The U.S.’s combat mission in Afghanistan has come to an end three days earlier than the previously scheduled date of January 1, 2015.
On Sunday December 28, the force’s mandate to tackle the Taliban insurgency officially ends and the country will be left with almost 350,000 trained and capable – it is claimed - national police officers and military personnel.
In addition, 10,000 American troops will remain in Afghanistan for training and backup support. All remaining troops will leave by the end of 2015, no matter the situation and by the end of Obama’s presidency.
Cheerful Americans welcomed President Obama’s decision to withdraw the US troops from Afghanistan. The 13-year war, which cost $1 trillion according to the Financial Times, took more than 2000 American soldiers’ lives.
However, for many Afghan citizens the pullout is bad news – their country is still in a state of emergency and the Taliban is still active.
The insurgency and the terrorist activities increased with the gradual withdrawal of U.S. troops, making this year a bloody one for the country. According to the United Nations, Afghan civilians casualties are reported to be above 10,000.
It’s interesting that Afghans, it seems, do not view the foreign presence as an occupation or a humiliation. For Afghans, it is hard to accept going back to the same conditions as when they lived under Taliban rule.
Being so worried about the future, Afghan local newspapers and social media was full to the brim with fears and anxieties about the pullout. Afghans didn’t start the battle with the Taliban to be asked to end this battle themselves, as Obama is asking them to do now.
“Because of the extraordinary service of the men and women in the armed forces, Afghanistan has a chance to rebuild its own country,” he said in Hawaii.
How will they rebuild their country? With what recourses? Economic growth is paltry and dependence on foreign aid is high. It remains to be seen if the Afghan government will even be able to pay its civil servants without U.S. aid.
Some 18,000 foreign troops— around 10,600 of them American — are staying in Afghanistan under the terms of two security pacts the Afghan government signed with the U.S. and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in September. In a country which is marred by political squabbling and the inability to form a functioning cabinet, people are questioning the security forces’ ability to defend them.
President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan is due to visit Washington, D.C in January in his first trip to the United Sates since becoming the president. Asking for heavy weapons and machinery for Afghan troops is at the top of his priority list to discuss with President Obama.
The evidence is showing President Obama’s main focus from now on seems to be diplomacy rather than fighting and engaging American troops anywhere. Maybe drones would be another backup solution for the Afghans who are seeking American air defense support in the fight with Taliban.
January will be a telling month for the Taliban and Afghans to see who has the upper hand. While the world is in a celebration mood for the New Year, a different mood reigns in Kabul and other cities in Afghanistan. The fear of being forgotten. People don’t know what is next.
Camelia Entekhabi-Fard is a journalist, news commentator and writer who grew up during the Iranian Revolution and wrote for leading reformist newspapers. She is also the author of Camelia: Save Yourself by Telling the Truth - A Memoir of Iran. She lives in New York City and Dubai. She can be found on Twitter: @CameliaFardSHOW MORE