Withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan could trigger chaos

[] >With the security situation in Afghanistan still unstable, is the unconditional and complete withdrawal of U.S. forces a good idea? It is hard to shake the fear that Afghanistan will once again become a hotbed of terrorism.

U.S. President Joe Biden has announced that U.S. troops in Afghanistan will be completely withdrawn by Sept. 11. The announcement is seen to be mainly directed at U.S. citizens, showing Biden’s determination to end “America’s longest war” on the 20th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.

The dispatch of U.S. forces to Afghanistan began with the purpose of rooting out Al-Qaida, the Afghanistan-based international terrorist group that carried out the 2001 terrorist attacks. Biden’s assessment that the United States has achieved the objectives is correct, in that the organization has been weakened and the risk of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil has been reduced.

However, this does not mean that the “war on terror” is over and that the circumstances are ready for the U.S. military to withdraw with peace of mind.

The Taliban regime that ruled Afghanistan at the time of the terrorist attacks collapsed after the launch of a U.S. military campaign in the country. However, the Taliban regained power and have since repeatedly carried out terrorist attacks against the Afghan government and international forces, including U.S. forces, bogging the United States down in the conflict.

The Afghan government and the Taliban — believed to control half of the country — need to call a cease-fire, promote peace and work together to form a new government to stabilize security in Afghanistan. If the U.S. forces were to retreat without such prospects, it is obvious that the Taliban would gain an overwhelming advantage.

If Al-Qaida is revived, there is a risk that terrorist attacks on the West will increase. Russia’s intervention through its support for the Taliban is also a cause for concern.

After the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, the Islamic State extremist group expanded and as it established a sphere of influence that extended into Syria, terrorism spread throughout the world. Russia continues to take advantage of the turmoil to expand its influence in the Middle East.

Biden cited the need to concentrate resources and personnel to win the struggle for supremacy against an assertive China as the reason for the complete withdrawal. There should be no objection to that view. It is also understandable that the U.S. president intends to reduce the burden of U.S. forces overseas, in light of public opinion in the United States against the war.

However, the number of U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan is currently 2,500, far less than the about 100,000 stationed there at one time. Their main mission is training Afghan government forces and intelligence gathering, not combat.

It is hoped that the Biden administration will proceed with the withdrawal carefully and consider redeploying troops should the situation in Afghanistan deteriorate.

Stability in Afghanistan will be beneficial to the entire international community. European countries and Japan need to support the United States by involving China and Russia to accelerate diplomatic efforts for peace in Afghanistan.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on April 20, 2021.