Dilemma over US Troops Pullout from Afghanistan

Jayanta Ghosal

19 April, 2021 12:00 AM printer

The decision of withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan has become a topic for discussion all over the world. President Biden has informed that the US forces would start leaving Afghanistan from September 11. Discussions are also underway in New Delhi and Dhaka about the overall impact in India and the entire sub-continent after the pullout. The reason is that on the one side Biden has taken a decision of troops withdrawal while on the other side as per information gathered from various intelligence sources in Dhaka and New Delhi, Taliban militant activities resurface again not only in Afghanistan but also in Pakistan and other countries of the sub-continent. Pakistani intelligence, ISI, has become active in certain areas. So, what are India’s reaction and its probable impact after the withdrawal – all the issues have become a topic for discussion at the moment.

I have discussed the matter with the high-ranking diplomats of the Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Following discussions, I have come to know that Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval have been maintaining close contact with the Biden administration. Jaishankar himself acted as an Indian Ambassador to the USA for a long period. Shringla too served as the Indian envoy to the USA. They have been maintaining liaison with the US. I have learnt that Biden had discussed the issue with the Indian diplomats before the announcement of troop pullout from Afghanistan. Indian diplomats have been telling that the decision of the withdrawal is not unexpected or a fresh incident. Originally, a time limit had been fixed for withdrawal in the month of May. But, Biden later extended the time limit from May to September. Before elections, Biden reiterated that the policy of his party regarding keeping the US forces in Afghanistan was not a priority. Since long he had been telling about the withdrawal.

Even, Obama announced about troops pullout thrice. But, because of various reasons, he could not do so. Trump too gave the announcement of withdrawal time and again, but he failed to act accordingly. It was actually Bush who waged an anti-terrorism war in Afghanistan. Later, he shifted the main battle to Iraq. After the exit of Bush, Obama entered. Then Iraq war came to an end. Later, Obama and Trump tried to pull out troops from Afghanistan, but they could not do so. One of its major reasons is that the US army is not in favour of pullout. American troops who are staying in Afghanistan are unwilling to leave the country. The reason is their inflated salary and other benefits. They are also availing of various stimulus packages. But, actually, there is no war. Last year, only 10 US army personnel were killed within 365 days which is negligible for a war. Annually, 50 billion US dollars is being spent there.

A phase-by-phase pullout was going on. Presently, 3,000 army personnel are stationed there. Now, it is a matter to observe whether Biden would decrease the number of troops for pulling out or delay the withdrawal process in face of pressure from the US army! Following talks with the Indian diplomats, I have come to an understanding that India would not create pressure on the US for keeping troops in Afghanistan. India is discussing the issue with Bangladesh and other neighbouring countries. After the 2019 Pulwama Terror Attack, Narendra Modi taught a good lesson to Pakistan. Till now, he did not bring a change to his policy towards Pakistan. Meanwhile, Pakistan army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa expressed his intention for talks with India. But, Imran Khan rejected the talk proposal. When Pakistan is involved in an internal conflict between the administration and the army then Narendra Modi’s stance is to remain indifferent towards Pakistani affairs. Regarding dialogue with Pakistan, Narendra Modi is least interested in this regard. After annulment of Article 370 in Kashmir, the Himalayan state is under full control of India. In such a situation, Pakistan is not in a position to carry out any major incident there.

However, since arrival of Biden, Pakistan is trying to win his heart. As Biden administration is still new, Pakistan is yet to learn about the path that the US administration wants to proceed along. Biden has been giving top priority to China. He has no intention to go for a major conflict with it. Then, why Biden wants to pull out the US troops from Afghanistan? One of its major reasons is that the Afghan militant organisations like that of Hakkani group being controlled by the ISI have become weaker. Extremist terrorist organisations have been disintegrated. Efforts are underway to form a national government in Afghanistan. India is maintaining a close watch on the activities of Talibani militants. A change has come in the previous Afghan-Pakistan policy. America now thinks that China is its major danger. Biden will not go to a war with China. Trade war is now America’s main war with China. China has already cornered America technologically. So, America will have to go for advancement of technology.

Even Obama, in his autobiography, has repeatedly mentioned about the story of his China tour. He too mentioned about technological supremacy of China. So, Biden intends to go for technological advancement by decreasing expenditure on other heads. He thinks it time for US troops withdrawal from Afghanistan. In such a situation, America will protect its own interest which is quite natural. But, from the Indian point of view will the withdrawal bring any good? However, it is yet to be observed whether Biden would be able to keep his words by pulling out his troops from Afghanistan in September, or he would concede to the pressure coming from various directions? Will some troops remain? There are now 3,000 troops. Their number will decrease. Once the US troops are pulled out of Afghanistan, the militants will be strengthened mentally. That might not be a good piece of news for India and Bangladesh as well as for the sub-continent. A good number of diplomats think so. Finally, what would happen in September deserves to be watched. 


The writer is a senior journalist of India

Translated by Z A M Khairuzzaman