Elusive Afghan deal

The United States has strongly defended its decision to abruptly withdraw all military forces out of Afghanistan without reaching a political settlement as fighting rages across the country. This comes as the Taliban claim to have over 85 percent of Afghan territory under their control.

US President Biden said Afghans must now decide their own future and all foreign troops will leave the country by August 31. Biden has long been a sceptic of the military presence in Afghanistan and said the US had achieved its objective for invading the country that was to stop Al-Qaeda from launching another 9/11 attack. Yet the war dragged on for years and thousands of Afghans lost their lives.

It has, in fact, been revealed that Biden lost faith in the US mission in Afghanistan over a decade ago when he was vice president. It was a discomforting trip to Kabul in January 2009 and an argument with Afghan President Karzai that left him frustrated that the Afghan war was unwinnable. He returned to Washington and gave a stern warning to then-President Obama not to send more troops. Biden lost the argument and Obama extended the counterinsurgency during his term.

A decade later, Biden is in-charge and overseeing the complete withdrawal of troops despite objections by some experts that all gains will be erased and the Taliban’s dreaded rule will return. A civil war is seen as inevitable and concerns have mounted over humanitarian efforts. Therefore, Biden has been careful not to declare victory, saying there is no mission accomplished. It may well be right as there is no real winner in war.

In such circumstances, the US arch-foe Iran is mediating to reach a political settlement in Afghanistan. Iran is set to see hardliner President Raisi takes over next month. The Taliban continue to gain more territory and even Russia and Central Asian states have expressed concern that the insurgents could infiltrate their countries.  It is now the responsibility of regional countries to help bring an elusive political agreement between the warring parties.

Pakistan is being expected to play a role in reaching a deal. Foreign Minister Qureshi has asserted that power sharing is one way to reach avert a civil war in Afghanistan. The likelihood there will be a unified government controlling the whole country is highly unlikely. The Taliban have denied having an intention to form a government through a military takeover but a political settlement to coexist peacefully still eludes them.