The exchange of fire between the Afghan and American military again raised the question of the appropriateness of the almost 20-year US presence in Afghanistan. According to the overseas press, the death of American soldiers will help Donald Trump fulfill the campaign promise of the withdrawal of troops from the Middle East. However, the head of the White House may dispose of the opportunity in a completely different way.
On Saturday, several Western media outlets reported that in one of the eastern provinces of Afghanistan, a shootout occurred between American and Afghan soldiers. According to The New York Times, the incident took place in Nangarhar province (bordering Pakistan) during a joint operation by US and government forces in Afghanistan.
Reuters also reported a clash between US and Afghan forces, but with the caveat: people in Afghan uniforms could be militants. The agency emphasized that, before, “insider” attacks by terrorists introduced into the ranks of the Afghan security forces often took place in Afghanistan.
Later, the official representative of the American forces in Afghanistan, Colonel Sonny Leggett, said that two US military were the victims of the attack, six more American troops were injured. As Leggett added, “a man in Afghan uniform opened fire from a machine gun at the combined forces of the United States and Afghanistan.”
Recall that the United States has been at war with international terrorism in Afghanistan for almost 19 years, but there is no reason to say that the Americans destroyed the Islamist hearth in this country: constant terrorist attacks, bombings and shelling, even in the Afghan capital of Kabul, are a sad norm that everyone is used to.
Currently, Washington maintains 12,000 US troops in Afghanistan, acting in coordination with 7,500 soldiers from several NATO countries. Moreover, the theme of the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan has long been one of the main leitmotifs of any election campaign in the United States.
For example, the same Donald Trump in 2016 promised to return American soldiers home. In 2020, he repeated this promise. However, carts (that is, American troops) are still there because of a failed deal between the US president and the Taliban movement banned in Russia, which manages to fight not only with the Americans, but also with the Afghan government.
In such a situation, the shooting of US troops by an Afghan soldier “jeopardizes the already tense diplomacy between Washington and Kabul,” writes The New York Times, adding that the Saturday incident could prompt Trump to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.
But, according to Oriental scholar Alexander Knyazev, Trump, as part of his election campaign, can change the situation in such a way as to justify the preservation of American troops in the Islamic republic.
“Regional events are superimposed on this. For example, after the assassination of Iranian general Suleymani during the negotiations in Qatar, the Americans set two conditions for the Taliban: to agree to maintain troops in Afghanistan and to break off relations with Iran. But these requirements are not feasible, because the Taliban have their own condition: not to use the territory of Afghanistan against other Muslim countries, the first of which is Iran,” Knyazev told the newspaper VZGLYAD. According to him, Washington deliberately led negotiations with the Taliban to a standstill, wanting to maintain its presence in the region.
“As for the incident with the participation of American and government forces, they happen from time to time for several reasons at once. Firstly, the Afghan military has a very low level of military training. The country’s armed forces are formed without proper motivation and through regular mobilization, ” the expert recalled.
“Secondly, among the Afghan military, who are often illiterate, there is a very high percentage of desertion. People go either to the side of the Taliban, or simply hide somewhere. For this reason, the government of Afghanistan controls, according to various estimates, only 20-30% of its territory, ” the orientalist continued.
“Also in the army of Afghanistan there is an interethnic problem. If in the predominantly Tajik region there is a military unit consisting of Pashtuns – of course, there will be conflicts in which the Americans will be drawn. Moreover, civilians do not accept them, ”the source said.
At the same time, there is no unanimous opinion in the expert community about exactly what the development of events in Afghanistan will completely correspond to the interests of Russia. Some believe that in the event of the withdrawal of US troops in the republic, a vacuum will be created that will be filled by radical Islamists and terrorists who are carrying out a plan of expansion into the “soft underbelly” of Russia.
Others, on the contrary, consider American troops to be the main destabilizing factor that impedes the reign of peace in the republic. The official position of Moscow is close to this. According to Zamir Kabulov, the presidential envoy for Afghanistan, it is important for Russia that a possible “agreement between the United States and the Taliban should become the legal basis for the withdrawal of the entire contingent of American troops from Afghanistan.”
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At the same time, Andrei Knyazev believes that the presence or absence of American troops in Afghanistan does not seriously affect anything. “The main threat to us is drug trafficking, which even without Americans went to our borders. If we talk about military threats – they are minimal. But if the Americans stop giving money to the Kabul government – any groups will sweep away the dispersing Afghan army, and then it will not be very clear who to deal with and negotiate with, ” concluded Knyazev.