US President Biden recently announced that US troops will withdraw from Afghanistan before September 11 this year, ending the 20-year war, which is also the longest war in the history of the United States.
In 2001, the United States launched the Afghanistan War, and in 2003 the United States invaded Iraq. Since then, the Middle East has become the center of the United States’ global military strategy, and the global strategic landscape has suffered a major impact. Now, the United States is about to withdraw all combat forces from Afghanistan and Iraq, and its global impact is relatively limited compared to that of the previous year. The fundamental reason is that when the US military launched two wars, the military involvement was substantial. At most, hundreds of thousands of US troops were stationed in the Middle East; the current withdrawal is symbolic. There are only about 5,000 US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, which is not enough. To influence the global strategic landscape.
The people of Afghanistan and Iraq who will suffer the most from the withdrawal of the United States must be the people of Afghanistan and Iraq. In the short term, these two countries may face even more turbulent situations. Because of the US invasion, Afghanistan and Iraq fell into prolonged chaos. During this period, 38,000 Afghan civilians died, 126,000 Iraqi civilians died, and countless people were injured. After nearly 20 years of tossing, the “democracy” and “stability” promised by the United States have disappeared. On the contrary, both countries are on the verge of collapse, and the domestic political, economic, and social situation is very severe. There is no doubt that the withdrawal of the United States without completing post-war reconstruction will destroy the fragile political balance in the region. In the short term, the turbulence will intensify and the people will suffer more.
Withdrawal is the common goal of the four administrations of the two parties in the United States, but the actual impact of the withdrawal on the United States is very small, and the main impact is reflected in the psychological aspect. Now, the U.S. military has only 2,500 troops in Afghanistan, spending billions of dollars a year. Compared with the 180,000 U.S. troops deployed overseas and the annual military expenditure of 700 billion U.S. dollars, these numbers and money are really insignificant. Therefore, the withdrawal of the military The material effect is small. However, these two wars are the most serious “psychological trauma” suffered by the United States since the Vietnam War. The US military killed about 6,800 people and the total expenditure was said to be 7 trillion U.S. dollars, but it failed to achieve its strategic goals. Compared with 20 years ago, the current situation in Iraq and Afghanistan can only prove the failure of the United States here. Therefore, ending the war as soon as possible can at least provide psychological comfort to the Americans.
Withdrawal is only symbolic, but it reflects the trend of US strategic contraction in the Middle East, which will have a major impact on Middle Eastern politics. Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has been the center and pillar of the security order in the Middle East. The security of regional countries largely depends on their relations with the United States. In recent years, the United States has continuously released signals of strategic contraction. If this comprehensive withdrawal can be realized as scheduled, it will be a real hammer for the strategic contraction, which will inevitably intensify the competition for power vacuum among regional countries.
For American friends, Americans are unreliable, and either have to find new backers or rely on themselves. As far as American opponents are concerned, the United States has no intention of being in love with war, and the time to show its talents is coming soon. As a result, countries in the region no longer just stand around the United States, but have developed diversified diplomatic relations, seeking a new balance between the United States, Europe, Russia, and China. The regional order is fragmented, and Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Turkey, Iran, and Israel are leading the way. International powers and regional powers may form alliances or confront each other, changing the direction of integration on different hotspot issues, and adjust their policies according to time, place, and event. There have never been so many well-matched protagonists on the political arena of the Middle East, nor have they seen such a complex combination of camps. Israel, Iran, and Turkey are deeply involved in Arab politics, which will have a huge impact on the old pattern. The old pattern is collapsing, the new pattern has not yet emerged, and the period of transition from the old to the new pattern is often the most turbulent.
The troop withdrawal and its strategic contraction have a certain impact on the pattern of major powers in the Middle East, but the impact is limited. The US strategic contraction will leave a strategic vacuum, but the major powers in the world do not intend to dominate or exclusively dominate the situation in the Middle East, and the competition for the vacuum is not fierce. The United States is still the most influential power, but the confidence, willingness, and determination to intervene has greatly declined. It is no longer the only hegemony that designs, leads, and maintains the overall situation in the Middle East. It is becoming “the first among its peers.” The US strategic contraction provides Russia with a good opportunity to return to the Middle East. Since 2015, Russia has used Syria as a fulcrum to mobilize relations with major Middle Eastern countries such as Iran, Syria, Turkey, Israel, and Iraq, and once again returned to the center of the Middle East strategic arena. However, the Middle East has neither seen the so-called “US-Russian strategic game” nor the legendary “New Sino-US Cold War.” The U.S. strategy is shrinking, Russia is waiting for opportunities, Europe is overwhelmed, and China is cautious. For the first time, this battlefield has become a place where major powers can’t resist.
As early as the Obama administration, the United States put forward the idea of shifting its strategic focus to the Asia-Pacific. Since then, the focus of its global strategy has not been in the Middle East. The Sino-US game is a strategic game between major powers. The withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan is only a tactical adjustment. The two do not belong to the same level. The United States will not expect to withdraw 2,500 people from Afghanistan to deal with China. Quite a lot of people in the United States are trying to quickly withdraw troops from the platform. They advocate the contraction in the Middle East to concentrate their efforts against China. They mainly want to use the donkey to find a personal excuse for their embarrassed Middle East retreat.