Afghanistan: Socio-Political Future

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Dr N C Bhowmik

 

Afghanistan has become a battlegound for almost 20 years. The Afghan war is the longest war in the history of the United States. The United States is finally ending the nearly two-decade-long Afghan war. According to a peace deal reached between the United States and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, in February last year, President Biden has announced that all US troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan by September 11 this year. After the announcement, NATO also said that they will withdraw the troops of the alliance within this period.

 

After two long decades of bloodshed, the United States is finally withdrawing from the country. The withdrawal process is said to be near completion. In the meantime, multidimensional analysis has begun among analysts surrounding the deal. But beyond all analysis, the key question is whether the deal will actually bring peace to Afghanistan.

 

According to United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), 2,300 US troops have died in Afghanistan since 2009. 20,660 injuries were reported. Simultaneously, 450 British troops were killed. Hundreds of troops from other NATO countries have lost their lives in the two-decade-long war. However, the Afghans have suffered many more casualties in this bloody war of two decades. More than 60,000 members of the Afghan security forces have been killed.

 

In the last four decades, due to conflicts twenty seven lacs people had to leave the country and took shelter in Pakistan, Iran and Europe. Another thirty five lacs out of four crore people are internally displaced and staying in different places of Afghanistan. Talibans destroyed the remnants of civilization including ancient Buddha’s statue during their rule.In the last few years, the Talibans have continued to increase their power and attacks. According to security analysts, the withdrawal of foreign troops means the Taliban will intensify activities in the country.

 

The international community fears that if the troubles persist, the country will suddenly plunge into civil war. That will be the matter of worry for the world. General Austin S Miller, commander-in-chief of the US operation in Afghanistan, expressed concern that Afghanistan is heading towards chaos and multilateral civil war. The interests of India, Russia, China, Iran, and Pakistan as major powers, depends on Afghanistan’s internal situation. India has invested more than 3 billion dollars in infrastructure development in Afghanistan.

 

Pakistan wants a Taliban government backed in Kabul to increase its sphere of influence by patronizing terrorists. It may be mentioned that Pakistan PM Imran Khan has declared in Parliament that Al Quada chief Osama Bin Laden was a “martyr.” It indicates their policy explicitly.In contrast, India wants Afghanistan to be free from terrorist’s influence. They want freedom, equality and progress. However, it is not the wish of either India or Iran to establish a Taliban-controlled Islamic government in Afghanistan.

 

This is because in the Shia-dominated provinces along the Iran-Afghan border in southwestern Afghanistan, various anti-Taliban Iranian-backed organizations are active. Similarly, the northern provinces of Afghanistan are inhabited by Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks. They will not accept the Taliban forces dominated by the Pashtun population and that will rule based on discrimination. So the threat of long-term unrest cannot be ruled out.

 

It remains to be seen how sincerely all groups resolve these issues in the name of peace. The political scenario of Afghanistan should be developed following democracy based on civilisation after so many lives, blood, money and destruction of infrastructure. It may be remembered Afghanistan is part of strong centre of civilization of Indian-subcontinent.

 

The Taliban claimed to be in control major part of Afghanistan after seizing key border crossings with Iran and Turkmenistan following a sweeping offensive launched as US troops pulled out of the war-torn nation. Earlier Taliban activities was limited in 25pc of the areas in last few years. Separately, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP their fighters had captured the border town of Islam Qala on the Iranian frontier and the Torghundi crossing with Turkmenistan.

 

Afghanistan’s interior ministry spokesman Tareq Arian said efforts were under way to dislodge the insurgents from their positions. Hours earlier, Biden said the US military mission would end on August 31 – nearly 20 years after it began – having “achieved” its goals. But he admitted it was “highly unlikely” Kabul would be able to control the entire country.

 

Biden said the Afghan people alone should determine their future, but he acknowledged the uncertainty about what that would look like. Asked if a Taliban takeover was inevitable, the president said: “No, it is not.” But, he admitted, “The likelihood there is going to be one unified government in Afghanistan controlling the whole country is highly unlikely”.

 

President Ashraf Ghani said the government could handle the situation, but admitted difficulties lay ahead. The Kabul government has repeatedly dismissed the Taliban’s gains as having little strategic value, but the seizure of multiple border crossings along with mineral-rich areas will give them several sources of new revenue.

 

Despite all the recent US talk of not accepting a government formed by force in Afghanistan, the international community will not revert to its 1990s anti-Taliban approaches. The Taliban is also playing the diplomatic game, recently, a Taliban spokesperson assured China that Uighur militants will not be allowed space in Afghanistan.

 

It shows China is playing a double standard role as in one side it is persecuting Uighur Muslim but on the other hand it is negotiating with Taliban extremist group which is working by using Islam. Iran and Russia have been in close contact with the Taliban for many years, and would have undoubtedly worked out arrangements to ensure their real security interests in the region remain secure.

 

India decided to maintain relation with the Hamid Karzai government earlier and later, Ashraf Ghani.Pakistan will now work for the damage of the socio-political achievement in Afghanistan and, as part of this process, seek to ensure terrorist activities by installing Taliban-dominated government. Recently, Taliban Militant Group has intensified insurgent activities in Afghanistan specifically in the border area of Pakistan. It is reported Pakistan security forces are helping them. In a bid to curb the violence, Afghan authorities have imposed a night time curfew in some areas of 34 provinces.

 

The two biggest democracies USA and India are working for piece and development in Indo -Pacific region especially in South Asia.  By this time, The United States and India reaffirmed their commitment to deepening their security partnership during a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to New Delhi.  Ties between the two countries have steadily improved amid mutual concerns.

 

“There are few relationships in the world that are more vital than one between the U.S. and India,” Blinken said at a joint news conference with Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.  The top diplomats of both countries also stressed the need for a political solution to the conflict in Afghanistan.Blinken said that reports in the last week of “atrocities” committed by the Taliban “are deeply troubling” and do not speak well of the Taliban’s intentions for the country.  He warned that “an Afghanistan that does not respect the rights of its people will become a pariah state.”

 

Saying that the United States remains engaged in Afghanistan and is working to bring parties together to resolve the conflict, he stressed the need for all sides to take negotiations seriously. “The Taliban says it seeks international recognition, that it wants international support for Afghanistan. Presumably it wants its leaders to be able to travel freely in the world, sanctions lifted,” Blinken said. “Well, taking over the country by force and abusing the rights of its people is not the path to achieve those objectives.

 

There is only one path, and that is at the negotiating table.”  India’s foreign minister said, “The outcome in Afghanistan should not be decided on the battlefield,” The two sides also discussed the Quad alliance, a security group that consists of the U.S., India, Japan and Australia, which has been working for peace and security in the region.

 

Indian Foreign Minister Jaishankar, however, said that it “is not strange” for groups of countries to work together. Blinken also met Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his stop in New Delhi. “I welcome President Joe Biden’s strong commitment to strengthen the India-U.S. strategic partnership, which is anchored in our shared democratic values and is a force for global good,” Modi said after the meeting.

 

One of the significant meetings held by Blinken in New Delhi was with Ngodup Dongchung, a representative of the Tibetan government in exile. The meeting will be seen as a signal of the Biden administration’s support to the Tibetan cause. It is reported that few USA troops would be in Afghanistan for training and assistance to Afghan security forces. It is also reported that Afghan ambassador in New Delhi said they may seek Indian military cooperation for assisting.

 

It is evident from the description and previous history, Taliban is still a force in Afghanistan. There was an anti sentiment of international community against Taliban extremist activities especially during their rule in 90s, these sentiments still exist regionally and globally. USA along with NATO and with the support of other democratic countries invaded Afghanistan in March 2002 after 9/11 attack. Peace loving people of the world expect peace and development in Afghanistan.

 

There are some developments in the country in socio-political level contributed by Hamid Karzai and Ashraf Goni governments backed by coalition forces. They have developed the socio-political and economic sectors by taking different steps regarding women-minorities rights and freedom, but institutions have not been developed yet.

 

Security forces have also been developed and actions are being taken against terrorist forces with the help of coalition forces, but they could not establish full control of the country. Now with the withdrawal of USA and its allied forces, it is reported that Taliban is gaining ground. Talibans will have to accept modern state system otherwise they will again face the consequences.We hope democratic forces of the world will give proper attention for peace, security and development by accommodating all social forces in Afghanistan.

Dr N C Bhowmik  is an academic, former ambassador and valiant
freedom fighter.