On 29 February, the United States signed an agreement with the Taliban designed to allow for an orderly withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Afghanistan by next spring if not sooner. Coming after many months of difficult negotiations, the decision carried a promise from the Taliban to deny to any terrorist group or individual the use of Afghan soil to undertake an attack on the United States or its allies. The accord also carried a Taliban commitment to participate in an intra-Afghan dialogue quickly aimed at a peaceful resolution of the civil conflict. American policy for Afghanistan must be seen as well on a broader canvas of continuing U.S. diplomatic, political and military disengagement regionally. As in Afghanistan, withdrawal leaves unanswered many questions about how American national security interests may be affected, particularly at a time of increased great power competition.
What might be the impact of a full U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan on the course of the civil war and prospects for peace talks? What would the United States do if after departure the Taliban broke the terms of their agreement or threatened the survival of the Afghan state? How would the end of an American military presence affect relations with Pakistan? And is the United States prepared to accede to strongly increased Iranian, Russian, or Chinese influence in Afghanistan and the region?
Senior fellow, Atlantic Council
Ronald E. Neumann
President, The American Academy of Diplomacy
J. Alexander Thier
Senior advisor, Center for Strategic and International Studies
Senior fellow and deputy director, South Asia Program, Stimson Center
Marvin Weinbaum, moderator
Director, Afghanistan and Pakistan Studies, MEI