The withdrawal of American soldiers from Afghanistan together with that of the other contingents of the international coalition has not yet finished, but we are already thinking about the future war. A dramatic scenario, with the Taliban and other Islamic extremist groups, such as Isis, so strong and determined that they are able to destabilize the entire country, defeat the Afghan troops loyal to Prime Minister Ashraf Ghani’s government and even conquer Kabul. These are the considerations that are prompting the Pentagon to ask the Biden administration for permission to conduct air strikes in support of the government to avoid the fall of the major cities and the capital itself.
A scenario that tragically remembers closely the phases following the Soviet withdrawal in 1989, which opened to one of the bloodiest chapters in the country’s recent history and led to the establishment of Al Qaeda bases. The New York Times reveals that the Pentagon’s request potentially can introduce important elements of flexibility in the whole withdrawal strategy. Since the time of the agreements between the Trump administration with the Taliban in February 2020, the US generals had in fact contemplated the hypothesis of targeted attacks solely against groups that threatened American security. But now the serious weaknesses of the Afghan security forces are emerging overwhelmingly and the idea of much larger airborne campaigns to support them is gaining ground.
Among the hypotheses contemplated there would be air raids with missiles, jets and drones in defense of the US embassy along with those of the allies in the capital. In this minimalist version of the intervention, more raids deeper would have to be authorized by the president himself each time. But enormous logistical difficulties are already emerging. The limits of waging war only from the air have already emerged when former President Barack Obama tried to eradicate the Taliban and Al Qaeda dispersed in Pakistani tribal areas. In the near future for the dismantling of the air bases on the Afghan territory will be obliged to launch raids from those in the Persian Gulf or from the Pacific fleet. The topic will be discussed at the next meetings scheduled in Biden’s European program with NATO partners.
However, the growing concerns among US military leaders (who have never been silent about their opposition to the withdrawal from the Afghan theater) show widespread awareness of the serious structural weaknesses of the Afghan security forces. The Taliban continue to expand into provinces upon provinces. Isis also raises her head, as evidenced by the very serious attack on Wednesday against the base of the Halo Trust, a British organization dedicated to demining, which in the northern province of Baghlan has caused at least 11 deaths and dozens of injured. It is now evident that huge sectors of rural and mountainous areas are no longer controlled by government forces. Kandahar itself, the second largest city in the country, could be conquered by the Taliban in the near future.
By 4 July most of the US troops will have left. With them, the entire Italian contingent will have already left the Herat base. And the total withdrawal of the international contingent scheduled for the symbolic date of 11 September (in the twentieth anniversary of Al Qaeda’s attacks on America). We will do our best to support the Afghan forces until our contingents have been withdrawn, declared Zalmay Khalilzad, the American diplomat who leads the negotiations with the Taliban a few weeks ago. And he added: But once we get out of Afghanistan, we have not contemplated the possibility of our direct involvement to help them on the ground. This policy may now be changed. In any case, dark clouds are stretching over the future of the country.
June 10, 2021 (change June 10, 2021 | 12:44)
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