As the U.S. military prepares to complete its withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Taliban Islamic fundamentalist group has attacked Afghan government forces with increasing vigor. This is a worrying development.
For 20 years, the U.S. military has maintained bases in the country, propped up its government, and kept order. We cannot ignore the possibility that the American withdrawal will have an impact on the war on terror not only within Afghanistan, but throughout Central Asia, and even the world.
It is necessary to recognize that Afghanistan is at a crossroads. As it has in the past, it may fall into a state of civil war and become a hotbed of terrorism, and this outcome must be avoided at any cost.
The U.S. military should cooperate with neighboring countries to take measures such as securing a replacement for the Bagram Airfield, and prepare to intervene again if it becomes necessary. Japan and the broader international community should express unwavering support for the Afghan government, and make clear that they will remained involved with the country.
President Joe Biden announced in April that American troops would withdraw from Afghanistan by the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks this year, and more than 90% of the withdrawal has already been completed.
Meanwhile, the Taliban have expanded the area under their control in northern Afghanistan to the extent that more than 1,000 Afghan government troops have been forced to flee to neighboring Tajikistan.
Particularly concerning is the way in which, despite all of this, the American withdrawal has proceeded briskly, even ahead of schedule. This seems imprudent amid fear of civil war and the collapse of the Afghan government. It is necessary to curtail the Taliban advance. While this withdrawal is being carried out in line with a deal between the former Trump administration and the Taliban, it feels odd that the Biden administration, which promotes “human rights diplomacy,” is proceeding with an agreement with the Taliban, which places severe restrictions on people who live in the areas they control.
When Biden announced the Afghan withdrawal, he hinted at focusing on competition with China, and emphasized that the resources freed up leaving Afghanistan would be redirected toward dealing with China.
While we agree with the principle behind this shift, there is no doubt that it is also laden with danger. If Afghanistan sinks into chaos once more following the American withdrawal and a new intervention becomes necessary, all will have been for naught.
China and Russia will not remain disinterested in an Afghanistan where there is no American presence. While China is concerned about the potential flow of extremists from Afghanistan into its country, it also places the country at the heart of its “One Belt, One Road” initiative. For its part, Russia considers the five Central Asian countries north of Afghanistan to be within its sphere of influence.
Any intervention in Afghanistan must contribute to stabilizing the country and fighting terrorism. A reckless competition for influence between great powers should be out of the question.