The U.S. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said there is a “real risk” that if American troops are pulled out of Afghanistan, the Taliban might retake control of the country, Quoted in a report by CBS News.
In an Interview with CBS News “Face the Nation” hosted by Margaret Brennan, Gates said the U.S. should ensure that the Afghan government is stable before bringing American forces home, the report said.
“I think that the circumstances under which you bring them home matter. And I think trying to give the Afghan government the best possible shot at survival is really important for the future of Afghanistan,” Gates said as quoted by CBS News.
He outlined potential consequences of the Taliban retaking control of the country, particularly the reduction of women’s rights, the report said.
The 2001 U.S.-led invasion helped women secure fragile freedoms under a new constitution, which was crafted after the Taliban was ousted from power along with its brutal interpretation of Islamic law. Recently the Taliban has said it will now allow women to attend school and hold jobs.
“So the question is, can you negotiate an arrangement whereby the Taliban agrees to operate under the Afghan Constitution, becomes a part of the political process?” Gates asked.
When asked if the Taliban has interest in joining such a government or if it just wants to rule the country itself, Gates acknowledged that the Taliban wants to “take over Afghanistan.”
“If they agree to any kind of a compromise deal, it’s really up to the other Afghans at the end of the day to- to resist any moves, to get rid of those changes, to go backward, if you will,” Gates continued. Gates talked to Brennan on Friday, just hours before the administration announced it would move $1.5 billion designated for the war in Afghanistan to build a border wall.
It comes as the U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad has held six rounds of talks with the Taliban delegation in Qatar to pave way for ending the long-term war in Afghanistan.
“We made steady but slow progress on aspects of the framework for ending the Afghan war. We are getting into the ‘nitty-gritty.’ The devil is always in the details,” Khalilzad said in a tweet after he ended up the sixth round of peace talks with the Taliban representative in Doha, the Capital of Qatar.
Gates suggested the U.S. needs to ensure that there is a peace plan between the Taliban and the government in place before U.S. troops leave Afghanistan, although ultimately it will be up to the Afghans to enforce it.
“I think it’s up to us after all this time to at least try and put the Afghan government in as positive a position for that contest that will come at some point as we can. But at the end of the day, you’ve got to admit, it’s going to be up to the Afghans themselves,” said Gates as Quoted by CBS News.
Brennan asked whether it was reasonable to compare U.S. involvement in Afghanistan to the war in Vietnam, which ended with U.S. withdrawal and a subsequent communist takeover of the country.
“The former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker, who you know well, compared this to Vietnam. He said, ‘You pull out your troops, it doesn’t end the war. That hands the battlefield to your adversaries.’ Do you see that?” Brennan asked.
“I think there’s a very real risk of that, yes,” Gates replied.
“A repeat of Vietnam?” Brennan asked.
“Well, a repeat of the government that we have supported being unable to sustain itself,” Gates said.