Afghanistan – A country delivered or sunk into chaos

August 17, 2021 3:18 PM

Social media is abuzz that the US spent trillions of dollars, lost American lives and at the end of the day replaced Taliban with Taliban.

afghan airportHundreds of people run alongside a U.S. Air Force C-17 transport plane as it moves down a runway of the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on Aug.16, 2021. (Photo source: AP)

By Lt Col Manoj K Channan,

“To be an enemy of America can be dangerous, but to be a friend is fatal.”

Henry Kissinger

Now that the Taliban has established an Emirate regime in Afghanistan and POTUS has taken the responsibility to pull out from Afghanistan, stating unequivocally that “He stands behind his decision and The Buck Stops with him”. President Joe Biden ensured that this decision with its ramifications of costing him his Presidential ratings is not procrastinated for another President to be accounted for.

Social media is abuzz that the US spent trillions of dollars, lost American lives and at the end of the day replaced Taliban with Taliban.

POTUS only moved ahead with a decision taken by his predecessor Donald Trump on withdrawal. The discussions at Doha with the Taliban in the absence of the Afghanistan government representatives give reason to speculate on arriving at agreements to allow uncontested withdrawal of US troops.

Why did the Afghan National Army not fight?

One can only speculate on the plausible reasons that could have led to the capitulation of a supposedly well trained and equipped Army, well paid by the US Government. I am flagging these below:-

· Reprisal by the Taliban is not limited to the servicemen but impacts the Family too.

· Message by Taliban to surrender and not be killed, which led to cities being taken over without a shot being fired.

· Some Special Forces units that opposed were brutally gunned down with no prisoners taken.

· The withdrawing US troops left behind arms, ammunition and equipment, as part of the deal struck at Doha.

· The training imparted by US contractors was possibly a good business to make money, as there was no shortage of funds.

· The selection of personnel being trained – probably was diluted to meet the targets set by the Pentagon.

· Tacit understanding, if you can’t win them, join them.

· Rampant corruption.

The Void

The withdrawal by America has led many countries to throw their hat into the ring to seek control for their interests. These need to be seen from their perspective. While many would make noble statements on bringing normalcy to life and support the Taliban government, it wouldn’t be without extracting their pound of flesh.

These relationships will last till the dollars keep flowing into the Taliban coffers.

United States of America

The US has not been without its faults. It has been facing economic challenges and the eighties and nineties saw a shift of the manufacturing industry to China. Loss of industry and therefore jobs.The US went on a campaign to reset the world order and the US senate and its yes men found reasons to support this effort.

The words of Henry Kissinger echo as the recent events are re-visited.

Iraq.Saddam Hussein emboldened attempted the annexation of Kuwait, which led to Op Desert Storm I and weapons of mass destruction which were reported in Iraq, were never found. Saddam was captured and killed, Iraq remains a hell hole.

Libya. The focus shifted to Libya and Muammar Gaddafi too was located and killed. Libya remains a mess.

Egypt. Tokeepthe Islamist’s under check, the US to keep the peace accord intact with Israel; gave unstinted support to Hosni Mubarak’s regime, the result is known.

Syria. Syria became the new battleground, which was keenly contested by the Russians to keep President Bashar al – Assad in power, while the US continues to support the deposing of the President. The Chinese reportedly sent in a small team of Special Forces, which were pulled back.

The attackers of 9/11 were Saudi Nationals and yet the US never targeted the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The US intent of war on terror was hollow earlier and is hollow today too.

Taliban were the creation of the US – Pakistan nexus to be the thorn in the Russian forces in Afghanistan. The US allowed the Pakistan Army and ISI to nurture the various factions. The puppet became the puppeteer and Taliban 1.0 was replaced by Taliban 2.0.

China

Under Xi Jinping, the US role has been contested. China initiated many projects under BRI and OBOR initiatives to develop the land routes as an alternative to the sea lines of communication. The unrest in Hong Kong, the territorial claim to Taiwan, Senkaku Islands and the South China Sea reveal a belligerent China seeking to re-write the new world order.

China has been quick to recognise the Taliban and is ready to do business. USD 3 Trillion worth of minerals and resources in Afghanistan are reason enough to seize control of the rare earth minerals and ensure the Chinese manufacturing industries remain undisputed in the decades ahead.

The flow of dollars into Taliban coffers and the newfound mutual interests will remain so long as the Taliban are humoured. Sooner or later the Uyghurs issue will crop up and it is to be seen that the followers of Sharia would continue to do business with China and for how long.

Some questions to ponder upon for the near future.

Will the Taliban allow Chinese companies to do business by bringing in Chinese nationals (political prisoners) as the labour force for mining?

The Taliban – Iran – China – Russia – Pakistan nexus be a greater threat to the US interests in the region?

How long the Chinese will survive in the “Graveyard of Empires” is to be seen!

Russia

The Russians, having been humbled in Afghanistan quietly watched the proceedings from the sidelines and chuckled as the US withdrawal from Kabul akin to the earlier ones from Saigon and Teheran was being covered by the world media, and another “defeat of the US Forces”.

The Russians influenced the Taliban and were able to get the Indian diplomats to have a meeting with the Taliban delegation at Doha.

The US withdrawal has probably added a feather to Putin’s hat, how the US – Russia relationship develops from this point onwards is to be seen.

Pakistan

Pakistan has been nimble on its feet and has always managed to pull the wool over US eyes in a trade-off from the early sixties. Other than a short period of dis-trust under the Trump regime which sought greater accountability, it climbed back like the proverbial monkey on US shoulder. Wanted by the US to use its military bases for US interests; given Chinese interests, it is yet to be seen how Pakistan manages two superpowers to its advantage.

Having pushed in combatants approximately 30000 of them, whether serving/veterans/non-state actors helped the Taliban in achieving their aims.

Pakistan will remain centric to the Afghanistan cauldron unless its funding is squeezed by the US, which will be negated by China as it will open its coffers to achieve Chinese aims.

Pakistan is also likely to benefit from the US warlike stores left behind.

Iran

Iran has also recognised the Taliban regime and has much common ground and a common enemy the US. Iran has opened its borders and has allowed the Afghani population to come in and also the deserting ANA personnel with their equipment.

The Iran – China collusion and their role play in the region are to be seen in the days ahead.

India

India has had an excellent relationship with Afghanistan historically and a minuscule population of Sikhs and Hindus. Abdul Ghaffar Khan popularly known as Frontier Gandhi / Badshah Khan/ Bacha Khan is not forgotten.

India has invested USD 3 billion in several infrastructure and trade projects in Afghanistan. It has also undertaken over 400 projects across all 34 Afghanistan provinces.

A Taliban spokesperson has communicated that they will not harm the Indian diplomatic staff and will not destroy the various Indian projects.

The Taliban would need Indian Assistance in terms of food, medicines, medical care to start with and cooperation can be developed as mutual trust develops.

The Indian Government has to recognise the ‘elephant in the room’. Are the Taliban terrorists or are they ‘freedom fighters’? The methodology may not be agreeable to the rationale perceived by many ‘nay sayers’ well it’s a debate that can carry on till the cows come home.

The majority Indian political view towards minorities will be under scrutiny and may well be brought out in any dialogue that takes place.

Afghanistan

Afghanistan is a victim of circumstances. Many came and rampaged the mountains and tried to espouse their thought and ideology which has failed.

The average Afghani has always been caught between those in power and the Taliban and its Sharia law. Power has always been taken by force.

The modern-day democracy model has never existed in the country and is a concept foreign to the population. The tribal affiliations and customs are more supreme.

What is a Loya Jirga?

A Loya Jirga, or “grand council” in Pashto, is a mass national gathering that brings together representatives from the various ethnic, religious, and tribal communities in Afghanistan.

The Loya Jirga is a centuries-old institution that has been convened at times of national crisis or to settle national issues. Historically, it has been used to approve a new constitution, declare war, choose a new king, or make sweeping social or political reforms.

After the Taliban has settled down will it allow the Loya Jirga to function and allow it to govern its population in the days ahead?

Economy

The US Government was funding the Afghan government; the new regime will be dependent on aid by the countries that have recognised it. With no industry in place and a vibrant drug trafficking in place, the Taliban will have to get their act together for their survival.

Conclusion

The US pull-out was in it is own interest and as in the mid-seventies, it allowed Russia to be sucked into the Afghanistan quagmire, it’s hoping the Taliban – Iran – China – Russia – Pakistan will sink into the quicksand.

This will allow the US to regain its position as a world leader and contain the Chinese aims in the Indo – Pacific, South China Sea and Indian Ocean Region.

Will the US exploit the regions of Tibet, Taiwan and the Senkaku Islands in the interim?

Will the US go after counter-terrorism operations to keep its homeland safe as mentioned in the Presidential address?

Definitely, there are some very interesting days and weeks ahead.

(The author is an Indian Army Veteran. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online.)

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