The presence of Osama bin Laden in a military cantonment near Islamabad should dispel all doubts about Pakistan’s true position in the US-led global war against terrorism. The fact that the double game by Pakistan continued for a decade reveals an incredible level of ignorance or naivety or perhaps helplessness on the part of the US. Both Pakistan and the Taliban would like to see US forces depart Afghanistan early. The US is unlikely to make any headway in the ongoing talks with Taliban as the latter are already beginning to sense victory. Besides, the US is way off the mark in trying to distinguish between what they describe as ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’ Taliban. Such a categorisation is not possible as Taliban is just one entity, ‘Good’ for some, ‘Bad’ for others. The US may well be barking up the wrong tree once again.
It is on account of the sustained clandestine support to Taliban by Pakistan that the US has not been able to score a decisive victory over their enemy that has been waging what in essence is a guerrilla war. No sooner that US forces depart Afghanistan, with full physical and moral support from Pakistan, the Taliban will move aggressively to regain control of Afghanistan restoring the situation that existed prior to September 2001.
Any move by India to send its forces into Afghanistan to replace those of the US and to take on the Taliban as also to ensure the survival of the Karzai government, would inevitably lead to a direct conflict with not only with the Taliban but also with Pakistan and in due course, with China.
This would be the culmination of years of effort by Pakistan to acquire strategic depth against India. Also, given the fact that President Hamid Karzai is an American nominee and is not exactly a favourite of the Taliban, he may not be able to retain power for long unless he plays his cards well. His survival would depend upon his ability to mend fences with Pakistan and extend a welcome to China. In all likelihood, in collusion with Pakistan, China is all set to arrive in Afghanistan in a big way drawn essentially by the huge mineral resources there that remain unexploited and access to the future energy resources of the Central Asian Republics (CAR). But Hamid Karzai is of little significance to both Pakistan and the Taliban alike and hence may be quite dispensable. Hamid Karzai’s predicament would be somewhat similar to that of erstwhile President of Afghanistan Dr Najibullah in 1989 post Soviet withdrawal. Despite US efforts at training up the Afghan military and police forces, it is highly unlikely that the Karzai government in Kabul would be able to withstand the onslaught from the Taliban-Pakistan combine.
Indian Expeditionary Force in Afghanistan
There is a school of thought that India needs to assume a leadership role in the region, a sentiment endorsed by Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State, during her recent visit to India. Whether such a responsibility should include taking over from the US in Afghanistan to secure her national security interests, is a subject of debate. Any move by India to send its forces into Afghanistan to replace those of the US and to take on the Taliban as also to ensure the survival of the Karzai government, would inevitably lead to a direct conflict with not only with the Taliban but also with Pakistan and in due course, with China. Given the fact that India does not have a land route to Afghanistan, it would have to depend on Iran to induct forces into the country. India has helped build the 217-kilometer Zaranj-Delaram highway to link Afghanistan to Iran to provide a link with Chabahar port in Persian Gulf. Constructed as a part of a programme related to economic assistance to Afghanistan, Iran may not appreciate its use for transportation of military forces and stores. Besides, India has not been sensitive to Iranian sentiments resulting in souring of relations in the recent past.