The Trump administration is going to withdraw the American-backed Afghan troops from sparsely populated areas of Afghanistan, anonymous officers mentioned, ensuring that the Taliban will be in control of huge stretches of the country, the NYT reports.
The plan will be implemented due to the fact that the American-installed government in Afghanistan is still unable to lead and protect the country’s sprawling rural population. The retreat to the cities is an acknowledgement of the inefficiency of Ashraf Ghani cabinet.
The approach, as reported by the NYT, was outlined in a previously undisclosed part of the war strategy that Donald Trump announced in August 2017. It is meant to protect military forces from attacks at isolated and vulnerable outposts, and focuses on protecting cities such as Kabul, the capital and other population centers.
The withdrawal resembles strategies of the Bush and Obama administrations that have started during the 17-year war. This strategy will effectively ensure that the Taliban will hold to territory they have already seized. The same goes for regions under ISIS control, who the Taliban actively fight. With the government’s focus shifting to defending Kabul and large cities such as Kandahar, Kunduz, Mazar-i-Sharif and Jalalabad.
However, the Afghan Ministry of Defense (MoD), as reported by NYT, claims that troops will leave unpopulated areas that do not require military presence and they will have presence in other parts. Muhammad Radmanish, deputy spokesman of MoD said “We will replace our troops from unnecessary areas,” as reported by ATN news.
NYT quoted Atiqullah Amar Khail, a former military officer said, “They want to make the Afghanistan geography more limited and enhance the activity areas of the enemies. We had an experience in Helmand province. When they removed all checkpoints, since then Taliban controls all districts of Helmand.”
Prior to this, the Special Inspector General of Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) claimed that of the 407 districts, the Afghan government had control of 229, whereas 59 were under Taliban control and the 119 remaining districts are being fought over by the two sides.
This contradicts Donald Trump’s statements heavily. In August 2017, Donald Trump outlined his plan for the US war in Afghanistan, vowing that the war would soon be won. Following that, on January 29th, at a lunch with representatives of the UN Security, Radio Free Europe reported, Trump rejected the possibility of negotiations with the Taliban anytime soon, following a series of deadly attacks in Afghanistan.
On July 9th, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared the Trump administration’s strategy to pacify the country and support the growth of its Democratic institutions is “working,” despite the seemingly intractable problem of the Taliban’s continued control over large swaths of territory. He also further mentioned that Trump’s refusal to negotiate was proved false. He was quoted as saying: “We are prepared to participate and facilitate, to help the Afghan people resolve their differences and to provide a place where all of the Afghan people can have their voices heard.”
Since then rumors have been circulating that the US is open to talks with the Taliban, which has not yet been confirmed. However, an anonymous Taliban representative claimed that the movement has held its first direct contact with Alice Wells, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs in Qatar. She did, in fact visit Doha, Qatar, however, the US Embassy in Qatar said in a statement that Ms Wells had been in Doha, had met with the ruling family and “the United States is exploring all avenues to advance a peace process in close consultation with the Afghan Government”.
The situation in Afghanistan does not appear to be under control, as apparent from the recent developments. Over the years, the government has slowly retrenched and surrendered parts of territory to the Taliban.