A new endgame in Afghanistan
25th Aug, 2021
The fall of Kabul, and the disgraceful end of any resistance to the Taliban within six weeks of U.S. forces leaving the Bagram airport (near Kabul) on July 2, it was revealed how the Afghan Security Forces were misleading.
The present situation
- The departure of Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani and almost the entire top political leadership of Afghanistan to safer havens, removes the last vestige of hope that the Taliban can be checked.
- Afghanistan today is in a condition that is far worse than what existed when the Russians withdrew in the 1990s.
- In the 1990s, the Taliban were a band of outlaws. But today, they are recognised by powers such as the U.S., Russia, and China, and are on the brink of gaining a country.
- In the 1990s, Russia had to contend with a superpower (the US) to hold the region. But this time, the US withdraws from Afghan without any credible outside power.
Older threats may also appear:
- Some political analysts seem to believe that after the initial success of the Taliban and the fall of Afghanistan, the region's natural political power could be strengthened.
- After two decades of involvement in Afghanistan, and spending more than a billion dollars on terrorism and al Qaeda, the US has left Afghanistan in a much worse position than it did.
- It is impossible to see any decline in terrorism or the death of any of the best-known terrorist groups, such as al Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS), or that story, of lesser-known terrorist attire.
- In fact, there has been a resurgence in al Qaeda IS operations, after some previous setbacks, have reunited and are now becoming a real threat to the affected areas, including Afghanistan.
- The radicalized fear of Islam and the power of the ‘doctrinaire theocracy’ became powerful, if any, that way. The fall of the Afghan state will unleash many ancient threats.
- Compared to a situation where the U.S. Leaving Vietnam in 1975, which was also seen by many as a kind of 'retreat', the Afghan 'misadventure' became a disaster.
- Under the leadership of the Communist Party, Vietnam was able to emerge as a vibrant, prosperous nation.
- Under the Taliban regime, Afghanistan cannot expect such results. It will remain the ‘sick Asian man’ for generations to come, the folly of standing in danger of foreign interference in foreign affairs.
How did the US decision to withdraw affect it?
- The US has long wanted a decent exit. U.S. decision Withdrawal (after the Doha agreement) leads to three important signs.
- The US has failed to protect the interests of the Afghan people.
- The Americans had acknowledged the rise of the Taliban with a view to the safe passage of their troops.
- In 2001, the US decided to take up the global war of terror. From Afghanistan, the US passed through Iraq, Libya and Syria. It all has mixed effects.
- All of this has tarnished the image of the U.S. in Asia. In view of this, the US claim to 'make America great and' sounds almost impossible.
Taliban take over and implications for India
- The occupation of the Taliban by Afghanistan has significant consequences for South Asia, starting with the speed of refugees in Pakistan can be seen soon on its western borders.
- But few countries in the region are as vulnerable to the future of Afghanistan as India, its fifth largest donor and one of the most active.
- India now finds most of its critical investment in human and physical infrastructure in Afghanistan at risk as the Taliban take control.
- Worse, the problem that follows the U.S. withdrawal. It leaves India's foreign policy and security at great risk on both sides.
- The new Taliban government is likely to promote security zones for anti-Indian terrorist groups and other groups that could sow unrest in India-controlled Kashmir.
- Meanwhile, China's willingness to work with the Taliban could increase its track record in the region.
- Over the past two decades, India has been one of the most important donors to Afghanistan, providing scholarships to Afghan students, providing food aid, and helping to restore the country's energy grid that has been devastated by wars.
- But based on its previous experience with the Taliban government, India’s security zone now faces growing fears of its own interests in the country.
- Without public support by the Taliban, Afghanistan could also emerge as a regional terrorist destination.
- When they were in power before, the Taliban liberated a number of anti-Indian terrorist groups in Afghanistan, most notably Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba.
- Safe areas allowed these organizations to regroup, be trained, and cause damage to the Indian-controlled Kashmir, a place of long-standing rebellion.
Challenges with Taliban in power
- Taliban might renew the support for international terrorism.
- Pakistan might redirect the jihadi groups that fought with the Taliban towards India. Pakistan-based jihadi groups might turn their attention to Kashmir.
- Further, the Taliban will also face troubles in balancing their religious ideology with the imperatives of state interests.
Suggestions for India
- Fast action: India should safely remove Indian communications workers and other citizens from Afghanistan. This will require a great deal of effort.
- The Indian government must also provide asylum to those Afghans who have worked with Indian programs and are keen to avoid repatriation from the Taliban.
- Communication systems: India must make every effort to get the international community to hold the Taliban in their favour by allowing all foreigners to travel in peace, protect the lives of all Afghan citizens, and respect international humanitarian law.
- India also chairs the UNSC Taliban Penalty Committee. It will play a key role in shaping the international response to the Taliban's demand for the lifting of sanctions against its leaders.
- Similarly, India should also enable the international community to provide assistance to the many Afghan people left behind by the war.
- Home programs: India must remain vigilant against the emergence of cross-border terrorism that could stabilize Kashmir and escalate tensions between India and Pakistan.
The situation in Afghanistan indicates a major setback in India. Afghanistan under Taliban will remain 'Asian sick man' for generations to come. Because, forcibly taking over the country is one thing, but managing it successfully is another matter.