U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan—with or without an agreement

August 16, 2019
Contact: press@defensepriorities.org

In a new explainer, “U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan—with or without an agreement,” Defense Priorities Senior Fellow Gil Barndollar addresses the four pillars of the recent Afghanistan agreement and explains why complete withdrawal is in America’s security interest.

Following 9/11, the United States was right to go to war in Afghanistan. Targeting Al-Qaeda and the Taliban government which harbored them in the aftermath of the attacks was a sensible and achievable mission.

After a swift victory and the establishment of a new, popular Afghan government, policymakers should have removed U.S. troops. Instead, Washington pursued a nation-building effort to establish a central authority to govern all of Afghanistan—a goal impossible to achieve at reasonable cost and unrelated to the core security interests that justified the initial campaign.

After nearly 18 years of war and our key goals accomplished long ago, it is past time to withdraw all U.S. forces to focus on vital national security interests.

Four pillars of the Afghan withdrawal agreement

The latest withdrawal, coming on the heels of apparent progress in negotiations, was announced on August 1, 2019, and would leave between 8,000 and 9,000 troops in country.

The agreement currently being negotiated, which both sides have agreed to in principle, rests on four pillars:

  1. The Taliban agrees to renounce Al-Qaeda and all terrorists

  2. A cease-fire covering all parties

  3. The Taliban agrees to negotiate with the Afghan government

  4. U.S. military withdrawal

While the ongoing negotiations have often been referred to as “peace talks”—and the agreement alludes to a draw down—complete U.S. military withdrawal should be the objective.

If the final agreement makes withdrawal contingent on the other three conditions being met, it is a recipe for a permanent U.S. presence in Afghanistan. The Taliban are untrustworthy, and any agreement is non-enforceable after a U.S. exit anyway. What safeguards U.S. interests is deterrence by punishment: the ability to strike the Taliban should they facilitate harm to the United States, regardless of the state of the Afghan government and security forces post-withdrawal.

Read the full explainer here