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Evening in Capitol Hill
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Lt Gen Prakash Katoch | Date:13 Aug , 2021 4 Comments
Lt Gen Prakash Katoch
is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army.

What a travesty of fate that the US is mobilizing 3000 troops to evacuate its embassy staff, citizens and associates from Kabul and the United Kingdom is similarly sending 600 troops to evacuate its nationals. Hope the time assessment will not be as absurd as estimation of the Taliban offensive least Taliban take them hostage and a  repeat of Operation ‘Eagle Claw (hostage rescue from the US Embassy in Tehran during April 1980) has to be launched.

If there were any doubts that the US-Taliban peace deal signed in February 2020 was more a surrender than a sham, you now have the US requesting the Taliban to spare its embassy in Kabul if the group hopes to receive US Aid as a part of a future government. The bit about “as a part of future government” is a laugh – not acknowledging even now that Taliban aims to be ‘the government’, not part of it. And, would Taliban bother about US aid at this point of time given the finances it already has and the support it will get from multiple sources after taking over Afghanistan? The crowning senility of course is the hope that with the continuing dialogue at Doha Taliban will stop its offensive and agree to power sharing.

Donald Trump has now said that under his presidency, the process of withdrawing American troops from Afghanistan would have been different and under certain conditions. He says, “If our 2020 presidential elections were not rigged and I was now president, the world would know that our withdrawal from Afghanistan would be based on certain conditions.  What is happening now is unacceptable.  It should have been done much better.”

It is true in August 2017 when then President Donald Trump unveiled his new Af-Pak policy in a televised speech, he had lambasted Pakistan for its double game, overturned Barak Obama’s idea of withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan under deadlines and said that the “time-based approach” will now be based on “conditions”; future operations will be open ended since it is counterproductive to announce dates intended to begin or end military options, numbers of troops or American plans for further military activities. But then Trump was the one who not only set the deadline for US troop withdrawal by January 31, 2021 but also set it in motion before President Joe Biden assumed his presidency.

No doubt Afghans must fight their own war but what then were US troops doing in Afghanistan for 20 years? And, to say that the US has completed its task in Afghanistan is nothing but a big lie. Not only is al-Qaeda alive and kicking, it is teamed up with a host of terrorist organizations and the Taliban will undoubtedly represent a potent threat to the US in coming years, especially emanating from the Af-Pak region. Today when the Taliban are on a rampage killing, looting, raping and forcibly picking up young Afghan girls for their fighters, it is a replica of what the ISIS trained and armed in Turkey by British mercenaries under the noses of CIA and Mi-6 have been doing in Iraq and Syria. 

There are multiple reasons why the US could not subdue the Taliban despite even having a surge of 98,000 troops in Afghanistan during 2011. A major reason is that the Taliban itself was creation of the CIA to oust the Soviets. This implies that the rise of Taliban was indirectly caused by the CIA – same as for the ISIS in Iraq-Syria. During their rule from 1996 to 2001 over majority Afghanistan, the Taliban had demonstrated they do not believe in democratic institutions. This period was also used by them to extend radical Islam into Central Asia. The US invasion of Afghanistan and the conduct of operations like   aerial bombings causing collateral damage fuelled radicalization more, which helped the Taliban advance their cause.

Why would the Taliban halt their offensive now when they are capturing provincial capitals every day and cities are falling easily to them with Herat, Kandahar, Kunduz and Helmand already captured? Not only are they well armed including with shoulder fired air defence weapons by China and Pakistan, with reports of Afghan soldiers surrendering or fleeing, and exiting US-NATO troops having left behind tons of war stores.   

Kneejerk US policies of increasing and pulling out troops from Afghanistan over the years forced the US troops to pull out from certain bases, letting the Taliban consolidate, and later recapture the same. In one instance General John Nicholson, then Commander of US Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A) and NATO’s Resolute Support Mission had to personally go and brief the US President in Washington DC that pulling out US troops from Afghanistan would be disastrous. 

In June 2021, the US intelligence community estimated that the Taliban could take control of Afghanistan in 6-12 months after the US troops exited Afghanistan. They now say that it could be in 90 days but the speed of the Taliban offensive indicates this could be much sooner – within a month or even earlier. The pullout no doubt was a political decision but did the Department of Defense, military and security hierarchy warn the President of the long-term consequences or was this left to retired military and security officials?

Apparently, the intelligence community also stated what would be music to the President’s ears despite knowing that the Afghan forces will be severely handicapped not only without adequate air support but their logistics chain would be disrupted with the US contractors pulled out and their  set ups gone.

Finally, it is the seemingly never ending US-Pakistan L Affaire that Capitol Hill fails to address. Not only the Afghan government but also the US and NATO Generals serving in Afghanistan have periodically said that the problems in Afghanistan are because of Pakistan. General John Nicholson had specifically told media that Pakistan continues to play its double game. Trump had also warned Pakistan during his speech in August 2017 giving his policy on the Af-Pak region, saying that its behaviour must change “now”. But there was no effect on Pakistan.  

Most of the over 3,500 Coalition deaths and over 20,300 service members wounded in action in Afghanistan have been because of Pakistan and its proxies as well as the Afghan Taliban supported by Pakistan and China. America is also aware that Pakistani army officers, ISI and troops have been operating in Afghanistan covertly in support of the Taliban, at times officers even leading Taliban columns. Despite this, the US continues with its delusion that Pakistan will help further its national interests in the region – same way it inked a peace deal with the Afghan Taliban. How much China can or has infiltrated Capitol Hill is not known but apparently Pakistan does wield considerable influence there.

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4 thoughts on “Evening in Capitol Hill

  1. “During their rule from 1996 to 2001 over majority Afghanistan, the Taliban had demonstrated they do not believe in democratic institutions.”
    Are u suggesting then that the tribals in the Afghan villages actually believe in democratic institutions?
    Nation building requires not decades but centuries. people’s lawless habits need to change for which they need a “steel frame”.
    if you consider “BharatVarsh” (undivided India of which afghanistan was a part until the mughal period) , its development after the Mughals can be divided into phases.
    1. Collapse of Mughal govt, wresting of power by local warlords- especially after Aurangzeb’s death.
    2. East india company trade attacked by highway gangs; they try to “negotiate” with the local warlords who keep betraying their “deals”; The company brings British Officers and forms private “armies” ; The company fights the “battle” of Plassey. The Indian “armies” (much like the present day Afghan “army”) , flee the battlefield and disintegrate.
    3. India’s luck, that the British East India company takes over rather than the Dutch, Portuguese or the French – thereby inadvertently setting the Indian parts of BharatVarsh on the path of Parliamentary democracy.
    4. An attempt in 1857 by the local warlords to relapse the country back into pre-British warlordism and brigandage. We the Indians like to delude ourselves by calling this Warlordism as the first “war” of independence.
    5. India is officially brought under the crown; heavy tax on peasantry – Gandhian revolt; loss of empire in 1947 due to WW2 debt . Departure
    What was left was the steel frame and parliamentary system . Nehru (English bent of mind) maintained liberal, democratic values.
    6. Bharatiya ppl shit on what the British built and the system is now unravelling since May 2014. but still the British-made steel frame holds.

    What we are seeing in Af and Pak, is a part of the same Bharatvarsh, minus British and Nehruvian liberal democratic values.

    Lesson is for us , not US

  2. Another thoughtful and timely article, by PK, leading to tomorrow’s policy challenges:

    – Kabul’s fall scripted by proxy masters is a big win for CPEC – ensuring huge success
    – Opens the door for Chinse hegemony in Central and South Asia, making it an Arabian Seapower and threaten Indian interests.
    – Huge cache of military hardware falling in wrong hands with grave consequences

    A lot more to chew on and ponder…!

  3. The strategic thinkers should be aware that the Geopolitical Epicentre
    has shifted from Middle East to South East Asia .

    US will be required to concentrate its military resources to
    South East Asia and indopacific region to contain China.

    It can not afford to disberse it resources in both Middle East
    and SE Asia.

    US is no longer dependent on West Asia for its oil requirements

    With growth in alternate energy resources ,the world dependence
    on oil and gas is reducing. In about two decades the advanced
    western economies will no longer be dependent on west Asia
    for their energy needs. .

    Moreover, the Chinese economy will overtake US economy
    by 2040. Consequently it will not be possible for US to
    contain China

    Not only US will have to concentrate its military resources,
    it will require collective effort US, European Union and
    Japan to balance the Chinese conventional forces.

    In this scenario it prudent for US to withdraw from
    Middle East and concentrate on SE Asia.

  4. The strategic thinkers must realize that the Geopolitical Epicentre
    of the world has shifted from Middle East to South East Asia..

    USA and its Allies will have to focus its attention to SE Asia to contain
    Moreover US is no longer dependent on Middle East for oil

    With the development of alternative energy resources the dependence
    on oil and gas is going to reduce considerably during next two
    decades. Thus geopolitical importance of West Asian region is

    US can not afford to distribute its resources both in Middle East
    and SE Asia .

    It will have to conserve its resources to contain Chinese power.

    In about two decades the Chinese economy will surpass US
    economy. and consiquently its conventional military power will

    It will require the combined economic power of US , European Union
    and Japan to contain China.

    Hence it is imperative for US to reduce its commitments in the
    Middle East and start concentrating its resources in SE Asia
    and Info pacific region.

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