Afghanistan: US Prepares Final Military Withdrawal as Taliban Continues Advance

Army Gen. Scott Miller (left) hands flag off to Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie after he relinquished command in Kabul on Monday. (Photo: Paula Bronstein, WSJ)

By Jakob Stein

As Joe Biden announced that the remaining US troops would pull out of Afghanistan by August 31, the Taliban has continued their offensive against Afghan security forces, seizing control of important border crossings and targeting provincial capitals. When Biden made his announcement last week, he conceded that there would be no “mission accomplished” celebration while still claiming that the mission “hasn’t failed.” The military campaign certainly has failed, and now the Biden administration is hedging its bets to secure a ‘peaceful and cooperative’ relationship with the Taliban in order to further the interests of US imperialism.

As part of the final withdrawal, the US military plans to remove all remaining military personnel and contractors aside from 650 troops to guard the US embassy, as well as evacuate an estimated 2,500 Afghan translators who worked with the US imperialist army over the course of the conflict.

Biden’s decision has drawn criticism from various monopoly media pundits, who claim that a Taliban victory would erode the ‘democratic and human rights gains’ achieved over nearly 20 years of military occupation, or it would damage the credibility and prestige of the US military. Most notably, one of the war’s primary architects, George W. Bush, said on Wednesday that “the consequences are going to be unbelievably bad and sad.” Bush’s comments ring hollow. He has invoked women’s rights to argue that the imperialist army should remain in Afghanistan, even though the reasons for the war he helped start were never humanitarian, but always about US imperialist interests, such as ensuring the construction of oil and natural gas pipelines and countering Russian influence in Central Asia.

Over the past few weeks, the Taliban have made substantial gains in their ongoing armed conflict with the US-backed puppet State in Afghanistan, headed by President Ashraf Ghani. The Taliban have seized control of two of three customs offices along the Iranian border as well as several important border posts with Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. Just last week, Taliban insurgents forced over 1,300 Afghan security forces to flee across the border with Tajikistan. Since Biden’s first announcement about US withdrawal in April, the Taliban has seized control of dozens of Afghanistan’s 407 districts and killed or forced surrender from hundreds of Afghan soldiers. As of now, the Taliban claims to control approximately 85 percent of the country’s territory.

In the wake of the Taliban’s military surge, imperialists from the US, the European Union, Russia, and China, as well as regional players like Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan, have engaged in diplomatic talks with both the Taliban and the Afghan puppet State to manage fallout and call for the resumption of peace talks.

Central Asia is a key strategic point for the geopolitical interests of the imperialist powers in the world, especially the US, due to its rich natural resources like oil and natural gas and its importance as a gateway into Europe and Africa for Chinese and Russian expansion. Imperialist control of Afghanistan, whether through overt military action or ‘economic cooperation,’ is therefore a major priority for the US, especially to contest the increased collusion between Russia and China in the region. This is precisely why the US is moving toward improving and normalizing relations with the Taliban—in effect, hedging its bets in the very likely case of the complete fall of the Afghan puppet State.

Both Biden and Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby have tried to assuage fears of a Taliban takeover, with Biden claiming it is “highly unlikely” and Kirby calling it a “big ‘if.’” However, the Taliban’s recent advances along the borders and the revenue they have secured in the process cast doubt on these statements. At the current moment, the Taliban offensive seems too much for the Afghan security forces to handle as they continue to abandon posts, flee across borders, and surrender in the thousands. Without the support of US air bombardments and drone strikes, as well as other military aid, the Afghan security forces have been exposed as a cowardly force under the control of the US-aligned puppet government—neither of which apparently have enough support from the people to repel their enemies.

Originally, the US supported the Mujahideen, which later grew into the Taliban in the 1990s, in their fight against the revisionist Soviet Union. They continued their support as the Taliban acted as a regional counter to Iran, however their relationship grew sour as the Taliban made higher economic demands in exchange for imperialist projects and was unable to fully protect oil and gas pipelines, as they did not control Afghanistan’s entire territory. In 2001, the US invaded Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks with the pretext of pursuing Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. After the 20-year failure of the plan to crush the Taliban while creating a puppet government as a more reliable ally, the US has been forced to reevaluate the situation and again seek a profitable relationship with the Taliban.

The US agreement with the Taliban emphasizes ‘economic cooperation’ and ‘positive relations’ throughout, referring repeatedly to the “post-settlement Afghan Islamic government” rather than the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan—seemingly understanding the inevitability of the Taliban’s takeover. By no means has the US abandoned its imperialist agenda in Afghanistan—it has merely changed gears into a less contentious and more cooperative relationship with the Taliban. It seeks, above all, to counter the influence of Russian imperialism and Chinese social-imperialism in Central Asia by any means—now that guns, drones, and missiles have failed, they are using diplomacy to pursue their ambitions.

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