Afghanistan reconquered by the Taliban | Bharat Shakti
It is becoming increasingly difficult to predict the direction Kabul will take for the Afghan nation in the days to come. The actions of the Taliban contradict the stated intentions of the Taliban. The very composition of the Afghan ministry signals the increasingly firm grip of extremists on the country. The article takes stock of the emerging situation and attempts to define a possible Indian position.
After two decades, the Taliban not only regained Afghanistan, but also global attention. The United States, reflecting on the futility of years – at least through three presidencies – to emerge from “Eternal Wars”, finally emerged on August 31 from the lost war on terrorism. By clearing the entire circle of “Taliban to Taliban” was sealed, once again leaving the poor, dreamy-eyed Afghans, especially women, to their fate.
Whatever progress has been made in terms of democracy or development, it has been abandoned for reasons of strategic convenience. The ignominious exit from hyper power, the fall of the Afghan armed forces and an inept government against the rag but the seasoned Taliban have become a sad allegory of debate for the strategic community. The United States and several others have invented a new twist: the good and bad Taliban in Taliban 1.0 and Taliban 2.0 obscuring the bitter reality that has been unfolding since August 15; the day the Taliban dramatically captured Kabul as India turned 75e Independence day.
Meanwhile, the Doha-based leadership under Mullah Baradar had become a media expert with the help of Rawalpindi’s GHQ. He was producing social media stories at an unusual rate, conveying the idea that this time around the Taliban have a more Catholic outlook even though they were going to adhere to their own version of Sharia law in the Islamic Emirate. This is precisely what it did much to the dismay of the international community, which kept repeating the red lines while quickly trying to extract their citizens and some Afghans. Kabul airport has been the scene of desperation and even bomb blasts, shattering the myth that the Taliban were somehow a monolith.
Reports of the Taliban’s regressive policies and enforcement actions abound. The ugly struggles for creamy governance positions by various constituents like the Haqqani Group, a US-sanctioned entity, are also evident. He controls Kabul and key cabinet positions, including Sirajuddin Haqqani’s interior ministry with the power to appoint governors. Although some Uzbek, Tajik and Hazara minorities have been assigned positions, women have seen their ministry transform into a ministry of Vice and Virtue with a bearded leader giving the diktat.
It appears that the astute statements by Taliban spokespersons are out of step with the underlying reality and intention and that the Doha faction is in the minority. As such, the most visible leader for so long, Mullah Baradar has been given a subordinate post of Deputy Prime Minister; beaten by Akhund.
Likewise, Stanikzai, a high-level negotiator trained in India, is only a deputy foreign minister. More than half of ministers are internationally banned for extremist activity. However, the Taliban have cleverly attached another minister or deputy in important ministries who might not be sanctioned and can travel. The United States has already requested an extension of the waiver for its trip to the UN.
Whether the Taliban 2.0 has transformed or not, the international community and the geopolitics of the region have surely undergone a change. With the exit of the United States, the field is opened to competition for Russia, China, Iran, Qatar and Turkey. Former Taliban supporters in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have taken a back seat but remain in the fray.
Pakistan, the ancestor of the Taliban, especially the Haqqani group, remains a constant. It has managed to cash in its nuisance value, considered strategic by all the great powers, be it the United States, China or, for that matter, Russia. Furthermore, they made a strategic error in not recognizing or ignoring the terrorist designs of the Rawalpindi gang. If there was no terror or threat in Afghanistan, Islamabad’s relevance would diminish. Even today, they remain the main interlocutors and spokespersons of the Taliban in international forums. Prime Minister Imran Khan, worried about the Talibanization of Pakistan himself, called for swift recognition of the Taliban government and immediate assistance lest it lead to more radicalism and terrorism.
As such, a divergent mix of terrorist groups populate Afghanistan, including Pakistan-based Lashkar e Taiba (LeT), Jaish e Mohammed (JeM) and Al-Qaeda (AQ) which are believed to be present in at least 15 provinces. First of all, there is ISIS-Khorasan whose global dream of the Islamic State is at odds with the Taliban Islamic emirate of Afghanistan.
Internal competition between various rabid and stubborn terrorist groups and fundamentalists can undermine the Taliban’s ability to rule and to keep big promises not to allow its territory to be used to encourage terrorism against a country. Of course, without taking Pakistani conceptions into account in their articulations, a territorial war leading to a civil war between terrorist groups is also a real possibility with dangerous regional ramifications. If the international community co-opts the Taliban to fight terrorism across its borders, it may have to compromise on inclusiveness and women’s rights.
The key paradox for the international community remains the distinction between the enforcement of human rights and the urgent provision of humanitarian assistance. Both are also necessary and are not mutually exclusive per se, but prioritizing certain dimensions ab initio is essential to avoid economic and financial catastrophe caused by a pandemic.
It was easy for the United States, the IMF and the World Bank to block access to Afghan funds or international aid, but how long is that sustainable given the deteriorating situation and appeals of ONU. UN SG Antonio Guterres and his various agencies on the ground have announced the end of the world. Fortunately, international commitments almost doubled to $ 1.3 billion from the UN’s initial request of $ 660 million. Unhindered access and transparent distribution of aid were advocated. Even the United States allowed access to Afghan funds and relief supplies. Here again, geopolitics takes over as China, Russia, Turkey, Iran and the Gulf States have taken the initiative to reach out to the Taliban to provide them with aid and assistance.
Even though terrorism from Afghanistan remains a common concern, Russia, China, Turkey, Pakistan and Qatar have called for the funds to be thawed and their access to the Taliban to enable them to deal with immediate governance problems. . The global expectations of the Taliban and the Taliban responding to them have become as difficult to negotiate as the chicken-and-egg situation.
The Chinese appear to have struck a deal with the Taliban for investment and financial aid in return for tackling the downfall of Afghan Uyghurs and the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM). China also plans to expand its BRI and CPEC geo-economic projects across Afghanistan, Central Asia and Eurasia under Taliban rule, while mining trillions of dollars in rare earths and minerals. .
Russia is also looking at this economic opportunity, although it is a little worried about China’s growing influence in Central Asia which is its backyard and under the orbit of the CSTO. Iran was unhappy with Pakistan’s entry into Panjshir against the almost failed resistance from Saleh and Masoud. Turkey is also aiming for certain advantages as a new geopolitical dynamic including CRIPTAQ (China, Russia, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, Afghanistan and Qatar) emerges. The Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs followed by the Minister of Trade of the United Arab Emirates were in India to work out mechanisms to save common interests in the changing and unpredictable scenario.
India has invested heavily in nation building activities in Afghanistan over the past 20 years through its high impact development and capacity building projects in 34 provinces. However, the unexpected turn of events created new challenges. It was abandoned, while trying to find a consensus in the bilateral, trilateral and enlarged troikas, the quartets of the BRICS to the SCO through QUAD and the UN to guide the international community towards a common position regarding the recognition and legitimacy of the Taliban.
India has been seized of the issue during its UNSC presidency by focusing not only on three comprehensive statements, but also on UNSCR 2593 outlining the outlines of cooperation with the Taliban. The aim is to ensure that the gains of the past two decades are not wasted. The Taliban appreciate what India has done, but its intrinsic equation with Islamabad diminishes its ability to respond positively and ensure that no Afghan terror comes to India.
New Delhi is concerned about the huge cache of the most sophisticated weapons left by fleeing Americans that could fall into the hands of Pakistan-backed terrorist groups whose target is only India. Therefore, as the new axis and new equations emerge, pragmatism would be the way forward and India will need to be prepared for all eventualities while working to help the Afghan people when they need it. thanks to humanitarian aid, which has always been the backbone of its Public Diplomacy.
Amb Anil Trigunayat
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of BharatShakti.in)