The following article, “Consequences of US Withdrawal from Afghanistan on Pakistan” is written by Sana Basharat, a student of Sir Syed Kazim Ali. Moreover, the article is written on the same pattern, taught by Sir to his students, scoring the highest marks in compulsory subjects for years. Sir Kazim has uploaded his students’ solved past paper questions so other thousands of aspirants can understand how to crack a topic or question, how to write relevantly, what coherence is, and how to include and connect ideas, opinions, and suggestions to score the maximum.
The internal problems in the US and the shifting sands in the global world order forced America to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan. The hastily concluded withdrawal has fomented terrorism across Pakistan and escalated border skirmishes along the Pakistan-Afghan border.
2- The countdown to the withdrawal
- ✓Realizing the insurmountable hardships faced by the International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF), the Obama administration announced the troop’s withdrawal from the country in 2014.
3- Reasons behind the withdrawal
- ✓Mounting internal problems in the US
- Case in point: The general economic recession in America and the damage done by the COVID-19 pandemic, along with the divisive politics in the country, have forced Washington to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.
- ✓ Changing global dynamics
- Case in point: The rise of China as an economic giant and Russia’s aggressive posture, along with the events unfolding after the Arab Spring, have pushed Afghanistan to the margins of the US’s foreign policy calculus, leading to its withdrawal.
4- Consequences of the withdrawal on Pakistan
- ✓Reigniting terrorism in the country
- Case in point: Pakistan, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), has witnessed a record fifty-one per cent surge in terrorist incidents since 2021.
- ✓Augmenting economic crisis in the country
- Case in point: The smugglers and traders have been siphoning off five million dollars daily into Afghanistan through informal payment mechanisms, i.e. through Hundi and Hawala, due to the crippling sanctions on Kabul.
Answer to the Question
Afghanistan, a strategic and geopolitical hotspot for regional countries, has been a source of regional instability. The US’s economic, social, and political problems and the changing global political and economic dynamics in the last decade have compelled Washington to rethink Afghan policy, leading to withdrawal. The US withdrawal, in fact, has deepened instability in the region, making Afghanistan a place instigating proxy war between Pakistan and India. However, no country, after the withdrawal, is as impacted by the current crisis in Afghanistan as Pakistan. The precipitous withdrawal that ignored the post-conflict settlement has badly impacted Pakistan regarding security, economy, and diplomacy. The withdrawal has exacerbated the threat perception in Pakistan through the heightening territorial tensions along the eastern border and surging terrorist incidents in the country. Similarly, it has escalated the economic crisis in Pakistan by draining Pakistan out of dollars and hampering bilateral and regional trade, depriving the nation of trade-related connectivity and integration.
The Countdown to the withdrawal
Before delving into the consequences of the withdrawal, it is pertinent to shed some light on the countdown leading the US to leave Afghanistan. After the protracted conflict spanning two decades, one of the longest in the history of America, the US and its allies showed a willingness to leave the country. For example, President Obama announced in 2014 that most US forces would be withdrawn by 2016. In addition, the newly elected President, Donald Trump, in 2017 escalated the war by giving carte blanche to the security forces stationed in Afghanistan. As a result, the Taliban forces launched a series of offensives against the ISAF troops, which were never seen before 2001. With no end in sight, the US eventually struck a deal with the Taliban in 2020 on the condition that the Taliban would not harbour terrorists. The US had expected the regime of President Ashraf Ghani to withstand the Taliban insurgency. However, as soon as the US troops started to withdraw, the Afghan government collapsed without an iota of resistance. It made the withdrawal process chaotic, leaving Afghanistan at the hands of the Taliban and putting regional security at stake.
Reasons behind the withdrawal
Although the czar policy of withdrawing US forces from Afghanistan had been dallying, the last decade saw gradual momentum for the ISAF forces leaving Kabul. The reasons given for the withdrawal are varied, which can be illustrated below.
Mounting internal problems in the US
Certain domestic realities forced the US to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan. The domestic realities had been reflected in the general disenchantment of Americans against the war in Afghanistan. For instance, according to a survey conducted by Pew Research Institute in 2021, about fifty-six per cent of the population favour US withdrawal from the country, against forty-three per cent favouring the withdrawal in 2011. The war in Afghanistan, according to an estimate by Brown University, cost around $2 trillion taxpayers money, leading to anti-war sentiments among Americans. Besides, the economic recession in the last decade, compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, in America had diverted the attention of the US away from the war in Afghanistan. For example, the cumulative cost of the pandemic to the US economy is USD 14 trillion up to 2023, per the University of South Carolina estimates. Third, the divisive, partisan, and populist political atmosphere in the US has vitiated the environment conducive to a meaningful conflict resolution in Afghanistan, forcing the former to leave the occupied country. All in all, the political and economic realities mentioned above created a domestic compulsion for the successive administrations in the US to leave Afghanistan.
Consequences of the Withdrawal on Pakistan
Regardless of its reasons, the precipitous and chaotic withdrawal has had far-reaching consequences for South Asia, especially for Pakistan because Pakistan shares a 2439 km long porous border with the conflict-ravaged Afghanistan and holds cultural and ethnic ties with Afghans.
Reigniting terrorism in the country
Although Afghanistan has served as a potential security threat for Pakistan, the withdrawal has multiplied the security threats for the latter. The withdrawal has caused terror incidents in Pakistan. For instance,according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Pakistan has witnessed a record fifty-one per cent surge in terrorist incidents since 2021. The reason is that the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) now enjoys the willing or unwilling patronage from its Afghan counterpart. For example, a report by the UN Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team estimates that as many as 4000 to 6000 strong TTP operatives still exist in Afghanistan, which is threatening the hard-won peace in Pakistan. The group has been involved in some recent attacks in Pakistan, which include but are not limited to a well-coordinated attack on a mosque in the Police Lines Peshawar, killing eighty-four people. Similarly, due to the unsettled dispute of the Durand Line between Afghanistan and Pakistan, both countries have seen border skirmishes after the withdrawal. In short, the post-withdrawal era has added to Pakistan’s security woes.
Augmenting economic crisis in the country
Besides security threats, the economic fallout of the withdrawal poses a daunting challenge for Pakistan. Afghanistan, one of Pakistan’s biggest trading partners, has created an economic challenge for Pakistan in the following two ways: impacting the border economy and dolling out illegal dollar outflow from Pakistan. The crippling sanctions on the current Taliban regime following the withdrawal and the repeated border closure have robbed millions living along the border of their livelihood. Similarly, the financial sanctions on Afghanistan’s economy have depleted foreign reserves in Pakistan.For example, according to the Business Recorder, traders and smugglers transfer as much as $5 million across the Pakistani border into Afghanistan daily through Hundi and Hawala. In a nutshell, the withdrawal has ruined local businesses and accelerated the illegal outflow of precious dollars from Pakistan.
To conclude, the international and domestic challenges being faced by the US have caused a hasty troops withdrawal from Afghanistan, leading to chaos in the latter. As a result, Pakistan has faced insurmountable stresses in terms of security and economy. The instability after the withdrawal has increased terror incidents in Pakistan, and the withdrawal has also impacted Pakistan’s regional trade volume and the border economy, ruining local businesses and increasing the outflow of monetary resources.
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