MONITORIG (SW) – David Petraeus has warned the Trump administration against total withdrawal of combat forces from Afghanistan.
Petraeus, a retired U.S. Army general who served as commander of U.S. Central Command and of coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and as director of the Central Intelligence Agency, has warned that under no circumstances should the Trump administration repeat the mistake its predecessor made in Iraq.
He expressed these views in an op-ed co-written by Vance Serchuk, an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, published by the Wall Street Journal. The former general said the announcement of a peace agreement between the U.S. and the Taliban is said to be imminent, after years of combat and months of negotiation. The U.S. will reportedly promise to reduce its military presence in Afghanistan in exchange for a Taliban commitment to cooperate against international terrorism and enter direct talks with the Afghan government.
It added for Americans as well as Afghans, any possibility of settling this conflict is cause for hope. But even as citizens in both countries pray for peace, leaders in Washington must proceed with caution. While diplomatic progress with the Taliban may justify a reduction in U.S. force levels, under no circumstances should the Trump administration repeat the mistake its predecessor made in Iraq and agree to a total withdrawal of combat forces from Afghanistan.
A complete military exit from Afghanistan today would be even more ill-advised and risky than the Obama administration’s disengagement from Iraq in 2011. Iraq had largely been stabilized by the time the last U.S. combat elements left, with al Qaeda having been routed during the 2007 surge. In Afghanistan, by contrast, the Taliban are far from defeated, while some 20 foreign terrorist organizations like al Qaeda and ISIS retain a presence in the region. It is unlikely that any will join a peace deal, it said.
The idea that the U.S. can leave if the Taliban promise to combat rather than conspire with these groups is also wrongheaded. Until the Taliban demonstrate they have both the determination and the capability to work with the Afghan government against international terrorists—and there is ample reason to doubt this—common sense dictates the U.S. must retain its own means to pressure extremist networks plotting against the American homeland and U.S. allies. This can be accomplished only by having some number of capable American forces in Afghanistan, along with substantial “enablers” such as unmanned aerial vehicles and close air support, the article said.
It said the Taliban have clearly indicated what they will try to do once U.S. forces are gone: overthrow the Afghan government and reimpose medieval rule. Their resistance to a formal cease-fire, continued barbaric attacks on civilians, and opposition to elections scheduled for this fall are all warning signs. Such a conflagration is likely to reinvigorate the flagging fortunes of Islamist extremism world-wide and the global terrorist threat—which, despite the destruction of Islamic State’s territorial caliphate in Iraq and Syria, is by no means defeated, it said.