Afghans worry about U.S. pullout

Is an internal meltdown all but inevitable after the U.S. withdraws its troops?

Afghans are fed up with abuses linked to foreign troops, said Sarnawesht (Afghanistan) in an editorial. After “repeated complaints” that Afghans working directly with U.S. special operations forces in Maidan Wardak province were torturing and abusing citizens, President Hamid Karzai has finally acted. He ordered U.S. special operations forces out of the province within two weeks. Locals are thrilled. “They say that the Afghan forces will have their cooperation” much more than the foreigners. And they expect that with Afghan national forces on the ground rather than foreign troops, “the security situation in the province will improve as well.”

Unfortunately, that’s unlikely, said Cheragh (Afghanistan). “Afghan forces are in disarray caused by the prospect of the withdrawal of foreign troops.” Our army has proved that it can’t do much on its own. Desertion is already high, and once the foreigners finish drawing down their troops next year, we can expect it to be even more common. Morale is sure to plummet. Given that almost 150,000 experienced foreign troops “have failed to control the insurgent groups, how can one expect the local Afghan forces, which lack equipment and training, to do so?”

The U.S. will equip us, said Hasht-e Sobh (Afghanistan). It has learned from the errors it made early in the war. Back in 2003, the foreigners thought Afghanistan would need only a modest army to maintain order, and they assumed that Pakistan wouldn’t allow the Taliban insurgency to thrive across the border. Both assumptions were wrong. The U.S. now knows it must continue supporting the Afghan forces if it cares at all about regional security. After all, “the cost of arming and funding Afghan security forces is much lower for the world than the cost of having to deal with the re-emergence of terrorism.”

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But arming the Afghans won’t work, said Ali Ashraf Khan in The Frontier Post (Pakistan). Even if U.S. weapons intended for the army actually got to the troops—not a given in such a corrupt country—they wouldn’t magically transform the fractious and dispirited Afghan army into a disciplined force. After the U.S. withdrawal, the Taliban will go back on the offensive, and before long, “the coalition of warlords that is in government today will fall apart, with each warlord trying to secure his piece of the cake.”

It won’t be pretty, said Sajjad Ashraf in The Straits Times (Singapore). “Everyone expects a repeat of the civil war that followed the withdrawal of Soviet troops” in 1989. The only way to achieve peace is through power-sharing with the Taliban. But the Taliban won’t talk to Afghan leaders until all foreign troops are gone—and it looks like that will never come to pass. The U.S. plans to leave a few thousand troops behind even after the 2014 pullout, and Karzai needs them to prop up his government and ensure that his handpicked successor takes his place in next year’s election. An internal meltdown is all but inevitable. Then neighboring countries “will be compelled to fund their proxies—resulting in a civil war.”

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