By Chen Guanyu
US President Joe Biden said on March 25 that Washington would not be able to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by May 1 under the timeline agreed with the Afghan Taliban due to “tactical reasons.” The postponed US withdrawal is tantamount to unilaterally tearing up its agreement with the Taliban, which would bring continuous instability to the Middle East.
The US breaks its promise
On February 29, 2020, the Trump administration and the Afghan Taliban signed a peace deal in Doha, Qatar's capital, setting a detailed timeline for the withdrawal of troops of the US and its allies from Afghanistan. However, after Biden took office, he stressed that the US must be vigilant over terrorist threats from Afghanistan and called for maintaining a small-scale military presence.
After the signing of the peace agreement in Doha, the US still regards the Taliban as an extremist organization, resulting in frequent armed conflicts in Afghanistan. The US worries that Afghanistan will once again become a shelter for terrorist organizations, which will threaten the security of the US and its allies. Washington has broken its promises on the Afghanistan issue repeatedly, leaving the Doha peace deal a mere scrap of paper.
The US breaking its promise this time indicates its intention to control Afghanistan further and reinforce its geopolitical advantage in the Middle East. The US intelligence authorities said that if the US withdraws its troops before the Taliban and the Afghan government sign an agreement on sharing power, most parts of Afghanistan will likely fall into the Taliban's control again within two or three years, which will threaten US control of Afghanistan.
Analysts pointed out that NATO is mainly responsible for training the Afghan Security Forces. They relt on the logistics support and protection from the US troops in the country. If the US withdraws its troops from Afghanistan, NATO troops will probably leave the country for safety.
The US troops delay the pace of withdrawal from Afghanistan because Washington intends to maintain its military presence in the country, which is like a stake driven in the heart of the Eurasian Continent to deter the Taliban and major powers in the region effectively.
Escalating regional conflicts
However, the postponed withdrawal of US troops will bring many uncertainties to the reconstruction of Afghanistan and the situation of the Middle East.
First, the conflict between the Taliban and the US will escalate. The Taliban believes that US military intervention is the root cause for the daunting Afghanistan issue.
The Taliban has always demanded that the US and its allies completely withdraw their troops from Afghanistan or present a clear timetable for withdrawal. They stressed that the withdrawal should be the prerequisite for peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government. The US move to postpone its troops exit from Afghanistan implies that the achievements of the peace talks between the Taliban and the US would go up in smoke.
Soon after Biden’s announcement, the Taliban warned that if the US doesn’t stick to the agreed timetable on the withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan, this will be considered a breach of the Doha agreement and Washington shall be responsible for possible violent attacks in the future. It is predicable that the Taliban will launch a new round of violent attacks on the US troops in Afghanistan and the troops of the Afghan government to strengthen its hand in future negotiations.
Second, the US will stir up a new round of conflicts in the Middle East. On the one hand, Iran has always been on high alert toward the US troops in Afghanistan. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that the presence of the extremist group Islamic State (IS) in Afghanistan and the extramalization of Afghan local armed groups pose new challenges to the security situation of Afghanistan and the Middle East. At the same time, foreign troops,especially the US troops in Afghanistan, are an important factor causing regional instability.
On the other hand, abetted by the US, India has increasingly stepped up its efforts to contain Pakistan in recent years in an attempt to squeeze the strategic space of Pakistan and open a channel of communication with Central Asia. US stay will undoubtedly embolden India over Afghanistan, increasing the uncertainty of the India-Pakistan conflict.
In general, the postponed withdrawal of US troops remaining inAfghanistan will not only affect the Afghan peace process but also complicates the situation in the Middle East.