Adam A. Azim is a writer and entrepreneur based in Northern Virginia. He holds a Master’s Degree in U.S. Foreign Policy at American University’s School of International Service in Washington, DC. His areas of interest include U.S. foreign policy and strategy, as well as political philosophy. He can be found on Twitter @adamazim1988. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an ofﬁcial nature nor does the content represent the ofﬁcial position of any government, any organization, or any group.
Title: Assessment of the U.S. Presence in Afghanistan
Date Originally Written: December 5, 2019.
Date Originally Published: December 30, 2019.
Author and / or Article Point of View: This article is written from an American point of view, in regards to the U.S. presence in Afghanistan.
Summary: Afghanistan is part of an American effort to create a world system based on liberal-democratic principles. This effort began in post-World War II reconstruction projects, the success of which rested on abstention from extending the project into countries like Russia and China and accommodating their security and military interests.
Text: The rationale for the U.S. presence in Afghanistan can vary depending on whether one views the presence through a realist or liberal lens. On one hand, there is sufficient cause to suggest that the U.S. presence in Afghanistan is based on realpolitik, where the U.S. is pursuing security and economic interests by thwarting the possibility of Afghanistan again becoming a transnational terrorist safe haven all while tapping into natural resources such as uranium, lithium, rare earth materials, and opium that are vital for the sustenance of modern high-tech industries and the pharmaceutical industry. On the other hand, an idealist would justify the U.S. presence in Afghanistan as part of an overall pursuit of what John Mearsheimer calls “liberal hegemony” where the U.S. is seeking to establish a world system based on the principles of liberal democracy, such as global peace and security, free-market economics, as well as rule of law and the adjudication of conflicts.
In reality, U.S. foreign policy is a balance of both approaches, where the pursuit of military and economic power is combined with principle to shape the nature of foreign policy. Unlike China, whose foreign policy is based purely on the concept of realpolitik and the pursuit of its own security and economic interests, the U.S. is one of the few superpowers in world history to have combined the realpolitik approach of foreign policy with one that is based on the promotion of liberal-democratic principles. Much of America’s efforts on the global stage since World War II have been focused on institution building on a global level in various areas of concern to all nations, such as security with the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and economics through the creation of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and international law through the creation of the United Nations. The United States has applied both realpolitik and liberal hegemony as approaches to its involvement in Afghanistan. There is both a moral justification to America’s presence in Afghanistan and a military and economic justification.
The question remains whether the U.S. presence in Afghanistan will persist and possess the lifespan of the U.S. presence in other places such as Germany and the Korean Peninsula. The American public has put immense pressure on its politicians to withdraw American forces and personnel from the Middle East and Afghanistan. From a legal standpoint, the U.S. government has the legal justification for its involvement in the Middle East and Afghanistan through laws that were passed in the post-9/11 era such as the Patriot Act as well as an “Authorization to Use Military Force.” The United Nations and the European Union have also pledged support for the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. The U.S. government may decide to announce a withdrawal of a significant number of troops and personnel from Afghanistan to placate its public, but it is highly unlikely that the United States will initiate a full withdrawal from Afghanistan after all the investments that it has made there over the past eighteen years.
As mentioned before, the mission in Afghanistan is part of an overall effort to organize the world and create a world system based on liberal-democratic principles while maintaining the pursuit of American military and economic power to sustain the liberal hegemonic effort. This liberal hegemonic effort has its roots in America’s post-World War II reconstruction of Europe and Asia, and this effort has now extended in scope by covering areas that are novel to the United States such as the Middle East and Afghanistan. However, it is a fact that the focus of the United States has been lopsided towards countries where America has vested security and economic interests. Furthermore, there has not been a significant push on the part of the United States to implement international law in places like Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Pakistan who are allied to the United States but are in violation of liberal-democratic principles. Nevertheless, the global strategy for the United States is in place with clear objectives, and the implementation of such a strategy will inevitably face challenges and roadblocks imposed by authoritarian powers such as Russia and China who like the United States have regional and possibly global ambitions.
One component of America’s global strategy will also include a “live and let die” component by using all the levers of power at its disposal to place pressure as well as sanctions on countries that will resist America’s liberal hegemonic project such as Iran and Russia. However, it is unlikely that Russia and China will seek to thwart America’s global strategy simply because the capabilities are not there to mount such an effort. Instead, the Russians and the Chinese will seek to find opportunities to negotiate and engage in dialogue with the United States to preserve their respective security and economic interests. As far as Afghanistan is concerned, the Russians and the Chinese initially had no objections to America’s involvement in Afghanistan, and the Russians even encouraged Uzbekistan to allow the United States to stage its Afghan-related operations there in 2001.
While America’s liberal hegemonic effort has staying power in Afghanistan and possibly the Middle East, it may run into a dead end if America seeks to extend the effort inside of Russia and China. It is highly unlikely that Russia and China will seek to dislodge the United States from Afghanistan via proxy as long as America engages in sustainable diplomacy with Russia and China and find ways to accommodate Russian and Chinese security and economic interests. Short of Russia joining the European Union and America engaging with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization for the purpose of economic and infrastructural development in Asia, American efforts in Afghanistan regarding Russia and China will continue to be one-offs and not be underpinned by a formal structure.