Afghanistan: the United States opens the last phase of its withdrawal

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The United States officially begins on Saturday the withdrawal of its last soldiers from Afghanistan, which when completed will spell the end of a 20-year war for them, but will open a period of great uncertainty for a country under the growing influence of the United States. Taliban.

In fact, the withdrawal process is already underway, according to American officials in Afghanistan, and the date of May 1 is above all symbolic. This was the deadline chosen during the agreement signed in February 2020 in Doha, Qatar, with the Taliban by the former administration of Donald Trump, confirming this withdrawal.

In recent days, the sky over Kabul and the nearby Bagram air base has been more often than usual filled with American helicopters, tasked with preparing for this great departure, which will take place by September 11. , date of the 20th anniversary of the 2001 attacks.

NATO allies began withdrawing troops from the mission on Thursday. Resolute Support, which must be done in a coordinated manner with the Americans.

President Joe Biden had confirmed in mid-April the departure of the 2,500 soldiers still present in Afghanistan. The time has come to end America's longest war, he said, believing that the objective of the intervention, which was to prevent Afghanistan from once again serving as a base for attacks against his country, had been fulfilled.

The United States intervened in Afghanistan in the wake of the 2001 attacks on the New York Twin Towers and the Pentagon. They drove the Taliban from power, accused of having hosted the nebula jihadist Al-Qaeda responsible for the attacks, before getting bogged down.

Tens of thousands of dead

At the height of their presence, in 2010-2011, some 100,000 American soldiers were deployed in the country. Over 2,000 Americans and tens of thousands of Afghans have been killed in this conflict.

Since the signing of the Doha agreement, the Taliban have refrained from directly attacking foreign forces. But they have been ruthless with government troops, whom they constantly harass in the countryside, while terrorizing large cities with targeted attacks.

The announcement of the Americans' departure has only exacerbated the fear of many Afghans, who fear that the Taliban will return to power and impose the same fundamentalist regime as when they ruled the country between 1996 and 2001.

Everyone is afraid of going back to the dark days of the Taliban eraMena Nowrozi, an employee of a private radio station in Kabul, told AFP.

The Taliban are still the same, they haven't changed. The United States should have stayed at least one or two more years.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani says government troops, which for several months have been fighting alone on the ground – but sometimes with American air support – are fully capable to resist the insurgents.

He also wants to believe that the American withdrawal means that the Taliban have no reason to continue fighting. Who are you killing? Who are you destroying? Now is the end of your pretext to kill strangers, he said this week in a speech.

Potential return of al-Qaeda, Americans say

The US Chief of Staff, General Mark Milley, admitted Wednesday that he could not rule out the possibility of total chaos. In the worst case, we have a collapse of the Afghan government, a collapse of the Afghan army, we have a civil war, we have the humanitarian catastrophe that goes with it, then the potential return of Al Qaeda., he admitted.

Abdul Malik, a policeman from Kandahar, in a province that is one of the Taliban's historic strongholds, told AFP the armed forces were ready. We must defend our homeland (…) We will do our best to defend our soil, he insisted.

There is no guarantee that the Taliban will not attack US or NATO troops during their withdrawal. If they did, it would be to bleed the nose of a beaten enemy and to humiliate him even more, emphasizes independent expert Nishank Motwani.

For Andrew Watkins, International Analyst Crisis Group, the next few weeks will allow the Afghan army and the Taliban to fight and evaluate their opponent without the added factor of the United States.

Read also :

  • Afghanistan: the inglorious end of a 20-year war
  • NATO warns of hasty military withdrawal from Afghanistan
  • Washington will have the means to prevent a resurgence of Al Qaeda

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