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Ramifications of American pullout from Afghanistan on MENA

Aug 17,2021 - Last updated at Aug 17,2021

During his address on August 16 about the situation in Afghanistan, American President Joe Biden announced that the mission in Afghanistan has come to an end. Though the American troops were deployed for almost two decades in the war-torn country, fighting terrorism has not come to an end. The pullout of American troops from Kabul will have grave ramifications on countering terrorism, terrorist activities and radicalism in the Middle East and Africa, where many terrorist groups regard the American pullout from Afghanistan as victory of Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups over the superpower.

What future holds for Afghanis will determine what future will be for Al  Qaeda and Daesh in the Middle East and Africa? Taliban had been gaining ground since 2001. Many Americans believe that they have lost the war against Taliban and Al Qaeda. In 2001, Taliban have been wresting control of 15 per cent of Afghanistan; by end of July 2021, the movement was holding 30 per cent of the country, that is 364 districts. In mid-August 2021, the movement had fully controlled the country government forces and, the president and his assistants fled the scene.

Some American political and security experts do believe that such withdrawal will be a catalyst to terrorist groups in the Middle East and Africa to expand their activities against governments, leading to more instability where Al Qaeda and Daesh have been dormant since 2014. 

The Taliban victory will be seen by many extremists and terrorist organisations as an example to follow for a conservative theocracy and a new Caliphate.

As Taliban takes over, Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups will regain significant base for their operations and Afghanistan will be once again a springboard for terrorist activities, rehabilitating and training its members before sending them to act in other states. In spite of Taliban’s statements that they will not adopt Al Qaeda doctrines in the country, this is far from being believed because even when both were at ebb for few years, they were quite close to each other.  The world has to expect more terrorist threats in the near future. 

Under Taliban tenets, Afghanistan has been a hub for many terrorists who carried out attacks on western and non-western interests worldwide. Among these terrorists had been Osama Bin Laden, who was the mastermind of the 1998 bombings of American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya and the September 11, 2001 incidents of the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon attacks. Thought bin Laden was killed in 2011, but Al Qaeda is still operating in South West Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

The lesson to draw from American foreign policy that has intertwined the United States in all-out, long, costly, and open wars on terrorism without achieving its mission is to prevent costly and protracted wars in the future that exhaust American capability and drain the country’s potentials. The most important is that the US policy and decision makers have to identify shortcomings, fiascoes, and miscalculations to make more effective decisions to help achieve political and military objectives in tandem with American national interests in any future conflicts.

Given the fact that defeating terrorism has proven impossible, the next scenarios might be very risky to the world as Taliban turned out a victorious with many followers who are armed with the sophisticated weapons that they seized from retreating government forces, ruling a country which is almost 652,000 square kilometres with 34 million people. 

As international terrorism picked up impetus in the 1990s and has sustained to flourish and magnify in the 2000s and beyond, and continued to increase since then, it is not expected to stop after the American pullout from Afghanistan, if not, up-surging more than ever. The American move will for sure lead to escalation of terrorist attacks worldwide.

In 2017, the American National Security Strategy stipulated that the US will work hard to prevent terrorist groups from using Afghanistan as a hub to attack American interests and homeland or American allies. This has been the strategy over the course of the three American presidents: Georg Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump who all insisted on defeating the terrorist groups including Al Qaeda and Daesh and preventing the Middle East and Africa to be an incubator for extremists and terrorists who would act against American interests and entities.

Though the American rationale in 2011 was to destroy Al Qaeda and overthrow Taliban Movement as well as countering terrorist acts against American interests anywhere, strategists and political experts confirm that the tactics adopted against Taliban were defensive; and they just slowed down Taliban’s progress in the past few years. Experts recognise now that Al Qaeda insurgency into east is inevitable and unless Afghanistan become stable, other countries will be undergoing insecurity and instability.

In the end, the discrepancy between the objectives pursued and the resources apportioned have had a momentous deleterious effect on the American capability to achieve its proven recognised political and military objectives in Afghanistan. The American decisionmakers have also nose-dived to assess the vivacity of a stable government in Afghanistan, leading to the status quo of mayhem and pandemonium that would have a destructive domino effect on neighbouring countries which have higher levels of corruption and poverty.

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