Scenarios for Post-U.S. Afghanistan

Summary of Study

Bottom line: The existing balance of power among Afghan forces and other powers means that Afghanistan will not be further destabilized by U.S. military withdrawal. The U.S. can successfully prevent terrorist buildups in Afghanistan remotely.

The U.S. and the Taliban have reached an agreement where U.S. forces will withdraw from Afghanistan in return for the Taliban renouncing Al-Qaeda and preventing terror attacks originating from Afghan soil.

U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan does not mean a long-term decline in regional stability. Rather, it signifies a shift in U.S. attention toward a focus of allowing local powers, including nearby nations, to stabilize Afghanistan. Withdrawal would serve American interests, guaranteeing a movement away from unwinnable conflicts. 

There are two likely scenarios for Afghanistan after the U.S. withdraws:

  • Stability from national unification led by one power or through factionalism under a power-sharing compromise.
  • Instability as a result of state failure and the collapse of any unified power.

No matter what scenario occurs, U.S. interests and security would not be harmed. Even instability should not deter a full U.S. withdrawal. Regional powers, including Russia and China, which are more invested in the region, will help ensure a security equilibrium in Afghanistan.

Additionally, U.S. troop withdrawal does not eliminate the U.S. military's ability to launch remote attacks against U.S. threats to continue its counterterrorism objectives. The U.S. spy network, regional contacts, drone capability, and relationships with other countries concerned about Islamist militants will allow it to disrupt nascent terrorist networks. 

In fact, U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan have increased even as troop levels have fallen, demonstrating that the ability of the U.S. counterterrorism ability is not a function of military presence in the country. Even a complete U.S. withdrawal will not create a "safe haven" for terrorists.

Withdrawal creates significant benefits for the U.S. Not only does it allow the U.S. to escape the burden of maintaining Afghanistan, but also it removes U.S. reliance on maintaining good relations with a dysfunctional Pakistan. Withdrawal allows the U.S. to pursue a more flexible foreign policy in South Asia and redirect its attention from Afghanistan to broader and more important foreign policy goals elsewhere.

Read the full study HERE

Feature Charticle

Number of Weapons Released by U.S. Aircraft in Afghanistan

Defense Priorities

Findings:

  • U.S. troop withdrawal does not eliminate the U.S. military's ability to launch remote attacks against U.S. threats to continue its counterterrorism objectives. 
  • U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan have increased even as troop levels have fallen, demonstrating that the ability of the U.S. counterterrorism ability is not a function of military presence in the country. 
  • The existing balance of power among Afghan forces and other powers means that Afghanistan will not be further destabilized by U.S. military withdrawal. 

Read the full study HERE