The End of Afghan War? — The US Withdrawal and its Effects on India
“What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or in the holy name of liberty or democracy?” — Mahatma Gandhi
With the United States of America officially withdrawing from Afghanistan, the long Afghan war has come to an end. Or has it?
Background — The US entered Afghanistan after the 2001 terrorists attacks after declaring a war on terrorism. Ever since, the it has been fighting a brutal and hard war in Afghanistan. The elimination of Taliban and many other terrorists groups like Al-Qaeda were the main objectives of the US-NATO military alliance in Afghanistan. In the first few years, they eliminated Al-Qaeda and Taliban from majority of the regions and shifted their focus towards nation building for lasting peace in the region.
But they soon realised that it was not gonna be an easy task. The tough terrain and emotionally charged feelings towards the US fueled tensions ever further. It came to be known as ‘an endless war’ because there was no end to the hostilities. In the meantime the US-led military alliance provided the Afghan National Forces with arms, ammunition and training to tackle the terrorists. It was proving to be the longest and the most expensive war for the US and the Afghan people.
What now? — After the “Peace Agreement between the United States of America and the Taliban” was signed in 2020, it was clear that the US will finally exit Afghanistan. And now, President Biden has confirmed that the US will exit Afghanistan bringing end to the 20-year-old war. Yet, the manner of peace process and future power-sharing was unclear.
The Taliban has strengthened its position in the meantime and captured almost half the area under its command. It has increased hostilities against anyone questioning their authority along with atrocities against women in many captured areas, attacking government forces even harder. The Afghan government is getting weaker and its legitimacy is hanging in the balance.
India’s Role — India has stressed that it strives for an “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled’ inclusive peace process. Previously, the government avoided talking to the Taliban as India only wanted to engage with a democratic government. But now, it realised that Taliban was a major stakeholder and asserted that India would support any peace process that led to an inclusive and democratic Afghanistan.
India is one of the major stakeholders in Afghanistan. India has provided both material and non-material support to the government in Kabul. It is also one of the major investors in social sectors in Afghanistan, like hospitals, schools, etc. Major projects like “India-Afghan Friendship Dam” also became a major accomplishment.
But now, India’s interests are at risk. A Taliban controlled government could put us in a difficult position as Pakistan-Taliban nexus might get stronger. There are also fears that Taliban may shift its focus towards Pakistan-India border to cause disturbances in Kashmir. This could potentially become a national security risk for India. Hence, the future engagement with all stakeholders becomes even more important.
Role of Neighbors — With the US withdrawing, Afghanistan’s neighbors are expected to step up and handle the aftermath. The countries like Iran, Pakistan, India and even countries like China and Russia are seeking to a play a major role.
These countries must ensure that there is stability in Afghanistan and that the future is inclusive, secure and democratic. However, there are differences of opinion between all these countries as to what is the best way forward.
The Way Forward —
- India must ensure that its interests are secure and should support a peace process involving all stakeholders that strive for a lasting and inclusive Afghan society.
- India should use its cultural linkages to use and persuade different factions to end hostilities and strive for a better future.
- Through years, India has earned a lot of goodwill from the people from Afghanistan through development works. We should enhance aid to ensure inclusiveness.
- We must not yield on the issue on terrorism and cross-border hostilities. The only way forward to a peaceful society is when terrorism is eliminated. To ensure law and order, India may provide further support to the Afghan National Forces.
- International civil societies can be brought in to ensure that the socio-economic development of Afghans is not sidelined.
- Power-sharing agreement must ensure an end to hostilities, otherwise a civil war might create instability for the region and the whole world eventually.
Regional and international powers must ensure that Afghanistan gets an inclusive, secure and democratic future. Engaging with all stakeholders is the only way forward. However, talks can only go on when the environment for the same is conducive. Taliban must end hostilities and come to the table with a positive intent. India should only support a future which is democratic and inclusive. Afghanistan deserves peace, its been a long time coming.