An analyst of Afghanistan affairs, explaining the US aims for maintaining presence in Afghanistan as well as negotiating with the Taliban, emphasized: Unfortunately, the current situation in Afghanistan has reached a point where it seems that the country will enter into a new cycle of internal conflict, and this situation is favorable for the United States.
AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): Dr. Mojtaba Norouzi, in an interview stated that the United States has not had a consistent strategy on Afghanistan in the past 20 years for various reasons, including domestic conditions, adding: During that period, at least three or four important turning points can be considered in the US policy toward Afghanistan.
He added: In addition to differences in party policy, lack of knowledge of US politicians and policymakers about the internal situation in Afghanistan has forced them to change strategy and eventually through a series of idealistic slogans in the early years, including the nation-state building, cradle of freedom of expression and socialization in the region, achieved quite pragmatic and utilitarian goals.
US objectives behind presence in Afghanistan
The expert on Afghan affairs referred to former US President Trump’s remarks regarding the pursuit of specific interests in Afghanistan and said: The direct threat of interests, from the territory of Afghanistan and by the Islamic extremist currents based in it, was the first reason and desire of the United States for being present in that country. At first, it was thought that they could secure their interests if they put in place a fully aligned government that was fully dependent on the US economically and also was the US ally.
Referring to US political pressure on Afghanistan to sign a strategic memorandum of understanding with the country, which led to its signing on the first day of Ashraf Ghani’s tenure in power, Norouzi continued: Other US interests in Afghanistan goes back to the geopolitical and geo-economy situation of that country. However, the country is at the heart of the geographical triangle of Iran, China and Russia, which are the most important trans-regional competitors of the United States. They thought that being in Afghanistan could lead to controlling such rivals.
He added: In the geopolitical dimension, the US focus was mainly on energy and its transit. Since the 1970s, Mr. Khalilzad has been an intermediary for US energy companies with the Taliban to secure the Turkmen gas pipeline. If Afghanistan can be a platform for energy transfer from Central Asia to South Asia, Iran and Russia will be excluded from the issue of energy transfer from South Asia in this way, and also reduce importance of Persian Gulf energy reserves for the South Asian region. At the same time, Afghanistan’s mineral resources have always been of interest to the United States.
US cost-benefit review in Afghanistan
The analyst of Afghanistan affairs saying that the United States is still pursuing those goals said: With Trump in office, revisions were made in the US spending-benefits in Afghanistan, and the perception seems to be that costs have outweighed benefits, and even Trump noted that Afghanistan’s neighbors, including rivals and enemies, such as Iran, Russia and China, were taking advantage of the security that the US provided, there they should share in the costs!
Norouzi added: In the middle of the Trump era, we saw a serious turn in US policy, and it seems that they have come to the conclusion that instead of the government that they have spent so much to support, they should support the force that controls the country and if they negotiate with them all the interests of the United States would be guaranteed.
According to the expert, it seems that the agreement that the US reached within a year and a half of the Doha talks and the secret annexes that have not been published yet have been in this regard that the US interest in Afghanistan will be maintained. Of course, some aspects of that agreement have been explicitly stated, such as not endangering the US interests on Afghan soil and not turning it into a place for international extremist groups.
He stressed: From this time on, the United States completely abandoned the policy of supporting the central government of Afghanistan and went to support the Taliban. Until a few years ago, if Taliban officials were to be present in a city, second and third-rate US officials would be prevented from being present in that city, lest it would confirm the group’s legitimacy, but today they meet with them at the highest level and sign a memorandum and pledge to withdraw their forces!
Norouzi said: It seems that from now on, the United States will demand a role that the United States wanted to play directly. For this reason, the Taliban seem to be the most important lever for the United States inside Afghanistan today.
Emphasizing that Afghanistan’s insecurity would mean involvement of Iran and Russia directly and China indirectly, the expert on Afghanistan affairs added: However, the Taliban do not seem to be able to form their own government with peace of mind, and if they do, they will continue it. Social developments in Afghanistan and the new generation in that country are the most important and biggest obstacle for the Taliban. Since people have the experience of living in the government of a totalitarian group with a rigid reading of Islam and ethnicity, they naturally do not go under it again and easily.
Afghanistan will enter into a new cycle of civil strife
Saying that unfortunately, Afghanistan will be involved in a new cycle of civil strife, he said: This is a good thing for the United States. Under such circumstances, they will continue the policy of “running with the hare and hunting with the hounds” and, as in the past 20 years, will declare in appearance and slogans that there is freedom from civil society, the media, social freedom, women’s rights and Western values that they sought which, of course, were also supported by some domestic small actors, but in practice nothing will happen.
Referring to the recent visit of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to the United States, Norouzi said: With Biden’s treatment of the Afghan government team during that visit, it seems that they are not interested in getting involved in the internal affairs of that country again and consider the status quo as being favorable. Because in this case, both a significant amount of their costs will be reduced and the goals that they were pursuing in terms of information will be achieved with the currents that they have created; while engaging their rivals in Afghanistan’s internal affairs.
He continued: Ashraf Ghani, who was able to come to power with the direct and indirect support of the West, is not in a good position in terms of power now. He had high hopes that his trip to the United States would fill some parts of the gap, but because the trip was not a definite achievement and therefore they were disappointed, they did not talk much about it. Although Dr. Abdullah referred to the achievements of the trip at the conference, the achievements were undoubtedly not within the expectations and wishes of Mr. Ghani and his team.