On Wednesday, the White House announced that it will “fully” and “rapidly” withdraw the U.S. military presence in Syria, where approximately 2,000 U.S. troops have been stationed in the northeastern, Kurdish-controlled part of the country, near its border with Turkey. USIP’s Mona Yacoubian examines the implications of the troop withdrawal and its broader impact on the Syria conflict.
Professor Rachel Epstein’s interview with Professor Donald Abenheim of the Naval Postgraduate School and Lieutenant Colonel (General Staff) Marc-André Walther of the German Armed Forces Command and Staff College in Hamburg.
1. The President of the United States had some tough words for America’s NATO’s allies at the recent summit in Brussels. Is this sort of brinkmanship normal in the history of the Alliance?
On the 6th of June, after only two hours of reflection, the Austrian government ordered the withdrawal of its peacekeepers from the Golan Heights, thus ending its 39-year engagement in the area. In an official statement, the 380 UN peacekeepers were pulled out because of the “continuing deterioration of the situation in the area.”
In the months leading up to the withdrawal, UN troops had witnessed increasing spill-over from the conflict in Syria, with mortars hitting the Israeli-controlled parts of the Golan Heights. When Syrian rebels seized control of the strategically important Quneitra border crossing between Syria and Israeli-controlled territory – albeit only for a short period of time – the possibility of the IDF crossing over into Syrian territory to secure Israel’s border became plausible. This is reportedly what led Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann to call for the withdrawal of Austrian troops. » More
The date of the withdrawal of most of Western forces from Afghanistan is approaching but the war and the state of the war in Afghanistan continue. The US consolidates its strategic military bases in Afghanistan while it is talking about pulling out. Despite this conflicting narrative, the Western disentanglement in Afghanistan gives rises to two crucial and conjointly defined questions. First, how will Western drawdown shape the future of Afghanistan? Second, how will the major post-withdrawal power vacuum in south and Central Asia makes the geopolitical map of south and Central Asia and by consequence, the global power structure?
Both the power vacuum and global power structure gravitate largely on the outcome of the war in Afghanistan and the future of ungoverned titanic mountain ranges between Afghanistan and Pakistan, a leftover of the nineteenth-century British colonialism. History let Afghanistan in a unique geopolitical position. The turbulent developments in the last two centuries show that this country—was once described by the late Richard Nixon as the “turnstile of the fate of Asia,”—has been a transit area for the emerging powers in the region and its future has been determined by adventurous foreign interventions. This truth makes the Afghan theatre of war merely a sideshow in the larger regional and international contention that was termed by Kipling ‘the Great Game,’ in Central Asia. » More
The withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan by 2014 has been the central foreign policy issue of both of Obama’s Presidential campaigns. American citizens seem to generally support the initiative, while both criticizing the timing and questioning the outcome for the U.S. and Afghanistan. Many ordinary Americans have asked why the U.S. should keep engaging with Afghanistan post-2014, or why the withdrawal cannot come sooner so as to avoid the unnecessary losses of American soldiers. Others argue that the United States, as a world leader, should act responsibly to prevent Afghanistan from falling into a devastating civil war, and thus criticize the withdrawal as a product of poor judgment that will lead inevitably to chaos. As an example, they cite the post-Soviet withdrawal, following which the U.S. abandoned the country and it fell under Taliban control.
Serving as political affairs officer for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) last year, I observed – like many others inside and outside the country – that for various reasons the local population did not feel very hospitable towards the international forces, to say the least. Many Afghans, either ignorantly or deliberately, do not see any difference between the ISAF and the international community, referring to all of them as Americans or American puppets. For that very reason, the incident that occurred on 1 April 2011, when the UN compound in one of the regions was attacked by demonstrators infuriated over the burning of the Qur’an. More recently there has been a steady increase in so-called green-on-blue attacks on ISAF soldiers. Instead of going into the details of each incident, we can ask more generally: Do Afghans want Americans in their country beyond 2014? » More