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Confusion over US troops withdrawal

Confusion about presence of the US troops in the country has caught Afghans as Washington still to finalize the withdrawal plan and come with clear decision. Afghans and regional countries are desperately waiting for the White House final decision about fate of the remaining US troops in Afghanistan.

Though, the United States President Barack Obama pledged to pullout most of the remaining 9,800 troops from the war-hit country by the end of 2016, but statements of the US officials indicate otherwise. According to the statements, the US forces in the country likely to remain after 2016, especially after the dramatic appearance of the Islamic State in Afghanistan this year. Unfortunately, most of the US authorities’ statements are unclear and contradictory about number of troops which created confusion. The degree of this confusion is high with greater effect, particularly at a time when Afghanistan is standing at the threshold of “transitional decade” and ready to go through considerable transformation. This uncertainty is also preventing multinational companies from investment in Afghanistan, because most of the investors do not want to take risk until the clouds of obscurity were cleared. They cannot make up their mind until the US president finalizes the pullout plan. As a matter of fact, mega projects take years to complete and the companies are right to fear about political development in the country after next year.

On presence of troops, the top US military commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Campbell, hinted about changes in the withdrawal plan. This change will largely be contributed to the precarious security situation as the multinational terrorist organization—the Islamic State, has been busy in building its muscles to target Afghan security forces and threaten stability of other regional countries including China and Russia. Though, Campbell is optimistic about capabilities of the Afghan government forces but he also fears greater security risks for the Afghan government after complete withdrawal which could also eventually stop flow of donations to Kabul.

It is said that the US authorities are busy in assessing capabilities of the Afghan law enforcement agencies to decide about level of troops in the country and nature of their mission. Recently, the spokesman for the US military forces in Afghanistan, Colonel Brain Tribus, confirmed that decision about number of troops in the country would be taken this autumn after completion of the assessment procedure. Recommendations will be shared with the White House for final decision.

What is really important for Afghanistan at this critical juncture is that the US president should take decision on the withdrawal of troops as soon as possible to end the confusion. Secondly, the decision should be taken while keeping problems of Afghans in view. Nature of the US mission in the country after 2016 is also of greater important because there is no end in sight to the ongoing violence despite signing of the Bilateral Security Agreement. New threats such as Daesh emerged in presence of the US security forces. Such issues and delay in decision over the pullout has raised many eyebrows. Therefore, the White House should be meticulous this time in its decision to win hearts and minds of Afghans.

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