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President Joe Biden announces complete withdrawal of US troops by 11th September 2021

History of conflict in Afghanistan pre 1989 and post 2001 leading up to announcement of complete withdrawal of US troops.

Yesterday United States President Joe Biden announced the complete withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan by Sept 11th, 2021 which marks the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks which killed 3000 civilians. This move comes amid a peace agreement between the United States and the Taliban. Although former US Donald Trump had announced that the United States will withdraw by 1st May 2021 but after Joe Biden came to power it seemed he was a little sceptical in the complete withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan which is the reason for the May 1st, 2021 deadline to lapse. It’s much relief to the family members of US troops. But there are security concerns over the United States’ decision to withdraw troops when Afghanistan is at its lowest point and it also might have serious implications over South Asia.

We must dig into history before 2001 and after 2001 to understand the current developments. The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979. Then US President Jimmy Carters focus was more on Iran months before the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan and many say it was quite a surprise to President Jimmy Carter. The United States could not take this lying down and had to respond amid Cold War and rivalry with the Soviet Union. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) started a program Operation Cyclone. It started supplying weapons and money to the Taliban through Pakistan’s Intelligence agency the ISI. Operation Cyclone was the most expensive CIA covert operation ever undertaken in those times and more than 20 billion dollars in funds and weapons were funnelled into the country through ISI. Pakistan Army and ISI were entrusted with the task of training the tribal from Afghanistan who would fight the Soviet Union. Then Pakistan military dictator Gen. Zia-Ul-Haq found this as a great opportunity to divert United States attention from its secret nuclear program in Kahuta and also an opportunity to acquire funds from the United States. Starting in 1985 the United States started supplying US-built surface-to-air anti-aircraft Stinger Missiles in a very large number which struck a decisive blow to the Soviet Union. The Stinger Missiles were so renowned and deadly that in the 1990s, the United States started a buyback program of unused missiles and prevent it from falling into the hands of Anti-American elements. The Soviet Union after getting a heavy blow started withdrawing its troops immediately after Mikhail Gorbachev became the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union under the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev started to consolidate the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan’s hold over power to save face while its troops were being withdrawn. The withdrawal of Soviet troops began on 15th May 1988 and was completed on 15th February 1989 under the leadership of Colonel-General Boris Gromov. It seems that history will repeat itself with the withdrawal of US troops.

When Mohammad Najibullah became president of Afghanistan in 1987 he tried to consolidate his position by appeasing Muslims. But it hardly made any impact since the acceptance of the Taliban was more as protectors of Muslims. The Soviet Union withdrew its support to Afghanistan government. The moment the Soviet Union withdrew its support the position of Najibullah grew weak. The mujahedeen had captured large parts of Afghanistan. The Afghanistan Airforce was grounded because of the lack of fuel. Najibullah’s family flew to Afghanistan and took asylum in India. When Najibullah tried to escape Afghanistan he was stopped by the troops loyal to Abdul Rashid Dastom who once loyal to Najibullha after which he took asylum at the UN compound in Kabul. Taliban captured Kabul in 1996 and on the evening of 26th Sept 1996 Najibullah was captured by the Taliban from the UN compound and tortured to death. His body was dragged by a vehicle and was hanged to a pole on the streets of Kabul.

On 26th February 1993, World Trade Centre was bombed by Ramzi Yusuf who was a Pakistani National, and Eyad Ismoil a Jordanian national. Ramzi Yusuf had taken training in Al-Qaida Training camp in 1991 post which he started planning an attack on the United States. Khalid Sheikh Mohammad was the Uncle of Ramzi Yusuf who was the architect of the 9/11 attacks on the United States. Ramzi Yusuf was captured from Islamabad and brought into the United States to face trial. Khalid Sheikh Mohammad was in the same guest house at the time of Ramzi Yusuf’s arrest who would later go on to plot the 9/11 attacks along with Bin Laden. 1998 FBI also arrested a double agent Ali Mohammad a former Egyptian Military Officer who worked for CIA as well as Al-Qaida and was also involved in training Al-Qaida terrorists. He had double-crossed the CIA. Meanwhile, the United States was planning to capture or kill Osama Bin Laden who was issuing open threats of attacking the United States. And before the US could strike Osama Bin Laden struck. American Embassies in Africa were bombed in Dar es Salam and Salaam and Nairobi in 1998 which killed 224 people. In Oct 2000 a suicide attack was carried out on the USS Cole on the coast of Yemen.

The CIA had clear intelligence inputs that Osama Bin Laden was planning to attack landmark buildings In United States and the same was conveyed to President George W Bush. The United States failed to act. The 9/11 attacks killed 3000 innocent civilians. It was a massive intelligence failure and it was found out that there was a tussle between the CIA and FBI and a lack of coordination on the part of intelligence sharing. After the 9/11 attacks, the United States declared war against Al-Qaida and the Taliban who have to harbour Osama Bin Laden. The United States bombed Afghanistan back to the Stone Age. The United States restored a civilian government in Afghanistan and Hamid Karzai became the President. The United States was fighting a war against the Taliban and Al-Qaida at the same time in a quest to capture or kill Osama Bin Laden and the senior leadership of the Al-Qaida. Pakistan the country which is known to backstab and make U-turns was secretly supporting and harbouring Al-Qaida terrorists while on the other hand, it was with the United States in the war against terror. Khalid Sheikh Mohammad was captured in Pakistan in 2003 and was sent to Guantanamo Bay. And Pakistan was again caught with its pants down when Osama Bin Laden was killed in a US raid on his compound in Abbottabad in May 2011. United States war campaign in Afghanistan has cost more than 2 trillion dollars in addition to the lives of more than 2000 US service members and over 100000 Afghan civilians killed.

In January 2021 Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States. A few months into his presidency he announced the complete withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. The United States initiated a peace process with the Taliban making the Afghan government party to the peace process. On February 29, 2020, the United States and the Taliban signed a peace agreement in Doha, Qatar officially titled the Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan. The provisions of the deal include the withdrawal of all American and NATO troops from Afghanistan, a Taliban pledge to prevent al-Qaeda from operating in areas under Taliban control, and talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government. The United States agreed to an initial reduction of its force level from 13,000 to 8,600 by July 2020, followed by a full withdrawal within 14 months if the Taliban keeps its commitments. Although initially, the Afghan government refused to negotiate with the Taliban it agreed to be part of peace negotiations later under US pressure. The United States had to make India party to the Afghanistan Peace process although Pakistan has repeated its rant saying India has no role in Afghanistan. The fact remains India has a huge investment in Afghanistan amounting to 3 billion dollars in infrastructure development and social development projects such as schools, hospitals, colleges, dams, roads, and highways. India enjoys immense goodwill among the Afghan people due to its initiatives in social development. India has a strategic partnership with Afghanistan, the deal which was signed in 2011. India’s stand is very clear that it wants national peace and reconciliation to go through successfully and India wants the Afghan Led, Controlled, and Owned peace process and would only talk with the legitimate government. Whereas on the other to sum up in one sentence Pakistan has only caused destruction, violence, instability in Afghanistan through its proxies and Afghan too people realize this.

The withdrawal of US troops may have serious implications in this region if the Taliban decides to take the path of violence. But, with changing times Taliban realizes if it wants to be recognized as a legitimate entity and a legitimate government in power if ever it comes to power then it has to stop violence and inhumane activities in which it has been involved. Failing to do so would cause Afghanistan to be deprived of access to resources required to run a country and necessary for livelihood and will get official recognition from the world.

Pushkar Joshi

Intern, Goa Chronicle

DISCLAIMER: This article reflects author’s view point. Goa Chronicle may or may not subscribe to views of the author


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