US Out, Taliban In : For Afghanistan Peace and Progress Remains a Distant Dream
The United States of America (USA) had declared its decision to complete the process of withdrawal of its forces from Afghanistan by August 31, 2021. It did so a day earlier, perhaps as a matter of strategy. The withdrawal was hailed by the Taliban as its victory. To call it a victory is a misnomer because victory is when you defeat your enemy in a war. They have not won a war with the USA.
The USA ended its operations against terrorism after 20 years of direct involvement in Afghanistan. By helping the local security forces, the USA had succeeded in throwing the cruel and barbarous Taliban regime out of the country. It was during this period that USA was able to eliminate many stalwarts of international terrorism, most notable being Osama bin Laden.
During the US presence, elections were held and people voted for Hamid Karzai as the President and renewed the mandate for another term for him. After Karzai, Ashraf Ghani became the next elected President. As Taliban made a fast pace in winning control of one state and after another, Ghani sneaked out of the country with bag and baggage and, of course, with a lot of money and gold.
The earlier Taliban government could never win legitimacy as it never sought peoples’ mandate through elections. Its strength was not the peoples’ support but the brute force that terrorized the people into submission by imposing strict inhuman sharia laws. Another pillar of its strength was Pakistan’s unstinted and blind military, political and diplomatic support to the full.
It is ironic that it was Taliban who were initially helped by USA and Pakistan to oust the then USSR which had come to occupy this trouble-torn country by force on the pretext of it having been invited by then Vice-President for help.
After the exit of the USSR the USA ushered in a Taliban regime but soon the honeymoon ended. The situation took a worst turn as the hand of the Taliban-Al-Qaeda emerged with the 9/11happenings in New York. Stung by the discovery of Al Qaeda’s hand in the worst ever daring attack, the USA announced its decision to eliminate the threat of this powerful terror outfit. It declared war against terrorism anywhere in any form. US support to Pakistan also ended because of the latter protecting known terror masterminds like Osama bin Laden.
In their campaign against Taliban lasting for 20 years the US spent a sum of $2trilion in Afghanistan. 800,000 Americans served there. America lost 20,744 of its personnel. That is why President Biden said he refuses to open another decade of warfare in Afghanistan.
In the past too, the USA had burnt its fingers in Vietnam and other countries. Its past should have guided its decision to jump into the political and uncontrolled fires of terror killings that were ravaging in Afghanistan. It should have been very careful in planning its objectives and working out the strategy to generate a climate of peace, prosperity and stability in the country. The result is that after 20 years of a great struggle Taliban is once again back in control of Afghanistan. If not worse, after 20 years the USA has left Afghanistan where it was 20 years back.
President Biden may have patted his back that he has ended its operations in Afghanistan but without any sort of victory. For the Taliban the only solace is that they have regained their power in the country from where they were pushed back by the USA and certain sections of Afghan people.
US departure from Afghanistan is certainly a failure in the sense that it had not left behind an Afghanistan that should have been strong enough militarily and politically to thwart any designs by Taliban or others to destroy the type of democracy the country had developed. But what happened was the reverse of it. Taliban had a near walk over and the country’s defences fell like a house of cards. Afghan resistance proved just a token. Only the province of Panjshir has so far proved to be a powerful challenge. According to reports, Pakistan’s ISI and its forces have now jumped in to quell the Panjshir defiance. The USA’s loss is much more than that of the Taliban’s gain.
The re-occupation of Afghanistan by the Taliban after the exit of
the USA from that country has violently shaken the tranquility in the sub-continent.
As things stand now, the Taliban may have remained united in their mission to stage a comeback in Afghanistan, but now the different sections of it have started fighting within themselves for the loaves and fishes of power. That is why they have not been able to form a government even after ten days of re-occupation of Afghanistan. Taliban had first announced that a government nominated by it would be formally installed on September 03. But this couldn’t happen. When will it be a reality, nobody is sure.
Except for Pakistan, China and Qattar, no other country seems to be in a hurry to recognize the Taliban government. It continues to be a suspect in the eyes of the governments all over the world because of its past history. Its neighbor Iran has declared that it will recognize only a government elected by the people. On the one hand, Taliban seems to be trying to project itself in a new avatar keen to have friendly relations with all the countries, especially its neighbours and, on the other, its leaders continue to raise different voices in the matter.
All governments would like go by what Taliban does and not by what it speaks. It has to change its perception in the world. Till then the new regime will continue to be on probation.
By Amba Charan Vashishth
(The writer is a Delhi based political analyst and commentator.)