U.S. drawdown will not reduce suffering in Afghanistan

July 5, 2011

According to U.S. President Barack Obama, 10,000 U.S. troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan by the end of 2011 and 23,000 more are scheduled to leave the country at the end of next year.

A total of 33,000 U.S. troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan in two years, which is exactly the number of troops that Obama deployed to the country last year as part of the United States’ surge strategy, which was meant to establish security in the country.
However, at the end of 2012, more than 68,000 U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan and there is no clear commitment from Washington about the future of its military presence in the country.
Meanwhile, Obama’s four-year term in office ends in January 2013. The United States’ current financial and economic problems and the public protests over the situation, which has arisen partly as a result of the high cost of the war in Afghanistan, are undermining the U.S. decision to withdraw some of its forces from the country. Thus, rather than being an effort to restore sovereignty to Afghanistan, the plan to withdraw some U.S. troops is only meant to justify a continued U.S. military presence in the country, convince the U.S. public that something is being done about the economic problems, and encourage voters to participate in the 2012 U.S. presidential election.
On the other hand, Obama’s decision to withdraw some U.S. troops from Afghanistan has been turned into a controversy in the Western media. Certain media outlets and the political currents behind them are trying to put their spin on this decision in order to influence U.S. and Afghan public opinion, arguing that if such a move is made, the West will lose all its achievements and Afghanistan will return to the instability and insecurity of the 1990s.
Another important point is the disagreement between U.S. and Afghan officials about how to rebuild the Afghan military. Specifically, the main issues in this regard are first of all, the actual number of troops the Afghan military will have, and secondly the command structure of the country’s air force and air defense systems.
After months of discussion between the two governments, U.S. officials eventually said they would not allow the Afghan military to control the country’s air defense system. The U.S. also wants to take control of all the country’s military airbases and military air transportation system.
This means that, contrary to the original commitments the U.S. made about the reconstruction of Afghanistan, the process is actually being conducted based on U.S. priorities and not the real needs of the Afghan people and government.
The suspicious and direct interaction between U.S. officials and Afghan militant groups is another plot to bypass the Afghan government and the national mechanisms set up by the Afghan government for dealing with extremist groups.
In other words, as long as the U.S. is in direct contact with militant groups, it will not be possible to convince the militants to negotiate with the Afghan central government to achieve national reconciliation.
And the decision to hastily withdraw troops from Afghanistan means that the U.S. is not seeking to end the suffering and insecurity in Afghanistan.
If the U.S. is really concerned about the independence and stability of the country, it must make a clear and binding commitment to withdraw all its troops within a specified time and must abandon the idea of establishing permanent military bases in Afghanistan because that would only extend the U.S. military presence in the country and prolong the suffering of the Afghan people.
Otherwise, the Afghanistan crisis will drag on endlessly. Historical experience shows that the presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan in recent decades not only failed to establish stability and security in the country but actually increased instability and insecurity, and the U.S. is taking the same path.
Mohammad Reza Bahrami is Iran’s former ambassador to Afghanistan.