What Happens When US Withdrawal from Afghanistan is Complete?

Obama announced the US withdrawal from Afghanistan – resident troops will be reduced to some 32,000 by the end of February 2014. But what does the future hold?

Back in February, Obama announced the withdrawal of 34,000 troops stationed across Afghanistan by February 2014. This decision reduces the resident US forces in Afghanistan by more than half – from 66,000 to a mere 32,000.

The move is part of the military transition of Afghanistan from a US occupied proxy (although many would argue this notion) to a quasi independent state, in which the US administration hands over the military and political control – at least part of it – to the Afghan administration operating under president Hamid Karzai. Afghan forces are supposed to take the lead in military actions in the country, previously handled by the US army.


U.S. Troops on a Mission in Afghanistan

The Afghan Defense Ministry stated it was ready to take over these responsibilities, and, along the government, welcomed the US decision to withdraw their forces. Even though the Taliban agree on this matter, they refuse to reduce the intensity of their zeal and promised to continue fighting for the sovereignty of their country.

The US withdrawal strategy envisages a further reduction of resident forces in Afghanistan; after the transition mission, the number of remaining troops are estimated to fall between zero and 15.000, depending on the circumstances and the smoothness of the process. The transition should be over by the end of 2014. This means that while Afghan troops would be in control, American forces will remain as partners and special units will act as advisers. This equally signals the end of the war in Afghanistan, widely appreciated by the American people.

Now the US withdrawal from Afghanistan equally raises the question of what will happen in Afghanistan. Although many would claim it is a dumb idea to retreat from Afghanistan – which, mind you, is not the case with some 15,000 troops remaining in Afghanistan – others do see the other side of the coin.

With the US troops gone, will their control remain?


Those who are against the withdrawal still see terrorism as a major threat, and al-Qaeda is the major actor of this terrorism, supposedly, yet arguably, based in Afghanistan. This is partially true, yet the withdrawal of the forces that were, so far, basically useless in the war on terrorism is less likely to worsen the situation – nor will their stay ameliorate it. Some even argue that with Bin Laden gone, the threat is reduced. This is a false assumption, al-Qaeda not being a centralized and leader-centric organisation, but having many roots and people to emerge as leaders. Added to that is the fact that the death of Bin Laden made the arch foe of the US a martyr in the eyes of his followers, thus not weakening but further strengthening the zeal.

International justice however favors the withdrawal of the troops and  handing over the control to the Afghan people. As stipulated in the universal declaration of human rights: “The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government”, or, as put by Jefferson, “Every nation has a right to govern itself internally under what forms it pleases, and to change these forms at its own will”.

Seen in the light of these principles, the US withdrawal from Afghanistan is desirable, and their stay could hardly be justified. Still, only time will tell what it will look like once they are gone. Will Karzai be able to hold the ground, of will we experience a large-scale civil war developing once more in Afghanistan?

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