When will American troops finally leave Afghanistan?

On the 11th September 2001 the world stood still as it watched the unfolding events in the United States of America. Two planes struck the World Trade Centre in New York, the symbol of American capitalism. Another hit the Pentagon, the symbol of American military power around the world. A final plane came down in a field in Pennsylvania while heading for Washington DC and the Capitol Building or the White House, the symbols of American democracy.

Both the Twin Towers fell just hours after being struck on September 11th 2001.

The attacks were quickly linked to terrorist group Al-Qaeda, led by Usama Bin Laden, the son of a Saudi billionaire who had close links to the Royal Family. Bin Laden had joined the mujahideen forces fighting the Soviet Union in Pakistan before forming Al-Qaeda in 1988.

Osama Bin Laden pictured in Afghanistan after 9/11.

Al-Qaeda and Usama Bin Laden had been a known terrorist threat for some time. The group were Islamic Fundamentalists with the stated aim of establishing an Islamic Caliphate and removing western influence from Muslim countries in the Middle East. In 2000 they had orchestrated a suicide attack on the USS Cole that claimed the lives of 15 American Soldiers.

The USS Cole was damaged in an attack orchestrated by Al-Qaeda.

The majority of Al-Qaeda, including Bin Laden, were believed to be in Eastern Afghanistan. Here they were harboured by the Taliban. The Taliban were an Islamic Fundamentalist group who enforce a strict version of Sharia law in any territories they control. By 2001, they controlled over 90% of Afghanistan and formed the de facto government of the country.

In October 2001 America began a military action in Afghanistan to remove both Al-Qaeda the Taliban. American Foreign Policy fundamentally changed as America actively attempted to tackle terrorism across the globe. In a speech in September 2001 George W. Bush declared a ‘war on terror’:

Now, eighteen years later, and after the deaths of over 2,000 US Soldiers and around 110,000 Afghans, it appeared that America was on the verge of making peace with the Taliban. Under the deal, America would remove its remaining troops in return of the Taliban agreeing to disassociate itself with terrorist groups, including Al-Qaeda, and actively working to come to a negotiated peace agreement with the official Afghan Government in Kabul.

However, on the 7th September, President Trump dramatically decided to cancel the impending peace agreement. As has become customary from Trump, this big foreign policy decision was announced via Twitter.

The proposed peace agreement was the culmination of over a years diplomatic work by the American State Department. The decisions to cancel the talks comes in response to the Taliban admitting the killing of a US soldier. However, 16 US soldiers have been killed this year and the Taliban had never agreed to cease their military operations whilst talks were ongoing.

For Trump, the thought of a peace deal that brings home US Troops before the 2020 Presidential Elections is a tempting prospect. However, there is equally a risk that the withdrawal of US Troops will lead to the inter-sectional chaos that has erupted in Iraq. Afghanistan is a largely artificial state, its boundaries were drawn by Mortimer Durand, a British colonial leader, in 1897. It is populated by a variety of ethnic groups, all of which vie for power and influence:

America has completed it stated mission in Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda has been decimated. Donald Trump has stated many times that he is opposed to foreign interventionism whether it can be avoided. The job left in Afghanistan now is that of nation-building in one of the poorest and least homogeneous geographical territories in the world. The US under Trump will undoubtedly look to leave Afghanistan soon. However, Trump lambasted George W. Bush and Barack Obama for allowing Iraq to turn into a sectarian blood-bath after the US withdrawal, he will not risk doing that in Afghanistan before the 2020 election. America will leave when it is electorally suitable for Trump, not necessarily when it is strategically best for the region.

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