Afghanistan conundrum: Way ahead

November 24, 2021 5:02 PM

Taliban having anointed themselves in power propounding the ideology of combining a Sharia Islamic law and militant Islam based on a flavour of Pashtun social and cultural norms may not work for very long

The Taliban itself may see the emergence of the Haqqani group taking over the reins of power with backing of Pakistan and side lining the moderate faction of Taliban.

By Maj Gen (Dr) Kamal Pant

International community remains worried with the current state of affairs in Afghanistan that impact security and stability with global implications.As things stand now, the path to normalcy appears arduous. A lot depends upon the role played by global and regional powers in prevailing upon the Taliban to restore normalcy by shedding their draconian hard line practices.

Taliban having anointed themselves in power propounding the ideology of combining a Sharia Islamic law and militant Islam based on a flavour of Pashtun social and cultural norms may not work for very long. With economy precariously poised and currently also choked by US not much to the liking of Taliban, may push them to turn towards drug trafficking and terrorism. Global acceptance is another issue which appears to be a big hurdle for Taliban. Pakistan cannot be of any economic assistance to Afghanistan due to its own poor economic health. Russia and China are awaiting some clarity before directly involving themselves in Afghanistan.

If the situation is not addressed immediately, Afghanistan will turn into a humanitarian disaster which may see a civil war and more instability with the rise of warlords and suppressed terrorist groups such as ISIS. The Taliban itself may see the emergence of the Haqqani group taking over the reins of power with backing of Pakistan and side lining the moderate faction of Taliban.

Way Ahead

Seemingly following issues would be of immediate concern to Taliban: Gain trust with allies and friends who have helped it into a position of power; Overcome immediate financial crisis; Global acceptance; Legitimatization of rule; Portraying as saviour of Islam; Acceptability from Islamic world; Seek assistance for humanitarian work; Break free of Pakistan’s hold and keep it at an arm’s length to avoid interference in future.

Ideally US and NATO, should have ensured a peaceful transfer of power preferably under UN before the withdrawal, but failed to do so. Resultantly Taliban anointed themselves as rulers and took over the country not much to the liking of the majority of the world leaving no option but to deal with them. Any attempt to dislodge or disown them, would invite more bloodshed and human right violations. Hence the world needs to bring the present Taliban to terms and conditions which are more conducive to peace and stability of the region thereby paving a way to a long lasting peaceful democratic regime. It is a tall order hence needs to proceed with caution.

A beginning can be made with the UN taking the initiative to draw out a road map beginning with unconditional humanitarian assistance for the Afghan citizens. There is a need to form a consultative group (G-10)represented by US, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, UAE and CARs countries. The main aim of this grouping should be to work towards a durable solution and road map for the future of the country. Islamic nations of G-10 have additional tasks of working out an answer to unacceptable strict Sharia Governance particularly against women and children. There may be a requirement of forming a transition government before a near normalcy is achieved with aim to stabilise and make the environment conducive to move in of foreign assistance, functioning of diplomatic missions and progress of developmental work.

Various issues which need to be worked out in a time bound manner include:

Humanitarian assistance is required to be attended immediately. Taliban may be coaxed to form a separate group to attend humanitarian requirements of the population, to liaise and coordinate with global agencies and UN.

Taliban are required to work out the modalities for the formation of inclusive Government through a democratic process as part of consultation talks with the global community for legitimacy and financial assistance. Simultaneously, Taliban will need to ensure a trouble free and conducive security environment for outside agencies and local and foreign media to operate.

Draw out a developmental road map particularly the resumption of ongoing projects to ensure that the efforts already put in are not undone. All such activities would need formal invitations from the Taliban.

As an indicator of a peaceful future, there is a need to work out the framework for a new constitution based on a moderated version of sharia, acceptable to the population and global community laying emphasis on issues relating to women and children within the next two years. It should also contain modalities for free and fair election process, independent judiciary and law and order mechanism as per the practice being followed in Islamic neighbourhood.

Arrangements for coordination between Central and provincial government as also regional and local stakeholders would need to be worked out for trouble free governance.

Launch efforts for strengthening an all inclusive Afghan National Army to make it a potent fighting force as also reorganise police to make it an effective instrument for law enforcement.

Taliban would need to make efforts to change their outlook and switch over to a democratic Islamic way of life which is being practiced in a number of Islamic countries.Cooperation and efforts from Islamic nations of G-10 and rest of the world will go a long way in this regard.

Taliban should be allowed to express their views at global platform after certain conditions have been met.Establishment of bilateral diplomatic ties with other nations can to go on concurrently as per delivery of promises made by Taliban.Any deviation from the promised agenda should invite strict sanction in diplomatic, economic and trade fields.

In brief, entire political and economic structures are required to be reworked to meet the aspirations of Taliban, countrymen, minorities, various tribes and affected neighbours last but not the least global players.

There has been some progress in this regard as Qatar has criticized Taliban’s moves on girls’ education as “very disappointing” and “a step backwards”. India does have their obvious stakes in Afghanistan including goodwill. With initial setbacks, India is getting back its role in the Afghan conflict with latest Russian negotiations and NSA level talk in Delhi.

To sum up, three months after the takeover, no country has recognised them. Not allowing Afghanistan to become a rogue state is the immediate concern.

Pakistan’s worry of revival of Pashtunistan in their country remains.The Taliban may also spill over to Xinjiang in collaboration with ETIM (Eastern Turkestan Islamic Movement), hence worrisome for China. Even Russia would not want the spill over of Taliban Philosophy into CARs. Iran will remain concerned with Shia Hazara’s. The US tentacle will always remain up because of the presence of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. To a great extent Afghanistan is providing opportunity for the world especially for the big three, a definite reason to unite together who in turn need to tame their local proxies. It should pave way for further cooperation among big powers far from the current state of confrontations and geopolitical contradictions.

(The author is an Indian Army Veteran. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online. Reproducing this content without permission is prohibited).

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