In September 2020, the Afghan government sat down with Taliban delegates in Qatar, where they signed a peace agreement that included the withdrawal of the United States’ 4,500 remaining troops. However, Taliban delegates have made repeated statements that no peace is guaranteed if the incoming Biden administration does not hold fast to the Trump administration’s promise to pull the last of the US forces from Afghanistan.
Nevertheless, it would be a disaster if the United States pulls out of Afghanistan. If the US government were to pull its forces, it would undoubtedly be a repeat of the Iraq War. For instance, as soon as the US began the withdrawal of it forces in early 2014, ISIS, a Jordanian jihadist group allied with Al-Qaeda, came to global prominence when it captured several key cities, including Mosul, which has an estimated population of roughly 1.5 million people.
The Taliban is biding its time, waiting for the United States to pull its forces out completely. Once the U.S. military is gone, the Taliban will topple the Afghan government, undoing everything the United States has worked for these past 19 years. Exiting Afghanistan now would be by no means a victory. The militant group still controls roughly 20% of the nation’s 407 districts and has an estimated 60,000 fighters. Comparatively the Afghan government, with its 273,000 servicemen, controls only 30% of the districts, while the rest of the country is still contested. NATO military experts warn that to exit now would allow the country to once again become a safe haven for terrorist training camps.
Since the fall of the Taliban, Afghanistan has come a long way. In December 2001, Hamid Karzai became the first-ever democratically elected president of Afghanistan. In 2004, Afghanistan’s legislative body ratified its constitution which restored equal rights for women. Furthermore, as of 2020, the nation’s GDP is five times the size it was two decades ago, at $18.36 billion compared to $3.5 billion in 1999.
John Quincy Adams warned a young eager nation against the temptations of interventionism. “She goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy,” wrote Adams. The founding fathers stated very clearly that foreign entanglements would get the United States involved in the wars of Europe. But when the United States invades another country, it has a responsibility to maintain lasting peace. The US leaves vacuums of power every time it removes a dictator it does not like, and if the US withdraws from these nations in the midst of chaos, worse dictators will come to replace the ones we initially removed from power.
The US must maintain its military victories. 2,356 US soldiers will have died in vain, and $822 billion US taxpayers’ dollars will have been spent needlessly if the US forces exit from Afghanistan and leave behind no permanent military installations. In fact, 8,000 US soldiers maintain a presence in Baumholder, Germany nearly 75 years after the end of WWII. Maintaining peace in Europe did not end with the defeat of fascism. After all, US leaders at the time understood that the mishandling of post-WWI Europe led to WWII. Therefore, in order to avoid the perpetual cycle of war, the United States must maintain a military presence in the aftermath of conflict. In Afghanistan, if the US pulls out its 4,500 remaining troops, the Taliban will retake Afghanistan and undo two decades of work.