Post 2 of 3: The Adults are back in charge for the upcoming NATO withdrawal of Troops
Biden will be in a tough spot. Biden is surrounded by Obama elements who think that the war in Afghanistan can still be won militarily.
6. The Feb 2020 Trump agreement with the Taliban called for the withdrawal of U.S.-led troops by May 2021 in return for the Taliban breaking with terrorist groups, sharply reducing violence and entering into peace negotiations with the Afghan government. The Americans entered the 2020 negotiations with the Taliban knowing that the country that gave shelter to Osama bin Laden was Pakistan (and not Afghanistan, after U.S. forces begin an air campaign with strikes on Taliban and al Qaeda forces. Small numbers of U.S. special forces and CIA agents soon slip into Afghanistan to help direct the bombing campaign and organise Afghan opposition forces that over threw the Taliban in 2001).
(a) The Feb 2021 shift in tone by Biden’s team is welcomed by the Afghan government, which had complained it was shut out of the negotiations between Washington and the Taliban. President Ashraf Ghani said he was heartened by the new team's approach and what he called its "early, focused, systematic attention."
(c) Although the Biden administration indicated it was prepared to put the brakes on withdrawal plans if necessary, it has chosen to retain Trump's peace envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad. Khalilzad, the architect of the U.S.-Taliban agreement, had strained relations with the Ghani government. But President Ghani suggested Khalilzad would be working for a new U.S. president, with a more coordinated, predictable approach.
That is rather simplistic. The 9/11 attacks were an act of war committed by a non-state actor, and IIRC it is the only time that the NATO clause pertaining to responding to an attack on a member state has ever been invoked. The ANZUS Treaty was invoked as well. The then Afghan government were asked to arrest and hand over bin Laden. When they refused an ultimatum was issued and when that expired then the US invaded. That was done legally and all above board with the US having justifiable causus belli.
7. Thanks for intervening in the thread and I agree with your point. American allies in NATO have troops in Afghanistan and they have valid concerns on Trump’s artificial timing for withdrawal. As I said before:
(a) In Sep 2001, NATO formally invoked Article 5 (its mutual defence clause) after receiving “clear and compelling” evidence from the US that Osama Bin Laden’s Al-Qaida terrorist network was behind the 11 Sep attacks in the US.
(b) This was the first time in NATO’s history that the alliance reaffirms its founding principle that an attack upon one is an attack upon all.
(c) The current legal framework for the Resolute Support Mission is provided by a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) and the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), which were signed in Kabul on 30 Sep 2014, and ratified by the Afghan Parliament on 27 Nov 2014. The SOFA defines the terms and conditions under which 9,600 NATO forces are deployed in Afghanistan as part of Resolute Support.
8. I see no need for Biden to stick to a troop withdrawal timeline set by Trump if it does not work, right? Biden’s team understands the mistakes made by Obama when he agreed to withdraw from Iraq too quickly in Dec 2011 and even Iran does not want the rapid collapse of the Afghan Government.
9. From a conceptual point of view, France in Operation Barkhane has demonstrated what 4,500 troops can do — when the political leadership is competent. After a “mini surge” of 600 additional French soldiers in the Sahel since Feb 2020, its counterterrorism Operation Barkhane is likely to revert to the pre-surge level, with more reductions possible in the medium term.
10. In broad strokes, there are American plans to withdraw the current 2,500 U.S. troops
in Afghanistan, along with 6,346 U.S. contractors
(PDF). As of 15 Jan 2021, the US troops in Afghanistan are engaged in two missions:
(a) a bilateral counterterrorism mission in cooperation with Afghan forces; and
(b) participation in the Resolute Support Mission, a non-combat mission focused on providing training, advice, and assistance support to Afghan forces.
11. Under a withdrawal agreement
(PDF) signed by the Trump administration and the Taliban in Feb 2020, there should be no U.S. troops left in Afghanistan by May 1. If Biden’s team decide that this can be done based on current conditions in Afghanistan, Biden’s team will do it. If not, they will consult allies and decide on the next steps.
12. While Pakistan is technically run by an elected government, that government cannot do anything the military disagrees with. With regards to Afghanistan, the ISI has its own secret policy towards Afghanistan that supersedes anything the politicians come up with or agree to. From what I see, Pakistan, as fragile state (25th on the list and more fragile than Venezuela), has to decide:
(a) if a stable Afghanistan (9th on the fragile state index and seen as more unstable than Mali or Iraq) that is growing economically is in its best interest; or
(b) if ISI believes that there are no consequences to screwing up the 2021 round of peace talks in Afghanistan.