Afghanistan remained a political experiment for superpowers resulting, in Islamic terrorism and political instability in the landlocked country. Now, the US withdrawal is leaving behind a clueless Afghan population in a vulnerable environment. What’s the scope of the future relationship between Afghanistan and India?
The majority of the known Islamic terrorist organization in Central Asia, and West Asia have direct or indirect source links from Afghanistan. But this is not because Afganistan is a brooding womb of Islamic terrorism for ages. The extended international involvement in its domestic politics disrupted it from becoming an independently evolved nation.
At the end of this discussion, we will be able to conclude that the successful terrorist start-ups were the by-products of this never-ending foreign interference in Afganistan.
Graveyard oF Empires: Greek to Durrani
Afganistan is rightly known as ‘Graveyard of Empires’, it rightly summarizes its political history right from the Alexander the great’s expedition. Afganistan was a war stage for many European and central Asian invaders who had humongous ambition for geography beyond the Hindu-Kush mountains. After Alexander and the Seleucid Empire, many empires and kingdoms have also shown their power of presence in Afghanistan. Such as the Greco-Bactrians, Indo-Scythians, Kushans, Turk Shahis, Hindu Shahis, Samanids, Ghaznavids, Ghurids, Khwarazmians, Khaljis, Lodis, Surs, Mughals, and finally, the Hotak and Durrani dynasties, which marked the political origins of the modern state.
After the third Anglo-Afgan war, Afganistan proclaimed its sovereign independence and remained neutral during Ist and IInd world wars. King Amanullah Khan introduced many reforms to modernize his nation. But all these reforms quickly alienated many tribal and religious leaders which resulted in Civil wars and internal skirmishes.
That Same Old Story With New Actors
In Asia, the colonial powers and superpowers executed proxy wars and their big strategy politics and exited. Thereafter they had limited direct influences. In the case of Afganistan after the ‘Great game’ in the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century between the Russian empire and the British empire. The United States replaced Britain.
Fast-forwarding to 1973, Mohammed Daoud Khan, cousin of the last king of Afghanistan Zahir Shah abolished the monarchy when the king was on a trip to Italy. In 1978, Saur Revolution took place, which triggered a series of incidences that made Afgan a central stage of Islamic terrorism. From there on Afghanistan was transcended from a poor, neutral country to a disturbing international arena to showcase power and aggression which pushed the land-locked country into the worst place for humanity.
The Saur revolution resulted in a socialist-communist regime under the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) which had the backing of the Soviet Union, which distraught the United States. While the brutal suppression of dissidents, the Communist regime also put forward symbolic actions including land reforms and education for women.
During the Coldwar, the US was looking at all the possible ways to diminish the Soviet’s communist influence on the globe, and confronting the ideology in Central Asia made Afganistan an optimum stage for a proxy war. This hidden belligerence resulted in some sparks that set the course of actions that gave birth to Mujahideen which later fragmented to various other terrorist organizations including Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and Taliban, that are still actively operating in and around Central Asia.
Chickens Have Come Home To Roost.
Mujahideen was financially supported by Saudi, militarily by the US and Pakistan through sponsored military camps in North-West Frontier Province and customized literature to evoke Islamic fundamentalism among the youth, which made the recruitment process easy. All this resulted in the Soviet withdrawal from Afgan in 1989. Now the children and wives of the participants of Mujahideen came back to torn down Afganistan which crippled by corruption and seen the foreign presence as the reason behind this chaos. Disturbed youth organized as Talib or student under Mohammed Omar and Abdul Ghani Baradar to form Taliban between 1994-96. The other two participants of Mujahideen led Afgan civil war Abū Muṣʻab Zarqāwī and Osama bin Laden later founded ISIS and Al-Qaeda. For the next 1 decade, the Taliban became the direct contender to the ruling government of Afganistan. Taliban ruled three-quarters of the country under their strict interpretation of Sharia between 1996 and 2001.
After the 9/11 attack, the US attacks the Taliban, due to their direct involvement with Al-Qaeda to execute the operation from their base and denial of US demands. The Taliban government was ousted by the US-led international forces. But by this time the brainchild(Taliban) of the US and Pakistan has thrown enough havoc for both and the regional countries.
As of now, the Taliban controls 18% of the country directly and 40% is disputed with the ruling government. The United States along with other international organizations has spent billions in the country. But the country is still struggling to overcome the challenge of terrorism. Now the US seems to be exiting without cleaning the menace that is haunting the country for decades.
More Than Just a Friendly Neighbor: Afghanistan and india
India and Afghanistan have been in a good relationship from the beginning of their existence. India helped its neighbor through financial aid, infrastructure development, and human resources. But India was never involved in Afghanistan politically or militarily like Pakistan. The construction of Salma Dam, reconstruction of Afganistan Parliament, Zaranj-Delagram Highway project, connecting Afganistan to Chabahar port to reduce the dependency on Pakistan. All these show India’s constructive help to Afghanistan.
After the US exit, India needs to step up its game to manage the rise in instability and work with the democratically elected government of Afghanistan. This pull-out can cause friction in Indo-US ties as the US would potentially ask India to put Indian soldiers to maintain peace in the region, which India will deny.
There shall not be boots [soldiers] from India on the ground [in Afghanistan]India’s Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said at a joint press conference with visiting US Defense Secretary James Mattis
India has to involve, but not by putting our soldier’s life at stake. Indian intelligence agency needs to confront ISI and Pakistan in Afganistan. India has to counter Pakistan’s involvement that strengthens Taliban influence in Afganistan. Pakistan without any doubt will take its evil steps to undermine the elected government of the country. Because the Taliban’s return to power will also hamper India’s national security to a great extent. India cannot afford to give Pakistan an ally in Central Asia. As a regional power, Afganistan’s stable stature is India’s need also.
The US-NATO Exit
Obama always defended his decision to keep the military in Afganistan and pulling out gradually, with responsibility and with the condition-driven agreement. But his successors are making taking quick steps to vacate. Trump’s one of the major election promises was to pull out American soldiers from the US. However, it doesn’t realize, though directed a partial withdrawal in his last days in office.
The Biden administration has announced all American forces will leave Afghanistan by this September, which marks the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, the troop withdrawal will start this May. Biden says the exit will be done in full coordination with Washinton’s allies. There are about 3000 American soldiers alongside 7000 NATO forces. But the Taliban has threatened to renew attacks if full forces are not out by May. The Afganistan President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai welcomed the exit and shown confidence by tweeting that the Afganistan National security forces are fully prepared to defend its nationals. The factor to note is that in 2001 security forces were fighting one terrorist organization. Whereas, now there is reportedly 22 terrorist organization operating in Afganistan.
The US army’s departure makes the people’s life in Afganistan more vulnerable. Leaving in a time when there is no proper channel of negotiation or any robust peace agreement with the Taliban would not be a responsible action from Washington. This can even deteriorate the limited progress made in the last few years with the help of international aid. If the US does not give strict guidelines for Pakistan, the porous border with Pakistan can provide a channel to replenish the recruits. 90% of the global heroin production is in Afganistan, which financially supports the Taliban. The sudden announcement of withdrawal can bring a plethora of problems to the Afgan population especially women and children.