Four days after the much-acclaimed US-Taliban peace deal, the US conducted air strikes against Taliban fighters carrying out attacks on the Afghan security forces in Helmand. The Taliban claimed its attacks at an ANDSF checkpoint were to free ‘their land’ from international occupation. So, no prizes for guessing the outcome of the peace agreement signed on 29 February in Doha to end the war in Afghanistan, which has been going on for nearly two decades.
The door through which the US would exit Afghanistan is the same one through which the Taliban will enter, and plunge the country into another long phase of chaos.
The door through which the US would exit Afghanistan is the same one through which the Taliban will enter, and plunge the country into another long phase of chaos. This spells trouble for India too, which has for long invested — both diplomatically and financially — in Afghanistan to keep the Pakistan-backed terror elements away from its shores. It is time for New Delhi to think fast because the strategy is all about looking for the silver lining among dark clouds.
The US successfully prevailed upon New Delhi to keep the India-Pakistan border free of conflicts so as to not necessitate movement of troops from Pakistan’s western border. Now that the US dependence on Islamabad and its real rulers – the Army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) – will be far reduced or almost over, New Delhi’s concern should be the fallout of this blatant sell-out to the Taliban.
With work on India’s Integrated Battle Groups (IBG), as part of the Cold Start doctrine, in progress, a strategy should be put in place to remain pro-active and initiate appropriate action at a suitable time to reclaim Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir so as to minimise the advancement of terrorist elements and non-state actors from across the border.
No need of Pakistan
As the Taliban consolidates its position, the Tehrik-e-Taliban or Pakistan Taliban could be emboldened to embark on a more offensive path, forming part of a larger global terrorist network. This could, in turn, pose serious security challenges for New Delhi, especially in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, which has seen immense political and social disruptions already.
With the Taliban at the helm and the foreign troops withdrawn, the US will not require the logistic support provided by Pakistan as was evident in all these 18 years and also during Operation Geronimo to eliminate Osama Bin Laden. Pakistan’s equation with the White House has already changed as a result of China pumping in largesse under the pretext of CPEC projects.
Incidentally, Pakistani doctor Shakeel Afridi, whose ‘fake vaccination scheme’ helped the CIA track Osama Bin Laden, is in Islamabad Jail since May 2012 and has now launched a hunger strike. Trump had promised to get Afridi out of jail but Pakistan’s then interior minister had called him “ignorant”, declaring that Trump won’t get to “decide the release of a Pakistani prisoner”, while Imran Khan had suggested a prisoner swap – Afridi for Dr Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist sentenced to 89 years in US prison “for attacking an American soldier in Afghanistan”.
Best time for US but not for Afghanistan
The ‘Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan’ is the perfect euphemism for the US’ admission of total defeat in Afghanistan. After the Vietnam War, which involved five US presidents, the Afghan War is the second-longest conflict, involving at least three presidents, to have inflicted a serious blow to the American leadership, war strategy and, above all, the country’s status as an invincible superpower.
Therefore, this is probably the best time for President Donald Trump to exit Afghanistan but the worst possible time for Kabul.
A week before what is being applauded as a great peace deal by the White House and from the secret hideout of the Taliban, the results of the September 2019 election to Afghan Parliament, Shura-e-Milli, was announced. It declared 71-year-old sitting president Ashraf Ghani the winner, polling just about a million of the 10 million votes cast. His immediate rival, former president Abdulla Abdulla, protested and formed a parallel government. The two have since declared a temporary truce, which anyway is not likely to last long – just like the elected government, fledgling democracy, and peace and tranquillity in strife-torn Afghanistan.
At war with peace
Besides wanting the restoration of Islamic emirate in Afghanistan, the Taliban’s wish list consisted of total and unconditional withdrawal of all foreign troops from Afghanistan. The Trump administration has signed on the dotted lines as dictated by the Taliban in the Doha meeting facilitated by Pakistan, which is host to international terror groups, including the dreaded Taliban.
The tottering government in Kabul will soon be unceremoniously bundled out by the gun-toting Taliban, thanks to the US’ short-sightedness. A duly elected government that has ensured peace and rule of law and is committed to rebuilding the devastated Islamic Republic of Afghanistan brick by brick will be replaced by the Taliban, the proponents of an Islamic system that is centuries-old, archaic, anti-women, and completely anathematic to modern democracy.
The elected government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan was not part of the over 18-month negotiations to end the 18-year war but the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, as the Taliban is known, was. The US did not create Afghanistan; it existed long before America was populated. The Frankenstein monster called the Taliban was created by the US and that should explain the logic, albeit a flawed one, of the US quitting Afghanistan in a hurry and handing the country back to the ogre it created. For the Taliban and the US, it will be war at peace this time around.
The author is a member of the National Executive Committee of the BJP and former editor of Organiser. Views are personal.