U.S. Military Withdrawal from Afghanistan -- With or Without An Agreement

Summary of Study

Bottom Line: The United States' main objective in the Middle East must be the total withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan. No other objective should take precedence over, or be allowed to interfere with, this goal.

Going to war with Afghanistan was the right move.

After the attacks of September 11th, the United States set itself the clear goal of targeting Al-Qaeda and the Taliban government. Once it achieved that goal, it should have pulled out entirely. Instead, it set out on a ruinous attempt at "nation-building," which spurred close to two decades of war.

The U.S. is close to negotiating a withdrawal -- but the agreement misses the mark.

In September 2018, the president appointed Zalmay Khalilzad to negotiate the withdrawal of American troops with the Taliban. Other than U.S. military withdrawal, the agreement rests on three pillars: the Taliban agreeing to renounce Al-Qaeda and other terrorists; the Taliban agreeing to negotiate with the Afghan government; and a ceasefire applicable to all parties.

None of these goals are as achievable as removal, and none are central to U.S. interests.

"Afghan security is not the same as U.S. security." As a result, it's not imperative to secure a total ceasefire, or an assurance from the (inherently untrustworthy) Taliban about denouncing terrorists or coming to the negotiating table.

Ultimately, a continued military presence in Afghanistan is unnecessary for U.S. interests.

The U.S. has already drawn a "red line" stating that "Any attack on U.S. citizens planned or organized in Afghan territory will result in an immediate and overwhelming U.S. military response." The force of that threat is in no way tied to the presence of boots on the ground. Similarly, continued U.S. presence could worsen Afghan security by inflaming tensions between the Taliban, ISIS, and other regional groups.

Read the full explainer here.