US in Afghanistan: To Leave or Not To Leave, To Repair or Not...

By Scott Morgan

How can we best define the current strategic situation in Afghanistan? Is it in chaos or is it in a state of transition? After the recent bombing in Kabul, that targeted the international partners of the current government, one has to ask how are they doing?

One of the traps analysts will fall into is looking into what decisions the Obama Administration made in the country and left for the Trump Administration to deal with. There is some truth in this analogy. However, the Ghani Administration in Kabul has to take ownership of some of the issues that still continue to plague the country.

Although the current leadership in Afghanistan has been adept of governance within the urban areas, the ability of the Taliban to become resurgent and the Islamic State to gain a foothold in rural areas presents a major security challenge. How this threat is assessed and dealt with will determine the length of rule of the current government, in Kabul.

We all know that the United States has had a military presence in Afghanistan since 2001. This presence renders the conflict the longest sustained combat operations in the history of the republic.
The question of what happens next is being debated now within the White House. Should the US increase its troop presence in the country? How many should be sent in? These are just some of the contested issues being discussed right now.

So what happens if the US decides to leave Afghanistan after pouring out so much blood and treasure? Since nature abhors a vacuum, that space will be filled. The next question is how will that space be filled? Already the Taliban has been holding talks with the Russian Federation about how to deal with the Islamic State presence in the eastern part of the country. We know that Pakistan has been backing different factions within the country and in the process laying the foundation for the current instability.

However, there are several key players that haven't been noticed either for their potential role in Afghanistan or for incurring the risk of having any new fighting in Afghanistan raising issues in their own Countries. Tajikistan should be on the top of that list. Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan have been the locations of Military Bases during both the era of Soviet occupation and the US Incursion era. They could become important locales yet again in the near future.

Iran did shelter some of the Al-Qaeda leadership that fled Afghanistan after US Troops arrived in 2001. What potential role can they play in the future of the country? China which currently has a major operation currently underway in Xianjiang Province with 100,000 troops is in a position that it cannot ignore events in Afghanistan. They may feel that the issues in the restive western province could be inspired by events unfolding in Afghanistan.

However, there is a wildcard that could take action in the country and that makes Pakistan very nervous: India. Whether or not these fears are justified or not is a point to be debated, in light of a recent trip by the Indian Foreign Minister seeking investment opportunities - a trip that should not be ignored by any party with an interest in the affairs of Afghanistan.

Is it in the interests of the United States to cut its losses and walk away from Afghanistan? Probably not. Everybody will look at the War on Terror in the region as a fraud.

US strategy in Afghanistan should go beyond the catchphrases of Nation Building and Capacity Building. It should focus on the Agricultural Sector and even transportation in an effort to allow the Ghani Administration deal with the major issues plaguing Afghanistan. We did break some of it therefore we have to help repair it.

(Image: Burned Vehicles after Blast in Kabul [Ed] - ABC News, Google)

[The views expressed in this publication are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Dissecting Society]


  1. I am interested in the result of that conversation between the Taliban and the Russian Federation.


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