Russia believes that the time has come for the US to leave Afghanistan. The statement was made by Zamir Kabulov, the Russian Foreign Ministry's Director of the Second Asian Department in Afghanistan and a special envoy to Afghanistan, in an interview with Russian Izvestia daily. According to him, the country is turning into a global incubator of international terrorism. Moscow also strongly opposes the idea of sending military contractors there to replace the regular US servicemen.
Army General John Nicholson, the US top military commander in Afghanistan, told the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this year that he would like several thousand more troops to stabilize the situation in the war-torn country. About 8,400 US troops and 6,400 NATO soldiers remain in Afghanistan following the large-scale NATO troop reduction in 2014.
President Trump has not made a decision on what to do next. A new, comprehensive strategy for prosecuting the conflict was expected to appear in mid-July. It has not happened as the president remains unsatisfied with the options.
According to the US Government Accountability Office, the Pentagon has spent more than $76 billion on weapons and equipment for the Afghan security forces since 2002. The National Priorities Project (NPP) estimated that the US has spent more than $780 billion in Afghanistan since 2001. The think tank says that «every hour, taxpayers in the United States are paying $4 million» for the war in that country.
Around 173,000 civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan have died amid the American-led war from 2001 to mid-2016, according to the Costs of War Project. More than 183,000 civilians have been seriously wounded.
According to SIGAR, a US watchdog organization issuing reports on the situation in Afghanistan for the US Congress, the official authorities in Kabul controlled slightly more than half of the country's territory. Approximately, 59.7 percent of the 407 districts were under Afghan government control or influence as of February 20, 2017, showing a slight 2.5 percentage point increase from November 2016. The SIGAR April 30 quarterly report says «The number of districts under insurgent control or influence also increased by four this quarter to 45 districts in 15 Afghan provinces» showing a slight increase in the number of the country’s total districts under insurgent control or influence from about 10 percent to 11.1 percent.
Other experts and observers contended that the true figure was probably even lower given that the American watchdog likely focused just on total numbers of population centers under nominal government control or otherwise free of insurgent influence, rather than total physical area. Meanwhile, insurgents and terrorists continue to launch increasingly brazen attacks, even inside government-controlled centers, and expand their influence.
It’s not the Taliban only. Afghanistan’s Islamic State branch – IS-Khorosan of IS-K - controls relatively big chunks of territory, such as Tora Bora cave complex. The group is known for adroitly making use of tunnel networks, and other fortified positions.
The results of the 16-years-long US campaign give reasons for skepticism about any plan to improve situation in the country.
Dan Coats, the US Director of National Intelligence, told the US Senate that regardless of any action by the US «the political and security situation in Afghanistan will almost certainly deteriorate through 2018». According to Patrick Buchanan, a well-known author, politician and broadcaster. «Stated starkly, the war in Afghanistan is slowly being lost». Katrina van den Heuvel, an American editor and publisher, believes that instead of yet another troop surge in America’s longest war, now heading toward its 16thbirthday, Trump should adopt the advice that then-Sen. George Aiken (R-Vt.) offered about Vietnam in 1966: «Declare victory and get out».
Ivan Eland, an American defense analyst and Director of the Center on Peace and Liberty at the Independent Institute, chimes in a Newsweek article, «the war has been ‘lost’ for quite some time now and the only solution is to withdraw US forces as quickly as possible.» He believes that the generals have had 16 years to «win» the war, but have abjectly failed to do so.
In 2001, the US invaded m Afghanistan to be followed by the invasion of Iraq in 2003. In 2011, America attacked Libya to intervene in Syria later. All these missions have failed. The US operation in Syria is hardly a success. Just a few days ago, the United States sent forces to Yemen – a mission with no purpose and no end in sight. It has become recently involved in the fight against jihadists in the Philippines – easy to get in, hard to get out.
Currently, the United States is at war in several countries. With so many wars fought everywhere across the world, it’s impossible to decisively win in any of them. Не who chases two hares catches neither. None of the conflicts the United States involved in is of vital importance to it.
With the US out and other actors in, an international effort will have a better chance to improve the situation. The SCO, including Russia, China, Pakistan and India, and the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization) could make a significant contribution. After all, Russia, Turkey and Iran have done much more for crisis management in Syria than the US-led coalition numbering over 60 states. By withdrawing the forces, the United States will reduce the expenditure and avoid losses. And peace in Afghanistan will be given a chance at last.