The political arena surrounding afghanistan is a battleground. The focus is clouded by so many players.

By Matthew Parkes: Political Columnist

The Invasion of Afghanistan by the United States and its allies in 2001 led to an ongoing conflict which has lasted for two decades to the present day. The western superpower is once again deliberating the future of its military involvement in the region. Will this decision change the lives of the people in the region? 

Joe Biden is the fourth president to be involved in the Afghanistan war, and the third to have expressed a desire to end it. Barack Obama initially increased troop numbers to 100,000 when he first took office. He then scaled back this number in 2012. He continually pledged to take all troops out of the country but failed to do so. When he left office in 2016, over 8000 troops remained in Afghanistan. 

Donald J Trump was also a vocal advocate for ending ‘forever wars’, therefore, finishing the war in Afghanistan sat very neatly in his isolationist foreign policy. He was able to negotiate a peace treaty with the Taliban in February 2020 which promised to withdraw all American troops by May 1st 2021. 

This has left the nascent Biden administration with a dilemma. Trump did not include the Afghan government in the peace deal, leaving many to suspect that as soon as the Americans withdraw, the country will fall into a civil war. Biden is therefore considering delaying the 1st of May withdrawal. 

Reportedly, the current administration is sceptical of claims in the US military that if the Taliban were left to their own devices, they would form a coalition with ISIS. The Taliban have been enemies with ISIS in the past and have helped drive the group out of the country. 

The US government is currently in the process of organising a UN-led peace deal which will involve all parties, including NATO, neighbouring countries, the Afghan government, and the Taliban. However, a recent statement by the group, stating that they wanted a return to Islamic governance in the country and would not accept the current Afghan government, led by President Ashraf Ghani, does not give much confidence to international observers. 

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Unfortunately, the last two decades of war have shown that a continued foreign military presence is unlikely to lead to a definitive result. Perhaps the US’ failures are their lack of a coherent consistent mission? Initially the war was supposed to find Osama Bin Laden and to disrupt the Al Qaeda terrorist training camps, however the invasion quickly turned into nation building. 

Whatever the case, American intervention has been successful in pushing back the Taliban but has never been able to get rid of them completely. 

Many will point to history. Modern Afghanistan is infamous for its unconquerable nature. The Soviets tried and failed to take the country in the 1980’s and the British suffered a catastrophic defeat in the 1840’s. 

But where does this leave the country’s 38 million people, many of whom have known nothing but war? Whilst American involvement started in 2001, the country was in a civil war for many decades before that. It is a tragic fact that Afghanistan has been in a constant state of war since a communist insurrection in 1978. 

43 years of war. 

In recent months, the central Asian country is experiencing a plague of assassinations directed at the intellectual elite. Five human rights activists and six media workers were murdered between October 2020 and January 2021. Hit lists were circulated on social media, featuring the names of sportswomen, intellectuals, and journalists. 

The peace process is clearly not giving much hope to the country’s inhabitants. 

Women are also under threat, the Taliban are known for their abhorrent views on female rights, and it is uncertain whether they will respect these rights if they were to take over the country. They do not allow girls to be educated over the age of 8, force them to wear burqas, and are not allowed to work.

Whilst US intervention has been unsuccessful; it has helped some of the country’s women to have the basic rights they are entitled to. When NATO leaves Afghanistan, these women face a daunting and nightmarish future if the Taliban take back control.