The simple questions we must ask ourselves post the withdrawal of US (United States) forces in Afghanistan are; is the US now in a stronger or weaker position on the international stage? Is the US now more capable of negotiating with China, Iran, or Russia? Has it strengthened the faith placed in it by the myriad of allies that rely on it?
The swift withdrawal of US forces last week and almost swifter takeover of the capital city, Kabul, is something most people didn’t predict would happen as quickly as it did. Tens of thousands of trained Afghani soldiers seemed unprepared for the advance of Taliban forces. Some battles ensued but the takeover was quick and relatively unhindered.
For us here in Australia, I believe we now have several serious concerns that should be discussed and dealt with as soon as reasonably possible. The first is how we should treat a Taliban controlled Afghanistan and deal with the possible consequences? Arguably the main cause of the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 had to do with the Taliban’s toleration and support of Al Qaeda operatives in the country who were using it both as a training ground and safe haven. Its likely something similar will happen again even if measures are put in place to deter the Taliban away from allowing the same sort of situation develop.
I believe Australia should look at the situation in a more independent fashion as we’ve often relied on the US to determine the best course of action for us to take both directly and indirectly. Given the current direction of the US government its clear Australia can’t rely on it for clear or decisive leadership on the international stage. We should be seriously adapting our current trajectory with the unstable nature of US foreign policy in mind. And considering all possibilities before blindly following the US.
The second question has been partially answered above but should be asked in full nonetheless, is the US now in a stronger or weaker position on the international stage? I think most people will agree that the withdrawal is something that did not complement the US at all. Of course the situation in Afghanistan is quite complicated and many US and Australian personnel alike did their best to aid in the transition but, was what happened really that difficult to predict? Perhaps the speed at which it occurred was unprecedented but the eventual takeover of the strongest faction in the country, who were only kept at bay by US and other personnel, seems very likely to occur once those personnel have left.
As a result of a weakened image, it’s likely Iran, China and Russia will push boundaries they previously wouldn’t have touched. If I was a Taiwanese citizen I would be very concerned. Or, if I was an American diplomat in Russia or Iran I’d hold a little less weight to the proposals or threats I’d be putting forward.
Finally, the third question is what about those who helped America risking their own lives in the process? Its obvious thousands of Afghani’s who aided both Australia and the US during the occupation have been granted asylum in both countries, but many more thousands have been left behind as a result of the rapid Taliban advancement. This lack of organization alone has arguably done more damage to the US’s reputation than any other aspect of the withdrawal. It does send a clear message to those who may wish to aid Western countries whenever an intervention is required. A message that reads; ‘We need your help, but when we’ve had enough we’re going to up and leave’.
I understand why the US wanted to leave Afghanistan, and, as I stated above, any withdrawal strategy is unlikely to have been smooth. But, it did not have to be as messy as it was and the consequences for the US, and therefore Australia, are likely to be severe. Finally, it’s definitely worth reminding everyone that the real victims here are not Australia, the US, England, or any other country for that matter. The real victims of the poor exit strategy are the Afghani people who must now suffer under the rule of a fundamentalist Islamist gove