Author - Riya Gupta
There are no American forces in Afghanistan for the first time since October 2001. While defending his decision to withdraw forces, which led to the Taliban's quick takeover of Kabul on August 15, US President Joe Biden said on Tuesday that after the Trump administration signed a withdrawal agreement with the Taliban in February 2020, he was left with only two options: honour the agreement or renege on it and send in more troops to continue the war. Mr. Biden stated, "I was not going to extend this forever war, and I was not going to extend this forever exit."
As a result, the never-ending battle has come to an end. What did the U.S. gain from it?
Mr. Biden is now attempting to recast America's foreign policy through the lens of realism and national security. He claimed on Tuesday that the US attacked Afghanistan not because it was ruled by the Taliban, but because it was the source of the September 11 attacks. "America didn't go to Afghanistan to nation-build," he declared in early July. The United States' main goals in Afghanistan were to destabilise al-Qaeda and find or kill Osama bin Laden, the architect of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Mr. Biden stated that the United States had achieved those objectives. He's definitely downplaying the Taliban's re-establishment in Afghanistan. The argument goes that the Taliban were not America's principal adversary and therefore defeating them was not a priority.
While it is true that America went to Afghanistan in response to the 9/11 attacks, Mr. Biden's view of the Taliban was not shared by his predecessors, as seen by their actions. In December 2001, the Taliban offered to surrender on reasonable terms, but President George W. Bush rejected the offer and pledged to defeat them. After the Taliban administration crumbled and the insurgents fled to the Afghan mountains and Pakistan, the United States did not withdraw from Afghanistan. After the assassination of Osama bin Laden in 2011, the United States did not withdraw. Because American policymakers believed that a restoration of the Taliban to power would derail the worldwide war on terror, the US persisted in Afghanistan, supporting up the Islamic Republic.
While it's still unclear whether the Taliban has evolved over the last two decades, American foreign policy thought has shifted dramatically. If the United States considered the Taliban, which hosted al-Qaeda, as a problem in 2001 and saw removing them from power as a crucial goal of the war on terror, it has now successfully extricated a victorious Taliban from the conflict in 2021. According to the Biden philosophy, the Taliban is now an Afghan problem, not an American one. The American military worked with the Taliban to provide airport security during the United States' final days in Afghanistan. The Taliban and the Haqqani Network, a classified terrorist organisation, are even described as "two independent entities" by the State Department.
When the United States invaded Afghanistan, it was billed as the opening step in what President George W. Bush referred to as a "global war on terrorism." Terrorism, he claimed, had no borders, and the war on terror would not be limited by them either. What is the current state of the war?
Al-Qaeda was mostly concentrated in Afghanistan in 2001. Al-Qaeda disintegrated as a result of the US invasion and the Taliban's fall. Although the terrorist group was forced underground, it was not defeated or eliminated. Al-Qaeda has spawned new branches in various places of the world throughout the years. Al-Qaeda in Iraq, commanded by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi following the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, was the deadliest of them all.In 2006, a US strike killed the Jordanian-born terrorist, but AQI morphed into the Islamic State of Iraq, which eventually became the dreaded Islamic State (IS), which declared a Caliphate and created a proto-state throughout Iraq and Syria in 2014.
Gains that are modest
The physical infrastructure of the Islamic State was destroyed by a coalition of forces that included the United States, Iran, Iraq, Kurdish and Shia militias, Syria, and Russia. However, the rump of the organisation continues to operate in Syria and Iraq. IS has also formed provinces in other regions of the world, such as the IS West Africa Province (ISWAP) and the IS Khorasan Province (ISKP), both of which claimed responsibility for the August 26 Kabul bombings, which killed over 200 people, including 13 Americans.Al-Qaeda has also established a strong presence in Africa, particularly in the Sahel region, where hundreds of people have been killed in dozens of strikes in recent years. If al-Qaeda was once a well-organized terrorist network based in Afghanistan, it is today a decentralised conglomerate that has spread around the globe.
The United States can claim credit for breaking al-networks Qaeda's in Afghanistan, which it believes has eliminated the terrorists' potential to attack the American mainland, as well as for murdering bin Laden. But the question for American officials and the public is whether staying in Afghanistan for 20 years, spending over $2 trillion, and losing over 2,300 men was necessary to achieve these meagre goals.