalled, the Taliban continue to advance on the ground in large part due to the withdrawal of international troops. If the trend continues, Afghanistan is likely to be plunged into another war, starting yet another loop of violence, destruction and suffering from which the Asian country has not been able to escape since the Soviet invasion in 1979.