In recent days the US and NATO forces have rapidly pulled out of Afghanistan to fulfill Biden’s objective to end the decades-long war. Afghanistan has been home to extensive fighting ever since the Soviet invasion, which led to the US funding rebel groups to counter Soviet advances. Groups that were trained and funded by the US later turned against their former allies, who they saw as foreign invaders due to US meddling in the Middle East. US forces have fought in the mountainous country for two decades now, and groups like the Taliban still control large swaths of the countryside. Some people have called the “US-Afghan” war a forever war. Afghanistan forces were already given control of a few bases before the recent pullout of the massive Bagram airfield complex, which was left without power and full of trash.
Biden’s objective may be positive for America, but it has enabled Taliban forces to gain massive territorial gains. Northern Afghanistan is turning into a ghost town as many Afghan soldiers flee to neighboring countries instead of fighting the Taliban. A colossal rift of power has been opened up, and the current Afghanistan government cannot fill that gap. The massive territorial gains by the Taliban have made the Afghan government reconsider its strategy since the lack of US firepower means that they cannot defend too much land at once. Afghan government troops can only set up defensively and watch as the country crumbles into Taliban hands.
Taliban advances are now starting to alert countries that have resources within the war-torn country. Consulates in the northern province of Balkh have been closed or are now offering reduced services for security reasons. Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Indian, and Pakistani consulates are some of the consulates that have been shuttered. Many diplomats have also left the northern part of Afghanistan entirely. This move shows that the international community lacks faith that the current Afghan government can handle the war with the Taliban. As Taliban forces keep gaining ground, more consulates will probably close shop for good. Civilians caught in the crossfire and soldiers working for Afghan forces now have little chance to get assistance leaving the country. Many Afghans will likely escape to neighboring countries rather than live under a new Taliban administration. Afghan forces, in particular, do not want to face the wrath of an invigorated Taliban as being captured will almost certainly include extensive torture and cruel imprisonment.
Afghanistan is slowly losing any safe zones that existed during the “US-Afghan” war. Taliban forces and the Afghan government are not likely to sign any ceasefires or attempt peace talks at any point in the future. A small group of US forces remains to help protect the Hamid Karzai international airport being built in Kabul. In the coming months, the “safe” areas controlled by the government will probably shrink significantly unless another military power sends in assistance.
Afghanistan could host a new set of military powers as the situation within the country increases in intensity. China is a global power interested in controlling the region for the benefit of its belt and road initiative. A secure Afghanistan corridor would vastly increase the influence of China in the Middle East. Russia is another power that is interested in future affairs within the Afghan region. Taliban control of Afghanistan might create a headache for former soviet nations as insurgent forces possibly expand their control North. Pakistan wants to exert more control over the region to ensure safety from the sphere of influence. Iranian-backed Afghanistan would sandwich Pakistan between two dire enemies. Finally, Iran most likely sees the exit of the US as a golden opportunity to exert more influence locally. Iranian-backed militias could fill the power void left by the US.
Afghanistan in the future could go multiple different paths. Taliban forces could take over the crossroad state and start picking fights with larger neighbors. Intervening Iranian forces could spread Iran’s influence far into the eastern parts of Afghanistan towards Pakistan. Russia could try and intervene on the Afghan government’s side to secure the safety of their former Soviet allies. Afghan forces could outright abandon the country and leave it as a new puppet state for regional powers to dominate.
Even with the exit of the United States forces, Afghanistan’s future is looking more like the same. Foreign money funding groups to fight other groups sponsored by different foreign nations. Afghanistan’s government has roughly the same level of control of their country as they had for the last two decades. Unfortunately, the people of Afghanistan will likely suffer under foreign-sponsored wars for another few decades due to global politics dominating the region.