In April, President Biden delivered a speech detailing the removal of the United States military from Afghanistan, declaring that U.S. forces will completely withdraw by August 31st. The President’s promise will end the war in Afghanistan and the twenty-year occupation of the country. Although the decision to withdraw reflects fundamental tenets of human rights as well as the United Nations’ statute of territorial integrity (Article 2(4)), it holds grave repercussions for Afghanistan’s political stability. The power vacuum created by the U.S. military’s exit forebodes a complete resurgence of the Taliban regime – the same extremist organization that harbored and refused to extradite the Al-Qaeda terrorists responsible for 9/11, which induced President Bush to begin Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001.
Following Biden’s declaration, the Pentagon, on July 6th, released a statement that the evacuation is 90 percent complete. However, the United States’ rapid departure has left thousands of Afghani citizens vulnerable to the Taliban’s violence and has encouraged the militant regime to launch an aggressive campaign across the country. Deborah Lyons, the Secretary-General’s Representative and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, has expressed the ills of the President’s Afghanistan policy in a U.N. Security Council briefing. “In speaking to Afghans, the impression I have now is of a population waiting apprehensively for a dark shadow to pass over the brighter futures they once imagined. It is difficult to me to describe the mood of dread we are faced with every day.” She goes on, “Afghans are facing this coming darkness with a sense of being abandoned by the regional and international community.”
Similar to Representative Lyons’ remarks, U.S. Army General Austin Scott Miller, the commanding officer in Afghanistan, voiced concern over the ongoing operation. “You look at the security situation, it’s not good. The Afghans recognize it’s not good. The Taliban are on the move. We’re starting to create conditions here that won’t look good for Afghanistan in the future if there’s a push for a military takeover.” In recent weeks General Miller’s fears have become an unfortunate reality. The lack of military power has allowed the Taliban to capture 200 of the 419 districts in Afghanistan, including major provincial cities such as Sar-e Pul, Zaranj, and Zawzjan – all of which are of logistical importance, providing the Taliban with invaluable networks across Afghanistan. In the process the regime has also recovered a multitude of U.S. weapons and armored vehicles that will help them retain strategic superiority over their newly conquered territories. A report by Forbes speculates that the Taliban added “270 Ford Ranger light trucks, 141 Navistar International 7000 medium trucks, 329 M1151 Humvees, 21 Oshkosh ATV mine-resistant armor-protected vehicles” – all of which augment the extremist syndicate’s power and will be used to uproot the Afghani democratic system.
The outcome of the U.S.’ withdrawal will determine the strength of President Biden’s foreign policy as well as the political resolve of Afghanistan’s government. The Taliban’s quick growth and its disdain for the United States, which displaced the regime in the Bush era, promises future conflict and begs “Will the U.S. have to intervene again?” A question which will be answered following August 31st.