Afghanistan: Post-American Future in the Region
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 17 Aug , 2021

The fall of Ashraf Ghani regime in Kabul and the return of Taliban to power is a triumph for Pakistan’s Afghan policy. Thirty per cent of Taliban fighting force comprised Pakistani regulars or well-trained religious legions drawn from terrorist organizations banned by the UN. In Tashkent meet, Ashraf Ghani said that no fewer than 10,000 Pakistanis had crossed over and entered Afghanistan ever since the Taliban initiated intense fighting two months ago.

The lightening speed with which the Taliban captured town after town and then in one go threw a ring round the capital city to wait for the outcome of conditions offered to the beleaguered President Ghani for settling transition of power without fighting and bloodshed, leaves room for many speculations. Did theAmericans have a secret understanding with the Taliban at Dohapeace talks? Did the state forces abandon their posts and handover arms to the overwhelming body of the Taliban? Even uglier questions can be raised because the entire narrative is shrouded in mystery.

The Taliban think-tank is based in Quetta where the ISI seniors come regularly to monitor and brief the Taliban commanders on the ground. Pakistan Telecommunication Corporation set up a network for the Taliban. The Para-military Frontier Corps of Pakistan provided a telephone network to the Taliban. The Civil Aviation Authority of Pakistan undertook repair and improvement of Kandahar airport and Pakistan Radio established the Radio Shari at for the Taliban.

ISI has a big job at hand now that the Americans have licked the dust. The task is to cobble a ruling structure for the Emarat-i-Islami Afghanistan which will have to be radical and orthodox in essence but with feigned and fake democratic mask as Pakistan has. Then the nascent Emirate is to be projected as a disciplined, sharia abiding and strictly honest and incorruptible regime. It will enforce its sharia-based practices in respect of treatment of women, their schooling and higher education etc.

Indications are that very soon after the new Taliban regime settles down to normal business, it will try to establish diplomatic ties with premier countries of the European Union and Great Britain. Smoothening of relations with the US and the Quad-4 countries may take some time. India is a different case.

The shift of power to radicals in a sensitive region like Afghanistan will have significant impact on the entire region ofIraq, the Gulf and the Arab world, European countries, Russia and the US in general but on contiguous countries like Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, China and India in particular..

Pakistan has been eagerly waiting for a long time for space westward. She has put great efforts to realize that objective. After the Bangladesh debacle, Pakistan has been nursing the threat that she is sandwiched between two hostile neighbours on her east and west. As such she wanted to break the sandwich syndrome. Ultimately she has succeeded in overcoming both obstacles in her way viz. India and the pro-Indian nationalist elements in Afghanistan. While India was engaged in providing basic infrastructure to the friendly people of Afghanistan, Pakistan was also engaged in building the infrastructure that would be of immense value to the radical Afghan groups whose life is glued to gun and knows no art other than fighting.

It will be rank naivety if India thinks that the Taliban will give any credit to her contribution in improving the life in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s virulent anti-India propaganda over a long time has vitiated the atmosphere. Though Taliban have never directly interfered or opined negatively against India on Kashmir issue. But more often than not, Pakistan has been trying to profile India a country hostile to Islam. She has been able to create misunderstanding about India’s treatment of her Muslim population in the ruling circles in some countries like Turkey, Egypt, and Malaysia etc.

Some commentators are of opinion that after the dust settles down in Kabul, Pakistan will invoke the religious sentiment of the Taliban to proceed on the campaign (ghazava) of India in Kashmir in accordance with the famous hadith of ghazavatu’l Hind. So the Kashmiri separatists will find God-sent fighters to fight their battle which they could not win for 32 years of armed insurgency.

Taliban have often declared that they have absolutely no intention of interfering in the affairs of other countries but remain confined to the affairs of their own country. But in a situation in which Pakistan intends to take umbrage under the pretext of faith, and the Muslim world closes eye on that scenario, then the consequences could be horrendous. Pakistan would be playing with fire.

Pakistan’s one more game plan could be to instigate China for more adventures against India in the Himalayan sector but adopt a non-belligerent mood in the Indo-Pacific region. Pakistan knows that if a sizable Sino-Indian clash takes place in the Himalayas, no world power, much less the US, will come to India’s support given the loss of credibility that the US has suffered in Afghanistan.

We said that the return of Taliban to power is a triumph for Pakistan. For the terrorist organizations with the announced agenda of separating Kashmir from India and joining it with Pakistan Taliban victory has been a shot in the arm. . We are told that the separatists in Kashmir valley and Muslim dominated areas of Jammu region and their committed or non-committed sympathizers are immensely ecstatic on the great event in Afghanistan where many Kashmiri youth attended the terrorist training camps when insurgency erupted in Kashmir. Pakistan has succeeded in sending India packing in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is there but friendly Afghanistan is gone forever.

The US is out not only from Afghanistan but from Central Asia as well. Russia and Talban have an understanding of sorts that the Taliban will not misuse the Northern Afghanistan as the launching pad against any of the five Central Asian Republic because these have to remain under the sphere of influence of Russian Federation. Moscow has already reinforced its border posts on Tajikistan –Afghanistan border and relocated its armour. Besides, Russia has a defence treaty with Tajikistan and has the responsibility of providing protection to civilian lives.

Ashraf Ghani has sought shelter in Dushanbe. There must have been prior consultation between the two Presidents of Tajikistan and Russia on giving safe haven to Ashraf. Seeking refuge in Dushanbe eloquently explains Ashraf’s distrust of the Americans. By choosing Dushanbe as his safe resort, Ashraf has kept the door open for future negotiations with his compatriots in Kabul. In return, Moscow and Dushanbe both have promised not to undertake any punitive action against the refugees crossing the border unauthorised. Thousands of them are reported to have entered Pakistan and Iran.

Iran is more vulnerable to negative impact of Taliban takeover in Kabul. Factional hatred between the Sunnis and Shia was unknown in traditional Afghan society though their respective sectors were defined. After the Pakistani and Saudi Wahhabi and Salafi movements entered the hundreds and thousands of Islamic seminaries (madrasahs) in Pakistan and Afghanistan where the predominance of the Sunni faction was usually profiled and fundamentalism of Sunni order was relentlessly taught, factionalism began to eat into the vitals of Afghan society. The Sunni extremists have committed atrocities on Shia community in Mazar-I-Sharif and Herat forcing thousands of Shia community members to migrate to Iran during the first ascendency of Taliban in 1994. This situation could recur under the Taliban power.

China could perhaps be the biggest beneficiary of Taliban re-entry. Beijing had indicated in advance that it would recognize the Talban regime if it succeeded in dislodging the elected government in Kabul. Since long time Beijing has been eyeing the extensive natural resources of Afghanistan, particularly the copper mines, which have remained untouched so far. In strategic terms Beijing will be inclined to have overland connectivity between Xinxiang and Kabul via the Wakhan corridor. Therefore no surprise that Beijing has been insisting upon Kabul authorities to allow China a military foothold somewhere in Wakhan. Taliban takeover could also open the prospect of China proposing rail connectivity between Gwadar and Kabul via Kandahar which would mean shelving of Chah Bahar – Helmand -Kabul rail project of Indo-Iranian agreement.

Yet another significant development likely to emerge after Taliban takeover could be the resumption of talks on TAPI gas pipeline. This proposal aimed at carrying the gas from the gasfields of Turkmenistan in Central Asia to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. The US was obstructing it stubbornly and Pakistan could not go ahead with the contemplated project. But now with the departure of the US from the scene, it should be possible for the concerned countries to reopen the talks.

The most important consequence of Taliban take over will be the large scale proliferation of narcotics industry in the Asian and European continents. Afghanistan produces the world’s largest quantity of different varieties of narcotics. The Taliban do not impose a ban on narcotic production rather they allowed it to remain the mainstay of Afghan economy. This industry has gradually built a world-wide network and drug mafias have become dangerous and lethal. It will be very easy for those involved in drug mafias to create moles that could use money power to destabilise regimes and undermine institutions. There was some effort of controlling the production of narcotic but not much success was achieved.

In final analysis, if Taliban are not able to realize the importance and impact of scientific and technological age on present day life and the philosophy of freedoms and liberties human beings have won after millennia of sustained struggle and sacrifice, their survival in the present form will be short lived. Theirs is the last battle that conservatism and unilateralism will be fighting against the forces of democracy. The outcome will be decisive and final.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

KN Pandita

Former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University.

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4 thoughts on “Afghanistan: Post-American Future in the Region

  1. World lived an USA(scientific and technological advanced country ?) lie for almost 20 years. Instead going after the Saudi Arabia where the preparators of 911 were from, USA went after Iraq, Libya, Syria, Iran, Afghanistan etc.
    World is still living a lie about USA China relations in the name of advancement and scientific and technology for last 50 years.?
    What is the science and technology behind the tie and suit that the author is wearing after forgetting his own culture? The tie and suit were work by the slaves of the British empire to remind them of the rope around the neck .
    It will be best if the author stays neutral and do deep reflections.

  2. A very sad and unfortunate development – a menace to the world and a clear and present danger to India in particular. The utter failure of the current government even to protect the Indian residents and natives of Indian origin there. We should have sent our air force and army detachments, occupied the Kabul and if necessary Kandahar airports and evacuated all victims or frightened and helpless people in an organized manner in a week or so. Heavens would not fall down – even now we can do that. Taliban cannot counter any air force or even our army effectively within a week or ten days.

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