IN Afghanistan the United States has been fighting the longest war in its history. The Bush administration invaded the country on Oct 7, 2001, after declaring a war on terror after the 9/11 attacks on the US. Barack Obama’s presidency emphasised the military role but provided a gateway to the Taliban for opening their office in Qatar. Donald Trump shifted the US attention from military action to talks and negotiations. With Joe Biden set to take over within weeks, what will his presidency have in store for Afghanistan?

Earlier this year, the US and the Taliban signed an agreement in Doha under which all US forces were to be withdrawn by May 2021 if the Taliban would fulfil certain conditions. President Trump had planned to withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan completely by the end of 2020, but his defeat in the US presidential election has put an end to that policy. The complete withdrawal has stopped, and about 2,500 troops are still stationed there.

The major reason for the slowdown of withdrawal was that the Nato military alliance in Afghanistan had raised serious concerns on leaving the country prematurely as terrorists were gaining a strong foothold in the country.

Experts believe the Pentagon will send more troops or provide military support, especially airpower, when Biden assumes office. In a recent interview, President-elect Biden talked about maintaining military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The answer to the question about US withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan is apparently in the negative. The Taliban and Kabul need to work with this reality to continue the peace process.

Raja Furqan Ahmed
Islamabad

Published in Dawn, December 1st, 2020

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