Taliban militants are gathering across Afghanistan in preparation for a possible takeover of the country by force as U.S. and NATO troops exit over the next few months, the United Nations has warned. The insurgents continue to be “closely aligned” with Al-Qaeda and are massing “forces around key provincial capitals and district centers, allowing them to remain poised to launch attacks,” the report said.
The Taliban are changing their strategy to seize chokepoints around major Afghan cities – including Kabul – as a prelude to launching attacks, according to the head of Kabul-based think tank. It comes as the US nears the halfway point of a troop withdrawal, ahead of President Biden’s 11 September withdrawal date with fears that the Kabul administration will be unable to survive without international assistance.
The Taliban warned Afghanistan’s neighbors against allowing the US to operate military bases on their soil, the insurgents insisting they would thwart such a “historic mistake”. Washington is in the final stages of withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan, and a flurry of diplomatic calls between the US and Pakistan in recent days has fuelled speculation the Pentagon is scouting for new bases to use against the Taliban.
NATO will continue to train Afghan special forces outside the country after it winds up 18 years of security work in conflict-torn Afghanistan in coming months. Many officials have expressed concern that once the U.S. leaves, the Afghan government and its armed forces will be quickly overrun by the Taliban.
A car bomb blast ripped through a luxury hotel’s parking area in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta, where China’s ambassador to Pakistan was staying. It was not clear whether the envoy or members of his delegation were a target of the attack, but Chinese nationals and their interests in the region have been attacked before by Taliban militants and nationalist insurgents. The Pakistan Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombing.
Turkey said an international peace conference on Afghanistan scheduled for April 24 in Istanbul has been postponed until mid-May. Meanwhile, a leaked US State Department report said Washington wanted the Turkey conference to approve a plan to replace the present leadership of President Ashraf Ghani with an interim government involving the Taliban.
It was hyperbole for Ghosh to claim that ‘Biden’s Afghanistan Withdrawal Is A Blow To China’. It might only be so in the worst-case scenario, which is far from certain.
Bloomberg published an op-ed last week provocatively claiming that “Biden’s Afghanistan Withdrawal Is A Blow To China”. Opinion columnist Bobby Ghosh argues that the country might soon slip back into an all-out civil war that would not only disrupt China’s connectivity interests in the country, but also spill over to threaten the Belt & Road Initiative’s (BRI) flagship project of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). In addition, he predicts that Afghanistan will become “a sanctuary for jihadists of every stripe — some of whom will undoubtedly direct their attention to that very short, mountainous and porous border with China.”
This line of thinking is typical of what many in the Western mainstream media are saying. They were against former US President Donald Trump’s deal with the Taliban last year and subsequent promise to complete his country’s military withdrawal by the beginning of next month. His successor, US President Joe Biden, will instead initiate the full withdrawal by that date and complete it before the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Some establishment voices fear that this will create strategic opportunities for China and the US’ other so-called peer competitors like Russia to exploit for zero-sum ends against American interests.
In reality, however, it’s in everyone’s interests that the US completes its promised withdrawal from Afghanistan as soon as possible. America has spent trillions of dollars there without much of anything to show for it. It’s true that Afghanistan now has a governing system comparatively closer (key word) to Western democracy than before and that woman now enjoy greater rights, but the Taliban still controls large swathes of the country and ISIS’ entry to the battlefield in 2014 immensely complicated the anti-terrorist situation there. Indefinitely continuing the US’ occupation of Afghanistan would only make matters much worse without solving anything.
By boldly agreeing to withdraw from the country and clearly articulating the strategic reasons behind this decision in his national speech on Wednesday, President Biden concluded that it’s better to cut America’s losses and simply move on even though the victimized Afghan people won’t be able to move past this twenty-year dark chapter of their national history so easily. In any case, their future is arguably brighter than before, not dimmer. The completion of the US’ withdrawal will unlock promising socio-economic opportunities for Afghanistan provided that their leadership and local stakeholders have the political will to support them.
To explain, it’s precisely because of China that this is possible. Afghanistan’s geostrategic location in the center of the tri-regional Central-South-West Asian space affords it enormous potential for connecting these three massive markets through BRI. In particular, CPEC’s de facto expansion into Afghanistan via the recently agreed Pakistan-Afghanistan-Uzbekistan (PAKAFUZ) railway will complement existing rail connectivity with China via the Central Asian nations of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. The Chinese-Iranian Strategic Partnership deal also creates the chance of further expanding this connectivity network to West Asia with time via W-CPEC+.
Domestically, the Afghan economy would require extensive reconstruction, but its reported $3 trillion worth of minerals – including some rare earth ones – could ideally be extracted in the most responsible way possible to ensure the equitable distribution of this wealth to every citizen. Coupled with grants and low-interest no-strings-attached loans from partner states like China and others, the Afghan people actually stand a very credible chance of succeeding in the future so long as their country can avert the all-out civil war that Ghosh fears might soon erupt.
That worst-case scenario is plausible, but nevertheless not inevitable. The Taliban, despite being designated as terrorists, have recently proven themselves to be shrewd diplomats on the international stage during multiple rounds of peace talks over the past few years. They seem to have understand the pragmatism of facilitating such connectivity and extractive projects for the purpose of improving their citizens’ living standards. Should they enter into the planned inclusive transitional government that’s been proposed, then they’ll probably not do anything to threaten those projects since they’ll too have a stake in their success.
Considering all of this, it was hyperbole for Ghosh to claim that “Biden’s Afghanistan Withdrawal Is A Blow To China”. It might only be so in the worst-case scenario, which is far from certain. What’s much more likely is that the existing low-intensity conflict continues but doesn’t reach catastrophic proportions. Instead, with the Taliban possibly becoming part of the Afghan government, the international community might remove their terrorist designation and accept them as equal stakeholders in Afghanistan’s future socio-economic success, a large part of which will be due to mutually beneficial cooperation with China.
The US’ War on Afghanistan spectacularly failed to accomplish anything positive of significance.
US President Biden’s announcement that his country will initiate its full withdrawal from Afghanistan on 1 May and complete it by the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks presents the perfect opportunity to reflect on America’s top failures there over the past two decades:
Topple The Taliban
Not only does the Taliban still control a significant swath of Afghanistan, but it’s poised to return to power through peaceful means via the planned establishment of an inclusive transitional government.
While Al Qaeda’s reported capabilities to plan international attacks from Afghan soil have successfully been destroyed, the entrance of ISIS to the battlefield from 2014 onward means that such threats still remain.
Build A “Democratic” Afghanistan
Far from being the regional beacon of Western-style “democracy” that America envisioned, modern-day Afghanistan is a cesspool of anti-democratic practices, corruption, and extra-judicial killings.
Support Human Rights
Some women now enjoy broader rights in line with the new socio-political model externally imposed upon parts of the country, but many Afghans have also fallen victim to the occupiers’ vicious human rights abuses.
Extract Rare Earth Minerals
Despite having an estimated $1 trillion of rare earth minerals under its soil, the Western occupation forces have failed to extract these on any large enough scale to make a strategic difference due to Taliban attacks.
Destabilize The Central-South-West Asian Regions
Late US National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski’s plans to divide and rule those three regions through externally provoked “Balkanization” processes didn’t succeed due to the targeted states” HybridWar resilience.
Avoid A Vietnam 2.0 Scenario
The US ignobly repeated the same Vietnam scenario that it hoped to avert by ultimately withdrawing from Afghanistan following a dishonorable defeat at the hands of militarily less sophisticated foes.
All told, the US spectacularly failed to accomplish anything of significance in Afghanistan. None of its objectives, whether stated or speculated, succeeded. The only ones who benefited from this war were the military-industrial complex and especially those within it who stole at least $19 billion in public funds.
President Biden will withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan over the coming months, U.S. officials said, completing the military exit by the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that drew the United States into its longest war. The decision will keep thousands of U.S. forces in the country beyond the May 1 exit deadline that the Trump administration negotiated last year with the Taliban.
The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden is looking to keep the U.S. troops in Afghanistan past May 1 deadline while exploring a deal in which the Taliban would allow a U.S. counter-terrorism force to remain as they confront their Islamic State foes. The Taliban has been fighting Islamic State’s local affiliate, and the U.S. airstrikes on ISIS have proved critical to helping them rout their rivals.