As the deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan nears, on Sept. 11, the Taliban has reestablished its hold on a country the United States invaded nearly 20 years ago.
Former ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker, told Texas Standard that what’s happening as a result of American troops leaving is not only a “humanitarian nightmare,” but it also undermines the ultimate goal of keeping the Taliban and al-Qaida at bay.
“Our intelligence capabilities are degraded,” Crocker said. “It is exposing the United States to the world as a cynical and unreliable partner. So it’s kind of hard to see how the story gets worse.”
The United States first sent troops into Afghanistan after the 9/11 terror attacks, to overtake the Taliban who had been protecting the orchestrater of those attacks, Osama bin Laden. Crocker says the goal of the invasion was to build relationships with groups in the region to prevent another attack in the future. In recent years, there was a relatively small American troop presence there – less than 5,000 – but he says the Taliban didn’t occupy any provincial capitals during that time. Now, he says, the United States is putting all that work at risk.
“We had a status quo, [that] while not ideal, was was holding,” Crocker said.
Crocker expects that as the Taliban returns to prominence, so will al-Qaida. Plus, the Taliban can use the troop drawdown to bolster its claim of victory over the United States.
“They defeated not only the quisling forces of the so-called Afghan state; they vanquished the United States of America. So you’re going to see a huge boost to all of the elements and groups out there that wish us harm. This is not a good place,” Crocker said.
President Joe Biden announced the troop withdrawal in April, as a continuation of former President Donald Trump’s plan to pull the United States out of Afghanistan. Trump had met with Taliban leaders during his presidency.
“Unfortunately, President Biden decided to take full ownership of [former] President Trump’s deeply flawed policy of direct negotiations with the Taliban,” Crocker said. “It’s just unbelievable. And again, it just didn’t need to be this way.”