Policy failures and regional disconnects bring back the Taliban

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Afghanistan sits on a precipice as the nervous world watches

Taliban fighters on the streets of Kabul (AFP Photo)

The re-emergence of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan will have a wider geopolitical impact warranting the attention of the New Zealand government.

The exit of the legitimate government from Kabul will also ripple across the Middle East and the Central Asian regions, changing the dynamics of external players such as India, China, Russia and the United States and their military commitments in the region.

Taliban’s resurrection can be largely attributed to the ability of the organisation to consolidate the existing factions within the complex ethnicity of Afghanistan, especially in the Pashtun-dominated southern Afghanistan. This helped them to develop the necessary base to develop the power centre in Kabul.

The strategic importance of Afghanistan

Strategic observers say that the failure of the Counter-Terror Strategy of the United States is one of the main reasons for the present turmoil in Afghanistan.

This country is crucial for the success of the western powers in Asia as it connects South Asia to the Middle East and serves as a buffer between the two regions. It is rich in minerals and has been contentious between Pakistan and Iran for their sphere of influence.

The International Security Assistance Force had its feet on the ground for about 20 years in Afghanistan with active cooperation from most OECD countries including New Zealand.

The position of the government in Wellington is still not known if the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to decide to send troops again to Afghanistan as a part of the International Security Alliance.

Taliban fighters at a checkpoint near Kabul (AFP Photo)

India retreat and disinvestment

India will be left out of the great game to be played in Afghanistan. Its investment in the extraction of minerals, especially in the coal rich Hajigak region and elsewhere in Afghanistan and other industries, will come under the scanner.

Further, India will be cut from Central Asia and will not be a part of the development of strategically important Chabahar and much of investment involving the Delaram-Zaranj Highway which was built by India may be benefitting India’s strategic ambitions.

To a larger extent, the present situation in Afghanistan could be attributed to India’s inability to send troops to Kabul when the situation warranted. The government in New Delhi had earlier given military equipment as well as assured greater cooperation in building a battle-capable Afghan force.

Despite the failure of its Afghanistan policy, India will reconsider deploying a squadron of Su-30MKIs at the Farkhor base in Ainee, Tajikistan to counter increased Chinese military assertiveness in its western borders. From India’s point of view, the region north of Afghanistan will soon prove to be pivotal to the energy security of continental Asian powers.

American failure proves costly

Successive administrations in Washington have miscalculated the ability of the Taliban to bounce back, more so after Barack Obama’s term as President.

US President Jo Biden has inherited a bad legacy of the negligence of his predecessor Donald Trump, another contributing factor for the return of the Taliban.

Taliban with Women’s Rights Protesters (Photo by Anadolu Agency)

President Obama sought to bring Afghanistan and Pakistan under the banner of AfPak policy in which surprisingly the present President Joe Biden played a major role. The policy of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other countries followed by Donald Trump during his tenure as the President has contributed to the present fiasco in Afghanistan.

Editor’s Note: ‘AfPak’ or Af-Pak was a neologism used within the US foreign policy circles to designate Afghanistan and Pakistan as a single theatre of operations. Introduced in 2008, the neologism reflected the foreign policy approach of the Obama administration, which regarded Afghanistan and Pakistan as a single, dominant political and military situation that required a joint policy in the War on Terror. Following sharp criticism from Pakistan condemning the hyphenation of the country’s geopolitics with Afghanistan, the US government discontinued using the term in 2010.

Balaji Chandramohan is Indian Newslink Correspondent based in New Delhi.

 

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