The security situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating rapidly, along with America’s position there. The question now is whether the administration of President-elect Donald Trump will decide to pursue the war or will withdraw U.S. support for the government of President Ashraf Ghani, letting it fall to — or make a deal with — the Taliban and other Islamic forces.
The United States has been at war in Afghanistan since 2001, after the 9/11 attacks. The cost is estimated at $500 billion. There are still 10,000 U.S. troops there. Now, Mr. Ghani’s government in Kabul is staggering and controls only an estimated 60 percent of the country’s area. The Taliban, the Ghani government’s most prominent enemy, are carrying out an offensive across the country that could easily lead to the fall of Kabul, the capital.
Another unhelpful element is that rich Saudis, Qataris and sheikhs from the United Arab Emirates are providing financial support not only to the Taliban but also to al-Qaida and Islamic State forces fighting on the side of the Taliban. The Sunnis of these states see Afghanistan as an important battleground in their regional struggle with Shiite Iran. Afghanistan has a nearly 600-mile-long border with Iran. The Sunnis also have established some 4,000 radical Islamist schools in Afghanistan in recent years.
The Sunni states, while backing the Taliban, IS and al-Qaida, have maintained openly normal relations with the Ghani government, also Sunni, in effect working both sides of the street.
The United States, caught in the middle again in the Sunni-Shiite, Saudi Arabia-Iran struggle, as it is in the Yemen war, supports the Ghani government against the Taliban, IS and al-Qaida, which are supported by ostensible U.S. allies Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the U.A.E. It may be that the Trump administration will understand what is going on and take steps to extricate America from this truly absurd situation without further damage.