Total Afghan pullout would trigger ‘civil war, disaster’

Total Afghan pullout would trigger ‘civil war, disaster’

Total Afghan pullout would trigger ‘civil war, disaster’

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai (L) meets Sen Mitch McConnell in Washington. The president will meet with his US counterpart today. AP photo

Afghan lawmakers said Jan. 9 disaster and civil war would follow if Washington pushed ahead with a suggestion to withdraw all its troops from the country after 2014.

The White House said a day earlier it was considering the so-called “zero option” of a complete pullout, despite earlier recommendations from the top military commander in Afghanistan to keep soldiers there to help the government.

That option and the angry reaction from Afghan officials are likely to dominate talks between President Barack Obama and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai in Washington today. The meeting was already likely to be tense, given ongoing strains in their relationship over the war.

Repetition of 1990

“If Americans pull out all of their troops without a plan, the civil war of the 1990s would repeat itself,” said Naeem Lalai, an outspoken lawmaker from volatile Kandahar province, the birthplace of the Taliban. “It (full withdrawal) will pave the way for the Taliban to take over militarily,” Lalai told Reuters.

When the Soviets left Afghanistan in 1989 after a decade-long war, financial aid dried up and the Afghan communist government collapsed, leading to infighting between warlords. A civil war paved the way for the Taliban’s rise to power. The United States has about 68,000 troops there and that number was already expected to reduce sharply ahead of December 2014, the official end of the NATO-led combat mission in the country.

NATO and its partners are racing against the clock to train up Afghanistan’s 350,000-strong security forces though questions remain over how they well they will be able to tackle insurgents in the face of intensifying violence.

“If American forces leave Afghanistan without properly training the Afghan security forces, and equipping them, it would be a disaster,” said influential member of Parliament Mirwais Yasini.

Member of Parliament Shukria Barekzai said a total withdrawal after 2014 would be equivalent to the United States “accepting defeat.” U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said the complete withdrawal was “an option that we would consider” on Jan. 8.