By Baber Khan Sahel
Kabul, Apr 15 (EFE).- Afghans are anticipating a surge in violence after the United States announced that it would withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by Sep. 11, despite Washington promising continued assistance on Thursday during a surprise visit by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
US President Joe Biden had on Wednesday announced the new date for the troop pullout after reviewing the peace agreement signed in February 2020 between Washington and the Taliban in Doha.
Blinken met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and the president of the High Council for National Reconciliation, Abdullah Abdullah, on Thursday after landing in Afghanistan on Thursday.
He insisted that the US would stay committed to Afghanistan despite the withdrawal of around 3,500 US personnel from the country, apart from 7,000 soldiers of other NATO countries.
Blinken added that Washington would continue its diplomatic and humanitarian assistance and back efforts to facilitate the Afghan peace process, according to a statement released by the Afghan presidential palace.
On his part, Ghani said that Kabul respects the US decision and now the government would try and ensure an easy transition, insisting that the Afghan security forces were capable of defending the country.
The US announcement has infuriated the Taliban, who have threatened to resume attacks on international forces and boycott peace negotiations if Washington does not pull out its troops by May 1, the original deadline laid down in the Doha agreement.
The foreign ministry of neighboring Pakistan said in a statement Thursday that “it is important that the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan coincides with progress in the peace process.”
However, for ordinary Afghans on the street – who have witnessed democratic values being restored after the 2001 US invasion – the withdrawal of international troops has triggered concerns.
“As a person who could go to school, find a job, and have the rights which were denied under the Taliban in the past 20 years, I am not happy with the withdrawal of the US security forces from Afghanistan,” women’s rights activist Wahida Faizi told EFE.
“We are already in a bad security situation and I fear it will get worse with the removal of foreign troops. We will lose our hard-earned achievements, freedoms and freedom of speech,” said Faizi, who works for nonprofit Afghan Journalists’ Safety Committee (AJSC).
She warned that the Taliban could become stronger and even win the war, which would result in a revival of their “violent system.”
Rahila (name changed for protecting her identity), a 26-year-old working for a foreign NGO in Kabul, said that Biden’s decision was a mistake.
“For Americans the withdrawal of troops would be the end of an endless war, but for Afghans it’s the start of a new endless war,” she said, adding that the Taliban had continued to kill “bright and educated women and men” despite the ongoing peace negotiations in Qatar..
Rahila warned that if the Taliban returned to power through violence, it could result in hundreds of thousands of Afghans fleeing the country.
Biden has said that after 20 years of military presence in Afghanistan, the US had completed its goals of dismantling the Al Qaeda terrorist network and killing its leader Osama bin Laden.
“If the whole point of invading Afghanistan was to kill Osama, he was found in Pakistan, they should have invaded and bombed Pakistan,” activist Habib Khan Totakhail, president of Afghanistan’s peace watchdog Research Media Center, told EFE.
He criticized the announcement of foreign troop withdrawal even though the Afghan government and the Taliban had not reached a peace agreement or signed a ceasefire.
“This will boost Taliban’s morale to try for military win,” Totakhail warned. EFE