- By Nur Afrina (Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin)
The United States finally withdrew from Afghanistan recently, which began on May 1 2021. President Obama initiated the withdrawal plan of the US troops. Still, he decided to extend the assistance in the Afghanistan ground to fight against the Taliban militant group who were protecting Osama Bin Laden with the help of NATO allies. The United States successfully overthrew the Taliban threats and implanted democracy in the Afghanistan governmental system. During Trump's administration, several "peace talks" resulted in a peace deal with the Taliban group that managed to secure temporary friendship between the Taliban and the US government. Unfortunately, the deal was broken as the conflict resumed, and the Pentagon decided to evacuate US troops. In 2021, it was officially announced by President Joe Biden for the US Military troops and embassy personnel to be evacuated from Afghanistan, and the process is expected to be complete by September 11 2021. Biden believes that the war in Afghanistan is never-ending, and the government could no longer be saved.
US involvement and assistance
Next, among the significance of the United States invasion in Afghanistan was to propagate the democratic political ideology into the governmental system and reshape it, and Hamid Karzai was chosen as the first Afghan former president to take charge under the democratic system. Furthermore, the US has provided countless military assistance and reconstruction funds to Afghanistan ever since the September 11 attack at the World Trade Centre in New York in 2001. Brown University has reported that the United States had invested 2.26 trillion dollars in the war in Afghanistan. The aid varies from humanitarian assistance to medical supplies, including Covid-19 vaccinations, weaponry, military training and military troops. The Department of Statistics from the White House shows that the United States has provided over 36 billion civilian assistance, 3.9 billion humanitarian assistance, and 88 billion specifically for security funds. America's involvement resulted in losing a considerable fortune from investing toward the redevelopment and strengthening of Afghanistan.
Moving forward with the social equality contribution that the United States had instilled in Afghanistan. The United States aimed to improve the lives and empowerment of women and girls in Afghanistan against inequality. Traditionally, due to the Taliban's invasion, Afghanistan is a hotbed of gender inequality issues, especially in workforce barriers and education and health access. According to the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the United States managed to increase more than 3 million Afghan girls to receive equal access to education and reconstruction of schools infrastructure in rural provinces for improvement. By 2020, the number of Afghan students' enrollment boosted up to 900,000 pupils, with 39 per cent being girls. Besides breaking the education barrier, USAID reported that the number of Afghan women prepared for workforce training and access exceeds up to 24,000. Health resources access range for Afghan women and children has been widened, particularly in maternal, immunisation, and malnutrition issues. In terms of social equality, the US, with the help of the NGOs, had successfully uplifted a portion of the social restrictions and improved gender inequality issues where women and children in Afghanistan are deprived of their rights.
The diplomatic relations between the United States and other countries have evolved as most countries support the US towards assisting in Afghanistan. The NATO allies, which comprises 30 countries, agreed to help the United States, a member state of NATO, in monitoring and prescribing security forces assistance in Afghanistan to ensure that their pledges to maintain diplomacy and close relations between the member states are being upheld. Besides that, Germany, in particular, decided to join the United States to support Afghanistan in the nation-building project committedly. Many countries had moved forward to offer their support with America as the leading state in the developing project. America's involvement and initiatives had greatly influenced other countries to support Afghanistan for the redevelopment projects and combat terrorist threats.
The immediate implications of the United States' withdrawal on the Afghanistan ground are pretty severe. Firstly, mass evacuations occurred where roughly 122,300 people, Afghan civilians, American families, and military troops were evacuated and rescued. It was speculated that the US's involvement with Afghanistan had caused the resurgence of the Taliban group with their violent comeback on August 15 2021, since Biden announced the withdrawal. Second, there is a high possibility of the pre-existing civil war in Afghanistan with the Taliban presence resurface. Third, the power seizure by the Taliban group had caused an economic crisis to occur in the country as the Foreign reserves of Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB) were frozen. Afghanistan financial stability is existingly severe as it is greatly dependent on foreign aids. According to the World Bank, forty per cent of its Gross Domestic Products (GDP) were gained from international assistance. Unfortunately, foreign aids were stopped by the major contributors, NATO allies, the US and Germany to ensure they were inaccessible to the Taliban. Due to the insufficient funds and aids, it disrupts Afghanistan's sustainability and survivability. Automatically, it leads to the possibility of hyperinflation and the continuance of extreme poverty. With the presence of economic catastrophe and frozen banks, Afghan workers, especially those working under the government, cannot receive their salaries. Without access to cash diffusions, there may be a high risk of currency devaluation, and thus, the Afghans might face the difficulty of fending for themselves.
From the humanitarian perspective, the Afghanistan civilians are again in fear with the recent comeback of the Taliban ruling. The Taliban group has two decades of history in human rights abuse and violations, and the most victimised community are women and children. They are being deprived of their fundamental rights to work and the right to education. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights spokesperson Rupert Colville released an official statement regarding the human rights impacts and concerns of the Afghanistan issue. He mentioned that the United Nations is highly concerned that the fate of the women and children in Afghanistan might be on the "Red Line" as there have been disruptions of flow of updates on the information of their current situation. In this issue, what was regretted is that the United States has not made proper arrangements to protect the said community. Even though the Taliban declared to be more inclusive of women and children by enabling them to work and attend schools, it isn't easy to trust their promises. Still, the United Nations hope that the Taliban will honour their commitments and uphold the protection of civilian rights. In addition, the United States has been providing funds that are particularly intended for humanitarian support since 2002. The White House confirmed that 787 million from the 36 billion in civilian development assistance funds were explicitly for Afghan women and girls. Unfortunately, the funds are insufficient to cater for their safety and need, especially during the current dire times that the Taliban are back in force. The serious issue of whether the funds and assistance are going through the proper channels may be questionable with the Taliban rulings.
It can be observed that the continuance of help the United States has allocated is similarly to pampering Afghanistan to be distant from becoming self-reliant according to the original plan. Afghanistan undoubtedly has been over-dependant on its allies for help to survive and sustain over the years. Unfortunately, the United States has failed to reassure the Afghanistan government and military personnel to be independent and defend themselves against the existing terrorist threats surrounding them. Hence, when the United States decided to withdraw, it left the Afghan government in absolute disarray. The withdrawal announcement bought the Taliban some time to construct their plan to bounce back and reconquer the Afghan government immediately and disrupt democracy. Afghanistan is the longest war that America was ever involved in. The outcome and consequences must be reflected upon by the United States itself and other nations. As the leading nation in the Afghanistan War, the global perception towards the United States has changed, especially political competency.