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The West’s departure from Afghanistan is a gamble

23 20 97

The American announcement of a complete withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan by September 11 – neatly marking the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in the United States – has been largely welcomed, but it is worth reflecting on whether it is a premature decision.

The legacy of the past 20 years in Afghanistan is a mixed one. The conflict there has, at times, jostled with the Iraq War for public attention. It has produced tangible, if slow, progress, including establishing a more moderate administration, rebuilding some infrastructure, promoting women’s education and introducing voting.

This has come at a high human cost for the West, with more than 3,500 losses. But, for the Afghan security forces, it has been even higher – in the many tens of thousands.

In the short term, President Joe Biden’s announcement may bring relief at home in the US, where emergency COVID measures have ballooned the national deficit. Any spending redeployed towards domestic policy will be popular among voters.

The decision to pull out is also in line with the prevailing wind among Americans, blowing against a muscular foreign policy, with Afghanistan and, in particular, the legacy of the Iraq War, seriously damaging the image of external military engagement, particularly when there have been unclear goals, mission creep and ever-continuing conflict.

However, the complete withdrawal of US forces represents a massive gamble for the region. NATO allies, including........

© Al Jazeera

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