Afghan Question and the Way Forward

The Taliban has taken over the country and by all accounts Afghanistan’s legitimate and democratically elected government has fled the country to ‘safe heavens’ overseas. Ironically, it would appear that the US has merely kept its flanks secure through the pull out phase, and the current instability in Afghanistan may no longer be of interest to Washington. It clearly reflects that Afghanistan is in dire state of security.

There is now an impression that the US entered Afghanistan, did a job (to eliminate Osama bin Laden) and pulled out. However it merits mention that even during war on terror, USAID and CENTCOM put together a crystalized mechanism to help the Afghan government through several capacity building initiatives – agriculture, education, healthcare, infrastructure to name a few. The USAID worked with various government departments and built institutional capacity also cultivate frameworks for efficient administration and overall governance of the country. US had also worked with concerned ministries to impart training to the bureaucracy to induce faith among the Afghan people the importance of local administration. These measures were in addition to training nearly 300,000 Afghan troops and police officers to fight Al Qaeda and now, Taliban.

It is fair to ascribe the current plight of Afghanistan to fallouts of the country’s internal dynamics to a large extent. The current situation is highly complex for the Afghan government and its people to handle, especially given the fact that it was unable to put its acts together when US boots were present on ground.

The ramifications and fall outs of Taliban takeover of Kabul will impact the entire neighborhood with numerous challenges. There are a number of uncertainties that may result in geopolitical competition in Central and South Asia and these may be not in favor of Afghanistan. Some of these are listed below:

  • China’s undisguised ambition to access energy resources of Central Asia and Iran.
  • A China-dependent Pakistan with successively failing governments. More importantly, a Pakistan that believes that it controls Taliban (at least the Pak based groups).
  • The delicate human rights situation in Xinjiang that needs little encouragement to plunge into religious fanaticism drawing jihadists from the whole of the Islamic world.
  • Continuing US-Iran deadlocks that present ever new opportunities for China to exploit, with or without Pakistan towing its line.
  • An assertive Russia which sees the opportunity to extend its sphere of influence into the vacuum left by USA.
  • Central Asian states are not particularly enamored by Russia and not sufficiently courted by America. Religious connect could spell disaster to the whole region.
  • An opportunistic Turkey that sides with Pakistan, could be emboldened by its success in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
  • An ambivalent India that has enormous grassroots goodwill in Afghanistan, yet has no constructive engagement or influence with power groups/ethnic leadership in Afghanistan.

  • These factors cumulatively point to the necessity for the international community to urgently recognize the situation in Afghanistan as one that will have profound impact on stability and peace in South Asia and Central Asia. Merely engaging Taliban is unlikely to mitigate the unfolding humanitarian disaster.

    Drawing from the two decades of demonstrated behavior of Taliban, it does not take much to imagine the fate of Afghanistan when it sits as the government. The Mullahs controlling Taliban may make angels out of the other leaders of the same ilk elsewhere.

    Under the current uncertainties and difficult circumstances, some issues merit attention:

  • The United Nations, particularly the UNSC, must pass a resolution calling on Taliban to stop all hostilities and join a UN sponsored negotiating process in which legitimate Afghan government will lead the Afghan case.
  • The resolution must squarely call upon all nations to recognize that arming or funding Taliban in the interim will result in stringent sanctions against them, including their overt or covert agents.
  • Afghan Taliban, TTP and the Haqqani Network are listed Terrorist Organizations. The Doha Agreement neither absolves Taliban from being a terrorist group nor does it lend any credibility to it as a state. This must be pinned to the condition offered by UNSC to encourage it to stand down its hostilities.
  • A UN Mandate must be offered to help the Afghan government decide as to the proportional representation of Taliban in the power sharing process, if the majority of the National Assembly of Afghanistan (Jirga) so vote for it.
  • Pakistan especially needs to be restrained by the international mandate to stay away from meddling into Afghanistan in its enthusiasm to convince China that it holds the key for Chinese control over Xinjiang. Pakistan successfully has played that card in the past and the results in terms of the impunity with which terror groups operate on its soil requires little effort to see.

  • The above suggestions could potentially ensure that the ordinary citizens have a say in deciding who will rule them. Afghanistan has been ruled by the gun and bloodshed for over three decades now. It is time that opportunity for a lasting peace is given through unambiguous international will to its ordinary citizens.

    Dr R Srinivasan is an independent researcher and publisher cum Editor-in-Chief of Electronic Journal of Social and Strategic Studies.

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