US needs to keep counter-terror forces in Afghanistan: Analysts

6 September, 2019 12:00 AM printer

WASHINGTON: The United States is negotiating its withdrawal from Afghanistan with the Taliban but after 18 years, several thousand US personnel could remain to prevent the Islamic State group and Al-Qaeda from using the country as a base for staging global attacks, reports AFP. 

The negotiations aim to bring an end to fighting against the Taliban, who controlled the country when Al-Qaeda, based in the southern city of Kandahar, attacked the United States on September 11, 2001.

Still protected by the Taliban, Al-Qaeda remains active in parts of Afghanistan, complemented by jihadists from IS, and Washington experts say pressure has to be maintained on them through an ongoing US counter-terrorism presence. “The Taliban at the end of the day wants the entire US military footprint to disappear,” said Michael Kugleman, senior associate for South Asia at the Wilson Center think tank.

However, he said, the US needs to continue pressuring Islamic State and Al-Qaeda from inside the country “just as, if not more, robustly as it has been tackling it over the previous years.”

“You certainly don’t need a huge a military footprint to tackle the current terror threat in Afghanistan,” he said.

“You need at least a few thousand. A lot of it depends on the capacity of the Afghan security forces.”

The first outlines of an agreement under negotiation in Qatar have Washington reducing its current 13-14,000 troop levels to 8,600, and completely exiting five bases, over 135 days. That would be contingent on the Taliban meeting their commitment to reducing the level of violence — basically halting their attacks on US and Afghan government targets.

Further drawdowns would depend on negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

But General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last week that not every American would leave, because of the ongoing threat from designated terror groups operating in Afghanistan.