Two weeks have passed since US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s unexpected visit to Kabul. Pompeo’s visit had a clear consequence that if there was no political agreement on power sharing in Kabul between Ghani and Abdullah, the United States would cut off $ 1 billion in aid to the Afghan government and cut another $ 1 billion next year. The issue broke, but two weeks later, US media reported that Pompeo had warned Ghani and Abdullah in Kabul to resolve their political differences as soon as possible. They should enter into talks with the Taliban, release their prisoners, and continue to reach an agreement with the group. Otherwise, US President Donald Trump could order the complete withdrawal of all US troops from Afghanistan.
What Happened During these Two Weeks?
Following Mike Pompeo’s visit to Kabul, the State Department announced in a statement that it had cut off $ 1 billion in aid to the Afghan government. In response to the announcement, Mr. Ghani assured the people of Afghanistan in a message aired on national television that cutting off US aid would not have a direct impact on key sectors of the country. He said that the government will try to fill this gap with austerity and the search for alternative sources.
After Mike Pompeo’s mediation and warning failed, Mr Ghani began forming a cabinet, nominating some ministers and the head of the National Directorate of Security and the governor of Herat, prompting the team of stability and partnership led by Abdullah Abdullah to warn of forming own cabinet. Meanwhile, with the mediation of Hamid Karzai, Abdul Rab Rasul Sayyaf, Mohammad Karim Khalili and Mohammad Younis Qanuni, the two sides of the political crisis announced the possibility of a five-day postponement of the formation of the cabinet. Now, three days after the five-day opportunity passed, there is still nothing of a political agreement between Abdullah and Ghani, and the political crisis remains acute.
Consequences of Complete Withdrawal
The Taliban continued their operations and military strikes after a significant reduction in violence and the signing of a peace agreement with the US, one of which was aimed at ending military strikes on both sides. Meanwhile, US forces also supported Afghan security forces. This means that US forces in Afghanistan are still conducting part of special operations and supporting Afghan security forces in critical situations. Therefore, the first consequence of the complete withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan will be the increased pressure on the Afghan security forces. In addition, the cut in US financial aid is related to the Afghan government’s military budget, and from this perspective, the government’s war machine will be severely impacted.
Aside from the economic problems and special military support, the Taliban are ready to negotiate with the Afghan government because of the American presence in the game. When US forces withdraw completely from Afghanistan, the first possible scenario is a repeat of the government’s situation when the former Soviet forces withdrew from Afghanistan. The Taliban will not enter into talks and negotiations with the government, which lacks political legitimacy within itself and at the same time has two presidents, but will continue to face the Afghan government on the battlefields.
However, there are still two days before the two leaders reach a political agreement and prevent Afghanistan to move towards the worst situation.
Zackaria Noori contributed reporting.