The Afghanistan churn and its implications

July 12, 2021 12:52 PM

90 percent of the US forces in Afghanistan have left the country and along with Bagram Air Base, the U.S. has officially handed over seven major military facilities to the Afghan Ministry of Defense.

Afghanistan, talibanIf after coming to power, Taliban decides to impose a fundamentalist regime, and follow its tyrannical policies of the past, then the results will be disastrous. (Photo source: AP)

By Farooq Wani, 

On Thursday, US President Biden once again vigorously defended his decision to end America’s 20-year war in Afghanistan, asserting that the United States can no longer afford the human cost or strategic distraction of a conflict that, he said, had strayed far from its initial mission.

Mr. Biden grew testy as he rejected the notion that Americans would have to flee from Kabul as they did from Saigon in 1975. He insisted that the United States had done more than enough to empower the Afghan military and police to secure the future of their people. He has even said in order to escape possible retribution, its sympathizers can settle in the US.

90 percent of the US forces in Afghanistan have left the country and along with Bagram Air Base, the U.S. has officially handed over seven major military facilities to the Afghan Ministry of Defense. The contingent remaining now is primarily for guarding the United States Embassy in Kabul and Kabul International Airport.

After the exit of US troops from Afghanistan, Taliban is marching towards regaining power for the second time, a reversal of what happened twenty years ago when it was ousted by US-led forces. As US and NATO forces withdraw their troops from Afghan territory, Taliban is well on its way to dislodge the present government in Kabul and replace it with their own.

If after coming to power, Taliban decides to impose a fundamentalist regime, and follow its tyrannical policies of the past, then the results will be disastrous. The international community will not accept a dispensation that believes in repressing women, persecuting religious and ethnic minorities as well as launching a vendetta campaign against those who had links with the previous government or coalition forces. On the other hand, an accommodative Taliban will attract the much-required foreign aid required to rebuild war-ravaged Afghanistan.

The current situation in Afghanistan is in a state of flux. With the revival of armed regional militias to stop the Taliban offensive, Afghanistan is edging towards a new civil war. Headed by old warlords, these armed bands are fighting alongside Afghan government forces in some areas, but in many cases, they are defending their own regional fiefdoms.

Iran’s complicated ties with Afghanistan can be attributed to its unremitting opposition to the United States, which was a strong partner of the Kabul regime. To add to this being a Shi’a-dominant country, Iran had a long history of ideological differences and political rivalry with the Afghan Taliban.

During the Taliban regime in the late 1990s, Iran supported the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, a non-Pashtun coalition of other ethnic groups. Although Iran held back-channel diplomatic talks with the U.S. following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 on how to stabilize Afghanistan and eliminate al-Qaeda, several structural barriers prevented these informal talks from being institutionalized. Now, the situation is different and Iran’s policy matter has altogether changed from the last couple of years especially with the US, who are now daggers drawn after Ebrahim Rasi became President.

India has created several assets as infrastructural development projects in Afghanistan with the intention of improving the quality of life of its citizens. Unfortunately the Haqqani group has already started targeting these assets, New Delhi needs to impress on the Taliban that if this wanton act of destruction is not checked, it’s ultimately the people of Afghanistan who will suffer. However, for this, India must develop strong ties with the Taliban once they come to power.

If the hardcore fundamentalist Taliban faction enters the corridors of power in Afghanistan, it will also make its neighbours wary. Pakistan’s political system and army establishment would have to recalibrate its policy of patronising what it refers to as the ‘good’ Taliban because a fundamentalist dispensation in Kabul could pose a grave threat to CPEC. So, in order to ensure that its “all weather friend” China doesn’t face any problems from the Taliban, Pakistan is likely to use its influence over the ‘Quetta Shoura’ to keep the CPEC project safe.

Fundamentalists in Kashmir have already accepted that its Islamization is not possible and separatists have also realised that Jammu and Kashmir becoming part of Pakistan is only a dream. So, only the moderates can play a bigger role in terms of securing the future of J&K. Taliban victory in Kabul will not change the discourse in Kashmir and since even after thirty years of militancy, Islamabad has failed to get New Delhi on the table for talks, both Pakistan and its sympathisers have finally realised that it’s not force but dialogue that can resolve the ‘K’ issue.

“India and Pakistan at this juncture cannot afford war which can change the geographical position of this region, but unfortunately some vested interests want to keep the pot boiling,” senior Hurriyat leader Dr G M Hubbi told this columnist. The silver lining is that the security forces in Kashmir are fully prepared to face any challenge posed to them by the malicious foreign forces. Due to this, the Government of India has the leverage of going through diplomatic and political processes without unduly worrying about the security situation.

It’s in the interest of Pakistan and India to ensure a stable Afghanistan. Pakistan’s position is more tenuous since it will emerge as the ‘fall-guy’ nation should Afghanistan descend into chaos yet again. It is hoped that Pakistan will understand the situation and work in the right direction instead of pursuing parochial and myopic objectives.

(The author is Editor Brighter Kashmir, TV Commentator, Political Analyst and Columnist. He can be reached at Email:farooqwani61@yahoo.co.in. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online.)

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