Does the US Presidential Election matter to the Intra-Afghan Peace Deal?

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The US-Taliban peace deal: Real peace for Afghanistan or Trojan Horse

by Rajarshi Chakraborty     29 October 2020

The whole world is eying on the US presidential election happening next month. The election result is likely to have an enormous impact on world politics. After the killing of Osama bin Laden, the US government then headed by Barack Obama, started reducing the presence of its troops in Afghan soil. The number came down to 8400 in 2014 from 100000 in 2009. A minimal number of troops continued to be kept just to train and advise the Afghan security forces. The incomplete withdrawal of the US Troops showed the hastiness of the Obama administration in matters pertaining to Afghanistan.

Even before coming to the White House, Trump promised to pull out all of the US Troops from Afghanistan. But after coming to power he realised that a hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum which will be helpful for terrorists and without a decisive military victory a political solution would not be possible for Afghanistan. Therefore he sought a long-term solution by raising the number of troops by 4000 and refraining himself from putting a time frame as Obama did.

Biden, Trump’s rival candidate in the present election, is not in support of keeping a large number of U.S. troops stationed in the war-torn country. But, he has indicated his willingness to keep them in small numbers, consisting mostly of special operations forces with surveillance and advanced technologies, in unstable countries. This approach aims to empower the Afghan forces under the monitoring of US troops. Both Biden and Trump have trust issues when it comes to dealing with Pakistan in their Afghan Strategy. Pakistan has an influence over the Taliban leadership and provides safe havens for so many extremist organizations. In the past, the Democratic leaders had criticised the government of Pakistan, but in 2018, Trump took a step further and cut US$300 million of military aid to Pakistan to put pressure on them. In the same year, he also asked more regional powers to be active in the peacebuilding in Afghanistan and demanded the involvement of one of its major trusted allies in South Asia i.e. India.

In the history of Afghanistan, this is the first time the two major stakeholders of the country, the Afghan government and Taliban leaders, have agreed to engage in talks for a peace agreement after the mediation of the US government. Both presidential candidates, Joe Biden and Donald Trump want a withdrawal of the US troops. But, Biden supports the minimal presence of residual troops to fight terrorism in Afghanistan whereas Trump is favouring a complete withdrawal.

The Taliban leadership supports Trump in the presidential election as the historical agreement regarding the peace deal was signed under his presidency and he has committed to a complete withdrawal of the troops. If Biden wins the election, the intended minimal presence of US troops might negatively affect the interests of the Taliban. Nevertheless, it can be said that what both Trump and Biden are concerned about is bringing back their troops (completely or not) rather than the outcome of the Intra-Afghan Peace deal. However, regardless of American involvement, the Afghan government should continue to look for a durable solution for its country through the on-going peace process. As mentioned above, this is the first time in the last 19 years, after so many disastrous attempts of the international community, the two major concerned parties have agreed to sit on a negotiation table meditated by the US government. In the absence of the US military presence, Afghanistan is likely to increase its dependency on other major regional powers, and once it happens the US is going to lose a stronghold in South Asia. But, the possibility of losing the stronghold is not going to change the US foreign policy, as the White House has abandoned its quest for global military supremacy and instead now focuses more on dealing with domestic issues.

It is very sad to see the inconsistent nature of Afghan policy of the US governments, irrespective of their Democratic or Republic affiliations. In 2008, Biden called for more aid and military presence in Afghanistan, only to reject it once he got elected in 2009. On the other hand, Donald Trump had been advocating the complete withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan before becoming the president. But once he was elected, he changed his position and deployed more troops aiming for a durable solution. And now in recent times, he has again started calling for complete withdrawal before the end of 2020. However, it would be imperative to say that a complete withdrawal might create a power vacuum and another Iraq might happen in South Asia. This power vacuum is also likely to unnerve the White House and stir the regional players in their race for a stronghold in the Heart of Asia. The irresponsible troops’ withdrawal by Obama in Iraq led to the rising of so many extremist organisations such as ISIS in 2011. If history repeats itself, the security of South Asia would be in grave danger.

 

Rajarshi Chakraborty is a doctoral candidate in the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. He has presented his research at several national and international conferences in India and abroad. He has published his research in academic journals, books, and newspapers.