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By Voon Miaw Ping
KUALA LUMPUR, April 21 – Afghanistan, already facing a rough road to peace, could be pushed further into political instability after the United States (US) withdraws its remaining military troops from the country.
Analyst Prof Dr Mohd Kamarulnizam Abdullah from Universiti Utara Malaysia said the security vacuum created would lead to more conflicts between the Afghan government and the insurgent groups in fighting to assert bigger controls over the country.
“Once the US withdraws, the NATO (troops) too will withdraw and when that happens, we will see acute destabilisation in Afghanistan,” Mohd Kamarulnizam, who specialises in international security, told Bernama in an interview.
US President Joe Biden had on April 14 announced that the US will withdraw its remaining 2,500-strong military troops from Afghanistan beginning May, ending the longest war in American history.
"US troops, as well as forces deployed by our NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) allies and operational partners, will be out of Afghanistan before we mark the 20th anniversary of that heinous attack on September 11th," he had announced.
The September 11 attacks drew the United States into war in Afghanistan.
Mohd Kamarulnizam said after 20 years, the Afghanistan war only showed that it was a failure of the US foreign policy as the US can no longer continue to justify its presence there.
“Moreover, Afghanistan (war) is costing a lot of money and now the US is refocusing their strategic alignment to deal with (challenges posed by) China and Russia,” he said.
Biden also said that 2,488 US military personnel were killed, and 20,722 have been wounded in the war. The war cost some US$1 trillion to the country.
Xinhua news agency reported that Afghanistan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani had expressed his respect to the US decision and said his government will work with US partners to ensure a smooth transition.
Mohd Kamarulnizam said Afghanistan’s future remains fragile, adding that the present US-backed Afghan government will face an uphill challenge in bringing and negotiating with various warring factions to create peace and stability in the country.
”The question now is who will lead? Any attempts to strike a consensus among the warring factions – Afghan government, Taliban, Mujahideen and the warlords – will be difficult.
“Even with the US, NATO presence, and with some provisions being agreed on, fighting is still going on. The Taliban still continue to attack government strategic interests,” he said.
Mohd Kamarulnizam said any developments in Afghanistan’s political and security sphere will be immediately affecting its neighbouring countries, especially Pakistan.
Meanwhile, an academician at the University of Nottingham Malaysia, Dr Julia Roknifard, told Bernama that Afghanistan risks having another civil war post-departure of the foreign forces.
“The sad truth to acknowledge is that the Afghan military forces remain poorly equipped to stand against Taliban which already, inspired by the statement (about the withdrawal) from the White House, felt inspired to make advances in Ghazni, (where) people had to flee,” she said in reference to the coordinated attacks by Taliban against Afghan forces in the Qara Barg district of Ghazni province which had forced 1,000 families to flee as reported on Monday.
She explained if armed conflicts escalate, the Taliban could seize control in more areas and return to rule Afghanistan. The group was in power between 1996 and 2001.
On the Taliban’s commitment to restoring peace, she said the group’s intention remain unclear.
According to Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of Afghanistan's High Council for National Reconciliation, as reported by Xinhua news agency, the Taliban’s belief that it can regain power with the foreign forces' pull-out could be a miscalculation.
Meanwhile, Turkey is set to host a peace conference for Afghanistan from April 24 to May 4 with the aim of accelerating peace negotiations and achieving political settlements among key political players in Afghanistan.
The high-level conference is expected to be attended by the Afghan government and the Taliban as well as representatives from the United Nations and Qatar.
However, the Taliban had said that they will not participate in any peace talk that shall make decisions on Afghanistan until all foreign forces completely withdraw from the country.
“The US is not the only actor that is interested in containing extremism and settling things within Afghanistan. Others, including Russia, have been engaged into recent attempts to negotiate a solution between Taliban and the US-supported Afghan government.
“Now, as per resolve demonstrated by Taliban, it will have to wait until the withdrawal of the US troops,” Roknifard added.