President Obama is backtracking on his plans to withdraw military forces from Afghanistan, where public security is worsening. He has announced that as of 2017, he will keep 5,500 troops in the country. This is in hopes of halting the growth of extremist groups and paving the way for self-reliance.
President Obama, who promised to end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq begun by the previous Bush administration, had originally planned a gradual reduction of the 10,000 U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan. His plan was to completely withdraw them by the end of 2016, the end of his term in office, and hand over authority on security to the Afghan government.
However, in addition to increased aggression from anti-government Taliban forces, the influence of the extremist group, the Islamic State, has expanded in the east, and public security is worsening as a result of terrorism. After U.S. forces withdrew in 2011, the Islamic State group grew in power, turning Iraq into a hotbed of terrorism. The plan for withdrawal was changed as fears of another Iraq happening grew.
In September, the U.S. mistakenly bombed a hospital operated by the medical emergency humanitarian organization, Doctors Without Borders, killing over 20 people. With its reputation on the downturn, it is not appropriate for U.S. armed forces to remain indefinitely. The U.S. should hasten its training of security forces. It should cut down the influence radical groups have, so that a means of peace with the Taliban may be devised and Afghan self-reliance obtained.
Stability in Afghanistan is also essential to resolving the refugee problems. In Europe, those from Afghanistan stand out among the other refugees from Syria and other places in the Middle East. According to a U.S. investigative body, there were over 63,000 from the beginning of this year through August.
Although President Obama’s ideal aim of ending the two wars was praiseworthy, he was unable to accomplish this. The problems will be inherited by the next administration, which is to take office in January 2017. This will likely be an important issue during the presidential election and, through debate, will hopefully further the discussion and the search for a military exit strategy.
The U.S. change in decision is also having repercussions for NATO member countries. Having deployed approximately 13,000 troops in aid of the Afghan military, these countries must now also reconsider their own plans regarding troop deployment.
Since hosting the Conference on the Reconstruction of Afghanistan in 2002, Japan has continued to offer support that amounts to over $5.791 billion (695 million yen).
Kenji Isezaki, professor of Peace and Conflict Studies at the Graduate School of Area and Culture Studies at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, points out that there are also nonmilitarized roles to be filled. From his experience directing the disarmament of military parties in Afghanistan, he states that he could feel the trust people have in Japan, and that Japan is in an excellent position to provide supplementary aid when the U.S. is unable to do so. Hopefully, Japan will also contribute to stabilizing Afghanistan.