The withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan could be the worst foreign policy blunder of the 21st century.

(Photo: National Review)

By Harry Baldwin – Regular Contributor

The withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan will reduce international security and increase the number of terrorist attacks in the future, according to many in the IR community. In 2001 the Taliban controlled 90 percent of Afghanistan, allowing them to harbour terrorist organisations such as Al-Qaeda. This gave Al-Qaeda free reign to indoctrinate fighters and granted them a place to train and to prepare terrorist attacks against civilians. By allowing Al-Qaeda access to Afghanistan it helped to strengthen their position by aiding the recruitment of fighters, raising finances and preparing for future terrorist attacks. The Taliban’s protection of Al-Qaeda enabled the most documented act of terrorism in the 21st century. On 11 September 2001, the world witnessed the murder of 2977 civilians and injured 25,000 more. The 9/11 attacks were organised in Afghanistan and were soured on due to the free reign that Al- Qaeda had in Afghanistan due to the protection afforded by the Taliban.

The invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 led to the Taliban losing key territories such as Mazar-e- Sharif, Taloqan, Bamiyan, Herat, Kabul and Jalalabad. This reduced the Taliban’s influence in Afghanistan significantly and led to the collapse of their brutal and destructive organisation in Afghanistan with them surrendering the historical city Kandahar, on 9 December 2001. Clearly, the invasion of Afghanistan met its objective of removing the Taliban from power and reducing their influence significantly.

Achieving peace and security is of vital importance for Afghanistan and the world. Afghanistan is geopolitically vital and strategically important for international security. Allowing the Taliban to control Afghanistan could result in the country becoming a haven for terrorist organisations. Reducing the Taliban’s influence in Afghanistan is key and one which can only be achieved through endurance. The Afghani Army was only established in 2002 and although dedicated, it is a young and inexperienced armed force. It desperately requires support in order to succeed in reducing the Taliban’s malignant influence. The abrupt withdrawal of NATO troops will reduce the capability of the Afghani Army because it is heavily reliant on logistical and air support from NATO. In early 2021, there were 3500 American troops based in Afghanistan to train the Afghani Army and to act as a deterrent against the Taliban.

Their importance is critical for the future security not just of Afghanistan but of countries who believe firmly in the values of freedom, democracy and liberty for all. Keeping troops in a country to maintain peace and security is nothing new. It has been a common and successful strategy since the end of the Second World War.  After the Second World War the Allied countries maintained a military presence in Germany and Japan in order to maintain stability, security and to deter against the threat of the Soviet Union. The decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan is deemed incorrect by some, especially when the United States of America have 28,500 troops in South Korea, 35,000 in the Baltic States and 55,000 in Japan. Maintaining a strong international military presence thus ensures peace and security across the whole region. 

Ultimately, the decision to withdraw NATO troops from Afghanistan has rejuvenated the Taliban and has led to them regaining control 20 years after they were removed from power.  This is not just bad news for the millions of Afghani citizens who are oppressed by the brutal and totalitarian regime of the Taliban – it has the potential to make the UK and its allies more vulnerable and exposed to international terrorism. This decision could turn out to be the worst foreign policy decision made in the 21st century. It has allowed the Taliban to take back control of Afghanistan which will give terrorist organisations such as Al-Qaeda and Islamic State a safe haven to recruit fighters, conduct training, access to vital resources, raise finances and to prepare for future terrorist attacks which will inflict future harm and hardship against innocent civilians worldwide. It will strengthen terrorist organisations and help them to exert their influence in the region and to spread their hateful ideologies which will make the world less safe. The withdrawal of NATO troops does not end the war in Afghanistan, but instead it prolongs the war indefinitely and will lead to further death, destruction, and disaster.

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