(photo credit: Reuters)
Just a few weeks after the 9/11 attacks, the US launched its “war on terror” and
began to attack Taliban strongholds in Afghanistan. A decade later, the US is
mired in a war it can’t seem to extract itself from.
The question is, can
the US fight global terror if it pulls its troops out of terrorist-producing
provinces? And would a pullout have any consequences that can affect Israel?
Last year, President Barack Obama announced the withdrawal of 33,000 troops by
the summer of 2012. But this past week, he announced plans for the withdrawal of
the US-led, 130,000-strong international force by the end of
According to The Guardian, “after the 2014 pullout, a NATO force
will be left behind, in part to help with training. No figure has yet been
announced but US commanders in Kabul have spoken of around 15,000-20,000
The public in the US and in other countries among the
50-strong international coalition has grown weary with the war that has already
cost nearly $500 billion. They want their sons, husbands and fathers back home,
and with rising casualties, their voices are growing louder.
containment, a continued strong US presence in Afghanistan, would produce the
desired results in the long term is debatable. This is the focus of the fierce
argument that has taken place in the corridors of power in various countries
over the last few years.
Walter Russell Meade’s classification system
differentiates four schools of thought according to the Hamiltonian,
Jeffersonian, Jacksonian and Wilsonian types of policies.
In this case,
the public wants Obama to adopt the Jacksonian position on foreign policy, which
holds that the first priority of the US government in both foreign and domestic
policy is the physical security and economic well-being of the American
Jacksonians believe that the US should fiercely protect its
borders and not fight battles abroad.
Israel maintains a combination of
philosophies when it comes to defense. It focuses heavily on border defense
while maintaining constant surveillance of activities abroad and, on occasion,
takes measures to protect itself in operations far from its borders.
doesn’t look to spread democracy like the Wilsonians, although it would clearly
benefit from the presence of democratic countries on all its
MUCH OF the American and European public wants an immediate
pullout, not a phased withdrawal.
But, according to a New York Times
article in March, any accelerated withdrawal would face stiff opposition from
military commanders, who want to keep the bulk of the remaining American troops
in Afghanistan until the end of 2014, when the NATO mission in Afghanistan is
supposed to end.
This would ensure, at least to some extent, an organized
hand-over of military control to the Afghan National Army and local police
As competition grows within the Central Asian region encompassing
the five “Stans” north of Afghanistan, southern Russia, eastern Iran and western
China, more sources of conflict will arise.
The long-standing feud
between India and Pakistan will escalate as each struggles for control and
influence in Afghanistan.
Given that India has ties with Israel, the
country’s position on an international level and its ability to wield influence
Afghanistan is one of the world’s largest drug producers.
The UN and the Afghan government have estimated the total export value of
Afghanistan’s opium as over 50 percent of the country’s official gross domestic
According to the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs in its 2012 International Narcotics
Control Strategy Report, “Afghanistan produces roughly 90 percent of the world’s
illicit opium... Afghanistan remains involved in the full narcotics production
cycle, from cultivation to finished heroin. Afghanistan is also believed to be
among the world’s largest producers of hashish.”
(Hashish grown in
Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley has traditionally been smuggled into Israel by Israeli
Arabs, Beduin and Druse, but supposedly, since Israel withdrew from Lebanon in
2000, Hezbollah has taken over the trade.) According to the Wall Street Journal,
US and Afghan officials say Afghanistan’s poppy crop appears to have suffered a
devastating failure this year, in a development that is likely to affect the
course of the war as US-led forces withdraw.
US commanders and Afghan
officials expect the Taliban to reel as opium revenues dry up in coming months.
“It’s a blow to the insurgency,” says Kandahar provincial governor Tooryalai
According to US Marine Col. Tim Oliver, head of intelligence for
the coalition’s Regional Command-Southwest, which includes the Helmand province,
“Illegal taxation is a principal financial driver for the
Less opium has meant less revenue, more competition between
insurgent groups for resources, and less cooperation from a population
hard-pressed economically from the failure of what, for many farmers, is their
principal cash crop.”
Aside from business conflicts stemming from trade
in raw materials, oil and textiles, there are ethnic divisions as well. Over 20
major ethnicities exist in the Central Asian region alone and each will fight
for control and power.
Writing in Foreign Policy, Scott Smith and Andrew
Wilder perceive “both a new and energized spirit of politicking for the 2014
[Afghan] presidential elections, as well as baldly stated fears of a return to
civil war. For many we interviewed, the two are inextricably linked – a
massively flawed election in 2014, or a failure to hold an election at all,
could easily result in a destabilizing situation where there is no legitimate
civilian control, and security forces could break down and begin competing for
power along ethnic and factional lines.”
OBAMA RECENTLY announced that
within the next two years the war in Afghanistan as we know it would be
Afghan Senate vice chair Mohammad Alam Ezdyar said recently, “The
commitments being made towards Afghanistan are ambiguous up to now; the
international community should not abandon Afghanistan and repeat the mistakes
of the ’90s.”
But Obama wants to keep details vague as speculation
abounds that a withdrawal from Afghanistan could cement his
The US seems torn between leaving Afghanistan to deteriorate
into utter chaos and maintaining a presence there to ensure stability and
prevent another Taliban takeover.
The failed experience in Iraq
demonstrates that the US can fight wars but appears less adept at
Afghanistan will play a major role in the upcoming US
elections and some believe Obama may decide which course of action to take based
on which would garner the most votes.
Dr. Paul D. Miller, referring in
Foreign Policy to the recently signed US-Afghan Strategic Partnership Agreement,
writes, “the crux of the long-term US commitment to Afghanistan in the new
agreement is this: ‘The United States shall designate Afghanistan a “Major Non-
NATO Ally.” The Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA) designation was created by Congress
in 1989 as a way of identifying America’s major strategic partners without the
burdensome requirements of a formal treaty... The designation has a powerful
symbolic value: it is a public affirmation of a country’s affiliation with the
United States, a global badge of American approval. Although the designation
does not technically carry a security guarantee or legally obligate the United
States to come to the defense of a designee, the label of “ally” implies as
much. Only 14 states and Taiwan have been given the MNNA status. Critics may
argue that MNNA status is merely symbolic, but symbols are
Afghanistan is now in the same category as Japan, Australia,
Israel, and Pakistan.’” Yet even with Afghanistan as a fellow MNNA and minimal
US presence there, Israel will lose a strong allied force nearby. Iran flanks
Afghanistan on its western border and it is strategically important for Israel
to have a strong allied presence east of Iran in the event that a war with Iran
Concerning intelligence, it is vastly important that the US
has access to Iran’s eastern border, and a pullout could jeopardize the amount
of information that could be gleaned from remaining there.
instability that will accompany a US pullout would have far-reaching
consequences in the long-run for many countries, Israel included. Afghanistan
will become a hotbed of terrorist activity once again, and the uncertainty
stemming from Afghanistan’s future will spread to other countries as
The loss of an ally in that region means Israel will have a harder
battle to fight.