The Biden administration has some big decisions to make regarding our troops in the Middle East. According to the peace deal that the Trump administration signed in Doha last February with the Taliban, the United States must withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by May of this year.
It is a sticky situation as there is not an easy answer. The troop level is down to just 2,500 in both Afghanistan and Iraq. The Taliban have kept one part of the agreement: they have not attacked U.S. troops since the peace deal was signed. There have been no combat deaths in Afghanistan since two Green Berets, SFC Javier J. Gutierrez and SFC Antonio R. Rodriguez, from Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) from 3rd Bn., 7th Special Forces Group (7thSFG) were ambushed in Afghanistan by a rogue Afghan policeman in the Sherzad district of Nangarhar Province last February.
However, the Taliban have definitely not lived up to their promise to end violence, as they’ve stepped up attacks against Afghan government troops, officials, and facilities. The Taliban were also supposed to make good on their promises to contain terrorist groups, especially al-Qaeda, as well as reach a political settlement with the Afghan government. They have failed on these two counts, as well and al-Qaeda still has a large and growing presence in Afghanistan.
The Taliban falsely claim that al-Qaeda is not present in the country. And yet Husam Abd al-Rauf, also known as Abu Muhsin al-Masri, was killed in a raid by Afghan Special Forces in late October when Afghan SF raided the village Kunsaf, which was under Taliban control. Al-Masri, an Egyptian national, was believed to be al-Qaeda’s second-in-command. The UN has said al-Qaeda remains “heavily embedded” in Afghanistan with the Taliban.
Because of the ongoing developments, the Biden administration has decided to take a closer look at the agreement and the withdrawal plan.
Jake Sullivan, the president’s national security advisor, said that Washington was “taking a hard look at the extent to which the Taliban are complying” with the deal as the U.S. weighs “our force posture and our diplomatic strategy” in Afghanistan.
Congress has set up a panel to look at the agreement. It released a report that based on the evidence, the withdrawal plan should be pushed back.
Congress’s report stated that peace in Afghanistan should not be based on “an inflexible timeline but on all parties fulfilling their commitments, including the Taliban making good on its [sic] promises to contain terrorist groups and reduce violence against the Afghan people, and making compromises to achieve a political settlement.”
The Taliban have, predictably, pushed back against any delay in the withdrawal plan. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid warned that the insurgents “will definitely return to war” if Washington “rejects this deal.”
Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, the deputy Taliban peace negotiator, said that the Taliban signed the pact with a “legal, elected government in America” but issued the following warning:
“If [the U.S.] remain in Afghanistan after [the May deadline] we will also kill them even if somebody rewards us or does not reward us. We take our reward from God. We fight the invaders without a reward, without any bounty,” Stanikzai said, referring to the allegation that Russia had issued a reward to the Taliban for killing American troops. Similar allegations have surfaced about Iran and China.
The Biden administration has undeniable proof that the Taliban have failed to live up to their agreement with Washington. However, if the administration keeps the 2,500 troops in the country beyond the deadline is it ready for the political fallout that will ensure when casualties start mounting again?