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US troops staying in Afghanistan: The real reason is ISIL
As per two separate news items published in New York Times, they report '"In the Afghan government, we have a serious partner who wants our help," President said in his televised statement. "And the majority of the Afghan people share our goals. We have a bilateral security agreement to guide our cooperation."
Yet even before Kunduz city fell to the Taliban, the administration had been under growing pressure from the military and others in Washington, including the United States Congress, to abandon plans that would have cut by about half the number of troops in Afghanistan next year, and then drop the American force to about 1,000 troops based only at the embassy in Kabul by the start of 2017.

Now, instead of falling back to the embassy - a heavily fortified compound in the center of Kabul - the administration officials said on 14 October, 2015 that the military would be able to maintain its operations at Bagram Air Field to the north of Kabul, the main American hub in Afghanistan, and at bases outside Kandahar in the country's South and Jalalabad in the East.

President Obama has made it clear he is loath to commit American military forces to the Middle East, especially ground troops, deeming it a largely losing proposition that costs American lives without fixing the problems being addressed. And he repeated on 15 October, 2015 that he opposes "endless war."

But Afghanistan is still seen as more directly tied to American interests than Iraq or Syria, since it was the base from which al-Qaeda planned its attack on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. And President Obama does not want to pass along to his successor a fraying situation in Afghanistan on top of the current turmoil in Syria and Iraq.

The continued presence of 9,800 American troops next year and then 5,500 after that - down from more than 100,000 at its peak - may make only a modest difference militarily. But President Obama is gambling that it matters politically by showing that the United States is not giving up on the Kabul government and leaving a vacuum for other forces to fill.'

This is true that from military aspect the United States needs to continue its presence in Afghanistan for longer term than previously agreed upon though I thought that President Obama would not agree for review. The fact is that despite of the previous and present administrations poring in billions of USD, Afghanistan does not have proper infrastructure and in villages the writ of Afghan state does not run. There is always a scope of militancy reviving in Afghanistan and judging from recent situation Taliban is becoming increasingly resurgent and similarly al-Qaeda could revive back as well.

But the real concern for Obama administration in Afghanistan is the rise of ISIL there. Obviously, this would be concern for all future administrations. Afghanistan is a Sunni dominated state with tribal loyalties guiding people's lives, especially in rural areas and Afghanistan has very few urban areas from South Asian perspectives. Many of those tribal lordships can swing their affiliations towards ISIL and ISIL and al-Qaeda together with resurgent Taliban can have a tacit understanding among them without merger and can create havoc all around the region and possibly in the patches in the West as well while basing themselves in Afghanistan. The ISIL can also lead from behind in Afghanistan.

In essence, ISIL is a deadlier militant organization from any of its predecessors and its ideology can be nausea for a significant majority of Sunni population too. But then it has many supporters and backers all around the globe as well. The continued presence of American troops could also be a reason for continuing militancy as per al-Qaeda and Taliban. They want all foreign forces to be out from the nation but would not abandon their guns even then.

Anyway it is a lame excuse. The fact is that the United States should keep its military role in rather passive forms and this appears to be a likely case in view of numbers of military personnel it will keep post-2016. Sure, new President can increase the numbers of marines and officers depending on the advice he or she may get from the Pentagon generals. 

If ISIL deeply penetrates Afghanistan, which I believe will be the case in next year or so, then the successor to President Obama would have to increase American and other NATO military presence there. Anyway, I think it is a long drawn out battle as ISIL in its present form is going to stay for quite some time in the Middle East, the North Africa and parts of Central and South Asia. It will become deadlier and taxing on all peace-loving people when it expands its influence across the South-East and East Asia.

Thus, if Pentagon would have fully withdrawn its troops from Afghanistan in 2016 except keeping it presence to embassy sized then it would have been an open invitation to ISIL to prey upon. And when the White House has decided to keep residual presence in Afghanistan then ISIL and its likes will use anti-American arguments to boost their presence and activities all over the world, particularly in the Islamic parts of the globe.

It should be noted that nowadays not only security of the West matters but so does of the Islamic and other non-Western parts of the world. Since, it is the Islamic world which gets affected more they have to put in their efforts; in treasure and men, to keep themselves safe. Sure, the Pentagon has to have a role of the leader in friendly countries. The spillover effect of instability in majority parts of Islamic world can be felt all across the world with the West not only dealing the situation militarily but it also facing refugee crises and having compulsions to provide aid and assistance to the order of billions of USD to refugees and internally displaced people.

In particular, the Pentagon needs to make sure that its troops are safe and within the ambit of those safety parameters it needs to formulate its policy on Afghanistan. It is no cowardice but an act of valour. Despite of various complexities the Pentagon should not as a rule lead dangerous ground missions and should mostly aid, assist and provide logistical, intelligence and financial support to Afghan National Forces. It is they who will have to sacrifice their lives for the sake of their nation.

The Pentagon in Afghanistan should use its military presence to dissuade militants from taking very dangerous and violent missions though they cannot be cowed down that effectively. But anyway, the United States and other NATO forces should act like specialists and should have proper combination of ground and airpower including sufficient and effective power of drones. 

The biggest important thing is intelligence and if the Pentagon has correct and effective intelligence then it can stop many terrorist acts. For that it needs to seek more help from the CIA and also needs to cooperate with locals. But still the Pentagon and the CIA should not leave it exclusively to locals to collect pieces of information about various terrorist groups.

I think Pentagon generals should tell marines that it is a long battle which could last another decade. So, they should not feel fatigue. One needs to understand the concerns of Pakistani government too and should make sure that civilians continue their rule in Islamabad. 

The Pentagon while keeping its drone operation along the Af-Pak border intact should try to reduce civilian causalities and other collateral damages even if it means increasing the cost and length of operations there. The United States should make sure that its forces do not act in a manner which can prompt Pakistani military to intervene out-of-the-way in the governance. There is Russian factor as well but it is not the topic of discussion here.

As I always argue that ISIL will not be the last terrorist group, neither the war against terror would stop after ISIL is hypothetically defeated and 'decimated'. So, the Pentagon should see wars in Afghanistan and in the Middle East as a clue that this would be almost permanent thing for many decades to come and it should change its normal appropriately. It should thrive to become a more precise force with least possible technical and human errors. The war is here to stay and so will be Pentagon's response globally.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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