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The US Could Remain in Afghanistan Another Decade

The US Could Remain in Afghanistan Another Decade

The US Could Remain in Afghanistan Another Decade

The status of forces agreement that the United States and Afghanistan are negotiating may allow a U.S. military presence in the country until 2024 .  That’s a full 10 years beyond the deadline for withdrawal of U.S. combat troops and handing over security responsibilities to Afghan forces.

 

It does seem more likely than not that there there will be a U.S. military presence, however small, in Afghanistan beyond 2014, and that is going to force the players involved in the conflict and those watching from the sidelines with more than a spectator’s interest to rethink their calculations.

 

Indeed, the talk of an extended force deployment may be an attempt to reverse the perception that America was in full retreat following President Barack Obama’s announcement  of a drawdown that many in the military believe has only hardened the resolve of the Taliban insurgents and their backers in Pakistan to wait out the departure.

 

For Pakistan, the country most affected by what happens in Afghanistan, the idea that the United States is not going to walk away, sharpens its dilemma and once again goes to the heart of its role as a conflicted partner in the war against Islamist militancy.  A U.S. military presence next door means continued pressure on Pakistan to act against the militant groups that operate from its soil.  Pakistan has cried itself hoarse about the United States turning away from Afghanistan following the Soviet withdrawal of 1989, which led to the civil war, the jihadi gun culture into which Pakistan itself got sucked in and the influx of tens of thousands of refugees.

 

India sees Afghanistan directly impinging on its security, concerned that a Taliban  comeback and greater influence of Paksitan’s military spy service will increase the threat from militant groups fighting Indian forces in Kashmir and also carrying out attacks in its cities.  Indeed the uncharitable view about India in Afghanistan is that it wants to fight there to the last American soldier.

 

Iran on the other hand will be worried about U.S.. troops operating nextdoor for the long term.  Indeed some will argue that part of the reason of staying there could well be to keep a watch on Iran, like in the case of Pakistan. Russia and especially China, which is taking a closer interest in Afghanistan’s resources and and its location at the crossroads of south and central Asia,  are also wary about U.S ambitions in the region.

ChrisB – It is interesting to think about what exactly is at stake in the war in Afghanistan.  Obviously it is distressing to imagine another decade of US soldiers dying in Afghanistan and billions more in wasted tax dollars.  While other countries yell their support or dissent from the sidelines, they might have different reasons for their criticisms.  Does  China want us gone so they can exploit what may be the richest mining country in the world?  Does India just want a tough friend lurking in the peripheral vision of its greatest enemy?  I hope that whatever the future US involvement, it is one of extremely limited scope.  I also hope it can be one more humanitarian in nature.  Lets help them build roads, hospitals and schools.  If we keep them educated, happy and healthy, maybe they are less likely to shelter or be involved with terrorists.

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