Afghanistan - Always at War Within - Daily Current Affair Article

CONTEXT:

The recent announcement by the US President Joe Biden and U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson to hold a virtual G7 leaders’ meeting with respect to the uncertain and unfortunate turn of events in Afghanistan, the Taliban's takeover and the events that followed thereon shifts the focus of International geopolitics on Afghanistan and the future prospects.

TALIBAN - BACKGROUND

  • The Taliban, or "students" in the Pashto language, emerged in the early 1990s in northern Pakistan following the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan. It is believed that the predominantly Pashtun movement first appeared in religious seminaries - mostly paid for by money from Saudi Arabia - which preached a hardline form of Sunni Islam.
  • From south-western Afghanistan, the Taliban quickly extended their influence. In September 1995 they captured the province of Herat, bordering Iran, and exactly one year later they captured the Afghan capital, Kabul, overthrowing the regime of President Burhanuddin Rabbani - one of the founding fathers of the Afghan mujahideen that resisted the Soviet occupation. By 1998, the Taliban were in control of almost 90% of Afghanistan.
  • On October 7, 2001, a US-led military coalition launched attacks in Afghanistan, in the aftermath of the September 2001 World Trade Center attacks in New York, and by the first week of December the Taliban regime had collapsed. The group's then-leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, and other senior figures, including Bin Laden, evaded capture despite one of the largest manhunts in the world.
  • By all accounts, Afghanistan has made progress on recognizing and protecting Afghans’ rights since Taliban rule ended in 2001.
  • The 2004 Afghan constitution establishes a democratic political system in which basic freedoms, including of religion, expression, assembly, and association, are guaranteed.
  • But in practice and reality, human rights and other administrative laws saw profound violation too.
  • In the year following the US-Taliban peace deal of February 2020 - which was the culmination of a long spell of direct talks - the Taliban appeared to shift their tactics from complex attacks in cities and on military outposts to a wave of targeted assassinations that terrorised Afghan civilians.
  • Doha Talks:
  • In 2020, before the Doha Talks started, the Taliban had maintained that they would hold direct talks only with the US, and not with the Kabul government, which they did not recognise.
  • In the agreement, the US administration promised that it would withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan by 1st May, 2021.
  • The deadline has been pushed to 11th September 2021.
  • This provided the Taliban a sense of victory and demoralised the Afghan troops.
  • The Taliban promised to reduce violence, join intra-Afghan peace talks and cut all ties with foreign terrorist groups.
  • Despite grave concerns from Afghan officials over the government's vulnerability to the Taliban without international support, the new US president, Joe Biden, announced in April 2021 that all American forces would leave the country by 11 September - two decades to the day since the felling of the World Trade Center.
  • Recently, the Taliban has seized Kabul, the capital city of Afghanistan, raising questions over the US and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) trained Afghan Forces.
  • Among the cities that fell is Jalalabad in the east, and many evacuation missions are set in motion.

REASONS FOR US FAILURE IN AFGHANISTAN

  • The failure was right in the beginning. The Americans were clear that they had intervened to eliminate al-Qaeda and international terrorism. But it took them 10 years to even find Osama bin Laden and actually reach a stage where you could theoretically say that al-Qaeda was eliminated.
  • Their intentions never were to liberate Afghans from the Taliban.
  • The reality that al-Qaeda’s presence came out of the radicalism that had been promoted and exported from Pakistan that US started.
  • Though the realisation was clear that terrorism in Afghanistan is rooting from Pakistan, still no American administration was able to pursue the logic of that discovery to its conclusion by the use of coercive diplomacy.
  • Also, while the US spent money on the war effort and on media, civil society, women, and many other things, they did not invest in Afghanistan
  • The Americans did not invest even in democracy, in the institutions of democracy; they did not invest in trade. They didn't invest towards the $3 trillion worth of mineral wealth in Afghanistan.

TALIBAN AND DEMOCRACY

  • The Taliban are a 100 per cent Pakistani project that started in 1994, then, underwent a mutation after they were defeated in 2001 and moved to Pakistan. Groomed in the madrasas associated with the refugee camps of Pakistan, that were run by extreme Deobandi or Wahhabi mullahs.
  • The Pakistani agenda was to create a constituency of Afghans that would effectively erase the Afghan and Pashtun identities of the people who had grown up in the refugee camps, and submerge it in the larger pan-Islamic identity under an emirate or a caliphate. When it came to a choice between Afghanistan and the emirate, the Taliban would opt for the emirate. This was to end the possibility of Afghans having their land in their hearts which can lead to peace establishment.

INTERNAL RESISTANCE TO TALIBAN IN AFGHANISTAN

  • The spontaneous resistance by the countrymen like defiant banner protests by women rejecting Taliban rule, long processions in Kabul with the Afghan flag on Independence day of Afghan on August 19.

INDIA'S APPROACH

PAST:

  • Barring a brief pause in the 1990s, India has historically enjoyed good ties with Afghanistan, which go back to the 1950 Treaty of Friendship.
  • The 2011 India-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Agreement recommitted Indian assistance to help rebuild Afghanistan’s infrastructure and institutions; education and technical assistance for capacity-building in many areas; encourage investment in Afghanistan; and provide duty-free access to the Indian market.
  • The 42MW Salma Dam in Herat province, the hydropower and irrigation project, completed against many odds and inaugurated in 2016, is known as the Afghan-India Friendship Dam.

PRESENT:

  • Speaking at the Afghanistan Conference in Geneva in November 2020, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said “no part of Afghanistan today is untouched by the 400-plus projects that India has undertaken in all 34 of Afghanistan’s provinces”.
  • India had transported 75,000 tonnes of wheat through Chabahar to Afghanistan during the pandemic.
  • The Afghan Parliament in Kabul was built by India at $90 million. It was opened in 2015; Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the building.
  • In 2016, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Prime Minister Modi inaugurated the restored Stor Palace in Kabul, originally built in the late 19th century, and which was the setting for the 1919 Rawalpindi Agreement by which Afghanistan became an independent country.
  • India had concluded with Afghanistan an agreement for the construction of the Shatoot Dam in Kabul district, which would provide safe drinking water to 2 million residents. He also announced the start of some 100 community development projects worth $80 million.
  • India pledged $1 million for another Aga Khan heritage project, the restoration of the Bala Hissar Fort south of Kabul, whose origins go back to the 6th century.

WAY FORWARD

  • In 2019-20, bilateral trade crossed $1.3 billion, Afghan government officials said at a recent interaction with Indian exporters in Mumbai. It needs to be maintained.
  • An independent, sovereign, democratic, pluralistic and inclusive Afghanistan is crucial for peace and stability in the region. Thus, India needs to be a main polar for this peace process.
  • Also, there is a need for the global community to fight against the global concern of terrorism. In this context, it high time to adopt the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (proposed by India at UN in 1996).
  • Talking with the Taliban: Talking to Taliban would allow India to seek security guarantees from the insurgents in return for continued development assistance or other pledges as well as explore the possibility of the Taliban’s autonomy from Pakistan.
  • At this point, talking to the Taliban looks inevitable. But India should not overlook the deep ties between Pakistan’s security establishment and the Haqqani Network, a major faction within the Taliban.
  • The USA overlooked it while fighting the Taliban along with Pakistan, and it paid a heavy price for it.
  • Taking Afghan Government in Confidence: There is no guarantee that India’s quest for engagement with the Taliban would produce a desirable outcome. So India should broad-base its options.
  • While talking to the Taliban to protect its interests, India should also enhance aid to Afghanistan’s legitimate government and security forces and work with other regional powers for long-term stability in the country.
  • Support Afghan Military Forces: The Afghan military has some 200,000 battle-hardened soldiers, including the highly trained special forces. The only force that is standing up to the Taliban is the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.
  • Short Term and Long Term Goal: India’s immediate goal should be the safety and security of its personnel and investments. The long-term goal should be finding a political solution to the crisis. None of this can be achieved unless it works together with the regional powers.

Sources

  • The Indian Express
  • The Hindu
  • Carnegie India
  • Hindustan Times
  • BBC
General Studies Paper 2
  • International Relation