More than two years have passed since the complete withdrawal of the United States from Afghanistan, a move that has been deemed a tragedy by many American institutions, including lawmakers of the country. After two years, tensions persist between members of the House of Representatives and the State Department over the presentation of reports on the activities of American institutions in Afghanistan, making it a serious topic in U.S. foreign policy. Meanwhile, the United States has once again issued a warning, stating that it will take military action if any threat from Afghanistan endangers its security. In a letter to Congress, the White House asserted that U.S. military personnel stationed outside Afghanistan are there to counter threats against the security of the United States.
Despite two years and four months since the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan, both global and regional concerns have escalated, fearing that the group has not severed its ties with other international and regional terrorist organizations. Most countries accuse the Taliban of violating the Doha Agreement. Recently, the United States has imposed sanctions on two senior members of this group on charges of gender-based violence. This comes as some security experts believe that the U.S. still maintains a presence in Afghanistan, providing weekly financial aid to the Taliban to ensure their compliance with American interests.
President Joe Biden, in a letter to the lawmakers of the United States, has stated that U.S. forces stationed outside Afghanistan are prepared to address threats that may arise from within Afghanistan, jeopardizing American interests or territory.
The White House has submitted the “War Powers Resolution Report” of the U.S. President to the House of Representatives and the Senate in this country. However, the letter does not provide details on how potential attacks would be carried out. It mentions that this action has been taken to keep Congress informed about the deployment and combat capabilities of U.S. forces.
This comes as the United States, following its withdrawal from Afghanistan, consistently emphasizes its ongoing aerial surveillance of the country to combat terrorism. In 2022, President Biden authorized an airstrike on Ayman al-Zawahiri, the former leader of the Al-Qaeda network, in the Sherpur area of Kabul. Al-Zawahiri was killed as a result of the strike on an uninhabited aircraft in one of the guesthouses of Sirajuddin Haqqani, the acting Minister of Interior for the Taliban.
Security experts suggest that the content of this letter reveals the keen interest and sustained presence of the United States in the region. According to them, Afghanistan is considered the optimal location for U.S. presence in the region, given the proximity of Central and South Asian countries to China and Russia.
Security experts emphasize that the reference in the letter to the “War Powers Resolution,” through which the United States initially deployed military forces to Afghanistan, indicates an escalation in security threats. Some analysts believe that, in addition to addressing Congress, this letter conveys a deterrent and firm message from the United States to Iran and groups such as the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, Rahmatullah Nabil, the former head of Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS), speaking to the Hasht-e Subh Daily, states that correspondence between the White House and Congress regarding current political issues, both domestic and foreign, is a routine matter. He adds, “I do not take the statements of the Biden administration too seriously; it seems more directed for their domestic consumption.”
Mr. Nabil adds that various concerns have been raised in the recent letter, indicating, in addition to other threats against U.S. interests in the Middle East and other regions, a brief mention of Afghanistan. This suggests that the United States will act from its regional bases to control potential threats from Afghanistan.
The former head of Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security states that one of the reasons for expressing these concerns by the United States might be a reminder of Afghanistan in response to the recent report of the United Nations Security Council. The report highlighted the deep ties of the Taliban with other terrorist groups and the resulting threats. According to him, the Biden administration relies more on justifications and successes such as the “Over the Horizon” operations, the killing of Ayman al-Zawahiri, and accessing intelligence information through their active sources within the Taliban.
He emphasizes that as the U.S. elections draw nearer, these election-related subjects may become more prominent.
On the other hand, Samad Samadi, a security affairs expert, states that the U.S. has not abandoned Afghanistan. According to him, the United States has brought the Taliban to power to maintain control over Afghanistan because the government of Ashraf Ghani lacked this capability.
Mr. Samadi adds that geopolitically, aside from Afghanistan, the United States has no other place in the region, and Central Asian countries align with Russia, China, and Iran. He sees the monthly sending of 120 million U.S. dollars for the Taliban’s continued governance as a reason for the presence of the U.S. in Afghanistan. Samadi emphasizes that the Taliban have no foreign independence, and so far, countries have not officially recognized this group, providing a reason for America’s return.
This security expert adds that the deployment of U.S. special forces to Afghanistan and the absolute control of Bagram Air Base likely support one of the anti-Taliban fronts, probably the Freedom Front of Afghanistan, creating a government without the presence of former leaders and preventing the entry of jihadist leaders into power. These are among the possible options the United States is considering for military action in Afghanistan.
The White House sent this letter to Congress at a time when Michael McCaul, the head of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, had previously stated that the Biden administration had misled public opinion about the withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan.
The committee had requested the U.S. State Department to provide communication channels, responsiveness, a report on America’s diplomatic mission for Afghanistan, and the urgent plans of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.
Meanwhile, Lloyd Austin, the U.S. Secretary of Defense, has referred to Afghanistan as a tumultuous land on the occasion of the second anniversary of the country’s withdrawal, without explicitly naming the Taliban. He stated that in America’s 20-year war in Afghanistan, 2,461 Americans were killed, and another 20,000 were wounded.
In addition, General Frank McKenzie, the former head of the United States Central Command (CENTCOM), expressed regret over the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan. In an interview with Fox News, he said, “History will judge our decision to withdraw from Afghanistan in the future; about how we acted and the way that guided us to appear as a deep divide.”
President Joe Biden, on the occasion of the second anniversary of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, reiterated that his country does not need a military presence in a specific location to combat terrorist threats. He emphasized that Afghanistan’s threats are being addressed through intelligence, military, and diplomatic tools.
Previously, the United Nations Security Council, in its fourteenth analytical report on Afghanistan, stated that the Taliban maintains ties with over 20 terrorist groups, including Al-Qaeda, the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the East Turkestan Movement, and other fear-inducing groups. As the U.S. announces the possibility of military action in Afghanistan, regional countries, especially Tajikistan, have repeatedly warned about the presence of terrorist groups under Taliban rule. In the latest development, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) declared that terrorist groups are actively present in Afghanistan, and drug trafficking from the country continues.
Furthermore, General Anatoly Sidorov, the Chief of the Joint Staff of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, stated last month that the Taliban do not have complete control over the situation in Afghanistan. According to him, the organization has taken measures to curb the terrorism threat emanating from Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan, in its annual report from the year 2022 published this month, expressed that Afghanistan’s neighbors are deeply concerned about potential terrorist threats from Afghanistan. The ministry stated that the Taliban have continued to shelter terrorist groups contrary to their commitments.
Previously, the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) categorized terrorist groups in Afghanistan into allies and opponents of the Taliban. According to the information from this institution, Al-Qaeda, the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, and numerous jihadist groups in Central Asia are considered allies of the Taliban, while ISIS Khorasan (IS-K) is counted among their opponents.
Furthermore, Rahmatullah Nabil, the former head of the National Directorate of Security of Afghanistan, in recent security discussions held at the Herat Security Dialogue a few days ago, in the city of Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, mentioned that he has reports indicating that a faction of the Taliban is exploring how to acquire tactical nuclear weapons.
However, the Taliban have repeatedly denied the presence of terrorist groups in Afghanistan. Earlier, Abbas Stanikzai, the political deputy of the Taliban’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, had advised American generals that, in the post-American world, the Taliban are the “second superpower.”