Middle East foreign policy experts discuss the pros and cons of President Joe Biden's plan to withdraw remaining U.S. troops from the war in Afghanistan on the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. (April 14)
MADIHA AFZAL: What really stands out with the Biden administration's plan is the fact that this is not a conditions-based withdrawal. He's saying troops will draw down to zero by September 11th, and it could be significantly before that. And this actually goes even beyond what President Trump agreed on in the deal with the Taliban in Doha last year, which was a conditions-based withdrawal.
JOE BIDEN: I've concluded that it's time to end America's longest war. It's time for American troops to come home.
BRIAN KATULIS: I suspect Biden's speech will be received with a warm welcome from Democrats and Republicans from Americans across the aisle because they're sort of looking at this conflict and wondering why we're still there. And part of that is related to the lack of clear results. We've spent a lot of time and money there. Many people lost their lives. It doesn't fit within our national narrative right now in the way that it did post 9/11.
MADIHA AFZAL: The Taliban, which has been a stubborn insurgency throughout, is in a far better position now than it was years ago. But if we don't guarantee a peace deal between the Taliban and the Kabul government or make progress towards it, then those gains that we made-- the Democratic government, the gains for women and children-- those all go away as well.
So anything that we achieved, frustrating as it has been over the last 20 years, is threatened by a precipitous withdrawal. Pakistan is the first country that's going to suffer after Afghanistan. So Pakistan saw huge refugee flows after 1989, after the Soviet withdrawal. Pakistan may see the same thing again, and that risks destabilizing that country.
BRIAN KATULIS: So in addition to China and Russia having a stake, anything that happens in Afghanistan will have immediate spillover effect across the borders into countries that are next door. What I'm really interested to see, and it may not even come in the speech, it may come in the reality of policy afterwards, is the devil in the details because, again, we're talking about a small number relative to our previous presence in Afghanistan. And I wouldn't be surprised come September that there's still some numbers of US troops or special forces, if not publicly acknowledged, that are still on the ground trying to offer support to the Afghan government.