To mark the tenth anniversary of the Afghanistan war, President Obama said on Friday that the United States was “responsibly ending” the war in Afghanistan. “We’ve pushed the Taliban out of its key strongholds, Afghan security forces are growing stronger, and the Afghan people have a new chance to forge their own future.”
In Afghanistan, however, the Taliban marked the anniversary differently. In a statement, they claimed to be defeating and driving out the U.S. and its allies. “The mujahedeen gradually strengthened jihad operations and used different war tactics against the enemy, which resulted in a number of casualties that led the invader enemy to think about withdrawing from this country.”
Leaders of Northern Alliance, the group that helped the U.S. overthrow the Taliban ten years ago, have already begun mobilizing forces in fear of a Taliban comeback as foreign troops withdraw. Last month’s assassination of their leader Burhanuddin Rabbani, who also chaired Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, has increased their fear and urgency to rearm.
“If the majority of American troops withdraw … the ground will be suitable for the Taliban to return and another civil war will erupt in Afghanistan,” said Ahmad Zia Massoud, Karzai’s former vice president and brother of anti-Soviet resistance commander Ahmad Shah Massoud. Ismail Khan, another key Northern Alliance leader and former governor of Herat province, said he warned Karzai of a “new crisis” if political assassinations continue.
But these achievements are fragile and reversible. A premature withdrawal from Afghanistan is a recipe for failure with disastrous consequences for the United States and world security. The endgame in Afghanistan should not be disengagement from the country; it should be to leave behind sufficient, sustainable stability that would prevent the country from becoming a safe haven for terrorists yet again.
— Ahmad Majidyar is a senior research associate at the American Enterprise Institute.