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US War in Afghanistan: Explainer: When is the US War in Afghanistan Really Over?

WASHINGTON: As the last American combat troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, the question arises: When is the war really over? For Afghans the answer is obvious, but grim: there is no time soon.
A raging Taliban insurgency is making gains on the battlefield, and potential peace talks are stalled. Some fear that once foreign forces leave, Afghanistan will go deeper into civil war. Though humiliated, an Afghan ally of the Islamic State extremist network also lurks.
For the United States and its coalition partners, the final game is questionable. Although all combat troops and 20 years of accumulated munitions will soon be gone, the head of US Central Command, General Frank McKenzie, will have until September to defend Afghan forces against the Taliban. He could do so by ordering strikes with US warplanes based outside Afghanistan, according to defense officials who discussed details of the military plan on Thursday on condition of anonymity.
A look at the end of the war:
What’s left in the combat mission?
Technically, the US military has not been involved in ground fighting in Afghanistan since 2014. But counter-terrorist forces have since been chasing and killing extremists, including on an Afghanistan-based plane. Those strike aircraft are now gone and those attacks, with no support whatsoever for Afghan forces, will be carried out from outside the country.
Inside Afghanistan, US troops will no longer be there to train or advise Afghan forces. An unusually large US security contingent of 650 soldiers, based in the US embassy compound, will protect US diplomats and potentially help secure Kabul International Airport. Turkey is expected to continue its current mission of providing airport security, but Mackenzie will have more than 300 troops to assist with that mission until September.
It is also possible that the US military could be asked to assist in the mass evacuation of Afghans seeking special immigrant visas, although the State Department-led effort may not require a military airlift. The White House is concerned that Afghans who aided the US war effort, and thus vulnerable to Taliban retaliation, may not be left behind.
When he decided to end the American war in April, President Joe Biden gave the Pentagon until September 11 to complete the withdrawal. Scott Miller, the general in charge of the army in Kabul, has essentially finished it already, with almost all military equipment gone and few soldiers left.
Miller is expected to visit himself in the coming days. But is this the end of the American war? With 950 US troops in the country by September and the prospect of continued airstrikes, the answer is probably no.
how wars end
Unlike in Afghanistan, some wars end with a flourish. World War I ended with the armistice signed with Germany on November 11, 1918 – a day now celebrated as a federal holiday in the US – and the subsequent signing of the Treaty of Versailles.
World War II saw double celebrations as Victory in Europe (VE Day) and Japan’s surrender with Germany’s surrender in 1945, and a few months later as Victory over Japan (VJ Day) after the US atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. . In Korea, an armistice signed in July 1953 ended the fighting, although technically the war was suspended simply because no peace treaty was ever signed.
Other endings have been less clear. The US pulled troops out of Vietnam in 1973, in what many consider to be a failed war that ended with the fall of Saigon two years later. And when convoys of US troops left Iraq in 2011, a ceremony marked their final departure. But just three years later, American troops were back to rebuild Iraqi forces that had collapsed under attacks from Islamic State militants.
win or lose?
As America’s war in Afghanistan draws to a close, there will be no surrender, no peace treaty, no final victory and no decisive defeat. Biden says it was enough that the US military dismantled al-Qaeda and killed Osama bin Laden, the group’s leader believed to be the mastermind of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Recently, violence in Afghanistan has increased. Taliban attacks on Afghan forces and civilians have intensified and the group has taken control of more than 100 district centres. Pentagon leaders have said there is a “moderate” risk that the Afghan government and its security forces will collapse within the next two years, if not sooner.
US leaders insist that the only way to peace in Afghanistan is through dialogue. The Trump administration signed a deal with the Taliban in February 2020 that said the US would withdraw its troops by May 2021 in return for Taliban promises, including that it would allow Afghanistan to respond to attacks on the US. Prevents it from becoming a staging ground.
US officials say the Taliban are not fully complying with their share of the deal, even as the US withdrawal continues.
birth mission
The NATO Resolute Support Mission to train, advise and assist Afghan security forces began in 2015, when the US-led combat mission was declared over. At that time, the Afghans took full responsibility for their own security, yet they depended on billions of dollars a year in American aid.
At the height of the war, Afghanistan had more than 130,000 troops from 50 NATO countries and partner countries. About 10,000 troops from 36 countries were reduced for the Resolute Support mission, and by this week most had withdrawn their troops.
Some may see the war coming to an end when the NATO mission is announced. But it doesn’t happen for months.
According to officials, Turkey is negotiating a new bilateral agreement with Afghan leaders to remain at the airport to provide security. Until that agreement is completed, the legal authority for Turkish troops living in Afghanistan is under the auspices of the Resolute Support Mission.
counterterror mission
The withdrawal of US forces does not mean the end of the war on terrorism. The US has made it clear that it has the right to launch attacks against al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups in Afghanistan if it threatens the American homeland.
As the US pulled its fighter and surveillance aircraft out of the country, it must now rely on manned and unmanned flights from ships at sea and airports in the Gulf region, such as Al-Dhafra Airport in the United Arab Emirates. The Pentagon is exploring alternative options for surveillance aircraft and other assets in countries close to Afghanistan. As of now, no agreement has been reached. (AP)

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