A new analysis by senior researchers at RAND Corporation, a non-govt organization, highlights the consequences of a possible withdrawal of half of United States troops from Afghanistan – who have been engaged in the war for the past 17 years.
The research analyses US President Donald Trump’s stance and policies towards Afghanistan from his campaign era to the announcement of the new strategy on South Asia and Afghanistan, as well as to the recent announcement on a possible withdrawal of almost half of US troops from the country.
James Dobbins, a senior fellow at RAND, and US special envoy for Afghanistan in 2001 and 2002, is among the writers of this research.
The research says drawing down military and civilian personnel will limit accountability for the use of aid funds, increase corrupt diversions and result in legislatively required cutbacks.
The research suggests that the Afghan government will continue to weaken in the case of the US troops withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The research shows the following consequences are likely:
• Other North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces also leave.
• US and other international civilian presence is sharply reduced.
• External economic and security assistance diminished.
• The government in Kabul begins to lose influence and legitimacy.
• Power moves from the center to the periphery.
• Responsibility for security increasingly devolves to regional militias and local warlords.
• Regional states back rival claimants to national power.
• The Taliban loses interest in negotiating peace with the United States.
• The Taliban extends its control over territory and population but encounters resistance.
• Afghanistan descends into a wider civil war.
• Civilian deaths rise sharply and refugee flows increase.
• Extremist groups, including Al Qaeda and Daesh, gain additional scope to organize, recruit and initiate terrorist attacks against US regional and homeland targets.
“Visible moves by US civilian agencies toward sharp draw down will accelerate among Afghans a crisis of confidence in the durability of their government and security forces,” the research shows.
The research concludes that it has become a common view that there is no military solution to the war in Afghanistan, but this is, at best, only half true.
“Winning may not be an available option, but losing certainly is, and a precipitous departure, no matter how rationalized, would mean choosing to lose,” the research shows.
It adds that it is ironic that such a choice should be posed just as peace talks have begun to achieve some traction.
The research says US officials and Taliban representatives have engaged in publicly acknowledged talks for more than a year.
"These talks have gained additional impetus with the appointment of a senior and very experienced American envoy. If these efforts are to succeed, Taliban leaders need to be persuaded of two things: first, that US forces will leave if there is a deal and, second, that they will stay if there is not. President Trump’s latest move tends to confirm the first while fatally undercutting the second," the research concludes