News Analysis: Obama's announcement of U.S. forces pullout from Afghanistan to boost Taliban, analysts say

2013-02-14 05:25:58 GMT2013-02-14 13:25:58(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

by Abdul Haleem

KABUL, Feb. 14 (Xinhua) -- Washington's latest decision to pull out roughly half of its forces from Afghanistan within the year could embolden the Taliban in its objective of toppling the present regime in Kabul and reinstalling its unique brand of Islamic rule in the country, local analysts here said.

In his State of the Union Address Tuesday night in Washington D. C. (Wednesday in most parts of Asia), U.S. President Barack Obama announced the pullout of some 34,000 U.S. forces from Afghanistan within the year.

Presently there are about 100,000 troops in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, with around 66,000 of them Americans.

"The Taliban would certainly describe the troop withdrawal as defeat of U.S. and NATO-led forces in Afghanistan and they would benefit from it in the propaganda war," political analyst and retired Army General Amrullah Aman told Xinhua.

He said the Taliban would capitalize on the early pullout and would say that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the name of Taliban-governed Afghanistan, is intact and it has succeeded in driving the Americans and allied forces out of the country.

Under the agreement reached among the NATO-member states and troop-contributing nations to Afghanistan in 2010, the ISAF would complete its pullout from the war-torn country by the end of 2014.

In his address, President Obama also announced the end of the American combat mission in Afghanistan in the spring of 2013 but stressed the continued U.S. support for the Afghan security forces.

Washington has said that with Obama's announcement, the U.S. is on pace to finally put an end to the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan in 2014.

Aman said that Obama's announcement was made in a critical stage since the U.S.-led "war on terror" is still unfinished and there is a resurgence of violence in the country perpetrated by Taliban insurgents.

Aman also doubts whether the Afghan national security forces with its limited firepower and expertise can deal with the Taliban threat after the withdrawal of all foreign forces from the country.

"Since the Afghan forces do not have air power and heavy artillery it is difficult for Afghan forces to ensure security all by themselves after the troop withdrawal," the retired general said, adding that the Taliban fighters are mainly guerillas and have mastered the "hit and run" tactic, making it difficult for the government forces to confront the insurgents in frontal combat.

"So, it will be difficult for the poorly equipped Afghan forces to check the Taliban-led insurgency without the support of NATO- led coalition and U.S. forces in 2013, 2014 or beyond," Aman said.

Another military expert and political analyst retired General Atiqullah Omarkhil also said that the withdrawal of 34,000 U.S. forces within the year amid increasing militancy would make Afghans worry.

"I think the pullout of 34,000 troops at this stage is premature because Afghan national security forces are not capable of filling the void to be left by the departure of foreign forces, " Omarkhil said.

"The end of combat mission in 2013, in my opinion would undermine the capability of Afghan security forces and can even boost the moral of the Taliban which could eventually affect the security situation in Afghanistan," Omarkhil said.

Like Oman, Omarkhil said the Taliban would describe the pullout "as the defeat of infidels" at the hands of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and would use it to recruit more fighters in their continuing armed struggle to return to power in Afghanistan.

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