By Willy B
Politico, citing unnamed defense sources, reported yesterday that for all practical purposes, the US military withdrawal is complete. “The withdrawal is over, for all intents and purposes,” said one of the anonymous officials with direct knowledge of the situation. “It’s done.” There are roughly 600 troops in the country, soldiers and Marines whose job is providing security for the US Embassy in Kabul and at Kabul’s international airport and they’ll be staying. Aside from them, the only U.S. military personnel left to withdraw by the Sept. 11 deadline Biden set in May are Gen. Scott Miller, the commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, and a handful of staff, the two officials said. In addition, the U.S. military must also pull out the remaining security and logistical forces sent in temporarily this spring to enable the drawdown, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said in a statement. Miller is still working on the transition of command from US Forces-Afghanistan to US Central Command.
With the US military now leaving, other countries of the region, including predominantly Russia, China, India and Iran, have been engaged in a flurry of diplomacy aimed at finding a solution to stabilize Afghanistan. They all have legitimate interest in a stable Afghanistan, particularly regarding the spillover effects of terrorism and drug trafficking but have largely been blocked from addressing those concerns because of the US military occupation of the country. But now the diplomacy has taken off.
In the last day, much of the activity has been centered on Tehran, where the Iranian Foreign Ministry hosted a meeting of delegations from both the government in Kabul and frm the Taliban. “Today the people and political leaders of Afghanistan must make difficult decisions for the future of their country,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamed Javad Zarif on Tuesday to welcome the delegations to Tehran. Zarif appealed to the warring parties in Afghanistan to return to the negotiating table, calling “commitment to political solutions the best choice for Afghanistan’s leaders and political movements.”
Yesterday, while the Afghan delegations were meeting, Zarif also welcomed Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, to discuss, among other bilateral matters, Afghanistan. Zarif and Jaishankar underlined the need to give a boost to Intra-Afghan talks to pave the way for participation of all the Afghan sides in the political process of the country, reported IRNA. The Indian foreign minister referred to the ongoing talks between Afghanistan’s government and the Taliban groups in Tehran, hailing Iran’s efforts to bring close the viewpoints of both sides to reach a comprehensive political solution. The also discussed the broader range of bilateral matters between Iran and India.
There are other diplomatic elements to this effort as well. Jaishanker’s visit to Tehran was said to be on his way to Moscow for further discussions with Sergei Lavrov on Afghanistan. There are also discussions in both Pakistan and China about extending the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor into Central Asia via Afghanistan. In February of 2021, the foreign ministers of Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan reached agreement on building a railway corridor from Tashkent, Uzbekistan’s capitol, to the Pakistani port of Gwardar. This is not to suggest that these efforts will succeed in turning Afghanistan into a real country but clearly the 20-year US military campaign has failed and the countries of the region recognize that a new approach, with a significant economic and regional component, is needed.