By Bimal Prasad Mohapatra
Seems President Biden is in undue hurry on the issue of US force withdrawal from Afghanistan before getting a reliable mechanism in place to support country’s elected government from Taliban assault and eventual occupation of governance, and therefore, this author prays for Uncle Sam best of luck. I am not wishing best of luck to hapless Afghanis because they for generation have no good luck and would not have the same in near future as the countries which matter on the issue have refused to show their accountabilities and responsibilities. Means they (Afghanis) are destined to suffer for others’ power fight during Cold War and then after.
When I say ‘President Biden is in undue hurry,’ it looks very odd or many may say ‘I am prejudiced’ in view of the US Forces longest ever presence in any foreign soil ie in Afghanistan for long two decades. And, during the period, US have spent massive more than $822 billion and lost 2382 soldiers and 20,320 injuries in this mission.
Yes, it is a fact that US Forces have been there in Afghanistan for two long decades, and that too, at a great cost. But, for what? Has the basic purpose of force deployment been fulfilled? This is a billion dollar question. However, the newly elected unipolar world’s most power mansion The White House’s occupant and one of the best US politically experienced brain on country’s foreign policy Mr. Joe Biden says that the basic objective of US force deployment in Afghanistan has been achieved with elimination of world’s most wanted Islamic terror fountainhead Osama bin Laden and his terror machinery that is al Quada has been degraded. ‘The US forces for Afghanistan is not for generation and for forever war’. Agree. Nobody disputes this observation. The US forces were deployed in landlocked nation post al Quada coordinated four air attacks on World Trade Centre’s giant Twin Towers in New York, US Defence HQ Pentagon in Washington DC and failed attempt to hit The White House.
But, has the normalcy return to hapless Afghanistan? Certainly, the answer is big ‘NO’. And if the normalcy has not return to Afghanistan and the forces are withdrawn; then certainly, and I am double sure, the same will have related negative impact on the US security sooner or later in a form so far unknown as had been on 9/11 in 2001 in an innovative style in which passenger planes were used as terror weapons that ever this living world had experienced.
Biden Administration’s assumption that Osama bin Laden and al Quada were the US prime enemy is fallacious. If this was the thing then what for the US forces were in Afghanistan till date after OBL captured, killed and buried in the sea in 2011? OBL and al Quada had just executed what Islamic jihadist agenda were. Islamic Jihadist organization Taliban and its ally ISI had provided necessary infrastructure and support for the world’s biggest terror act which killed highest number of Americans so far in one-go in peace time. And now they are relatively intact and are virtual rulers of Afghanistan beyond some urban pockets. They are just looking for opportunities and space to regroup like they were in manner and style had been post-Red Army withdrawal from Afghanistan. Apart from this, now Pakistan, which earlier provided infrastructure and training to Taliban, is more or less an unruly and bankrupt country. Its elected government is a puppet in the hands of country’s army, and latter has no accountability and responsibility in regard to civil governance though that is the most powerful institution in the country. And its generals are mostly corrupt and have vested interests, and in comparison, they are no different from typical Afghanistan warlords.
Taliban and its associated warlords spread over Afghan county side want Islamic rule as they don’t believe in democracy, whereas a large number of Afghanis are unwilling to follow them and have shown trust in liberal democracy and rule of laws which is pretty visible from their participation in elections. In the meanwhile, despite sporadic terror attacks from Taliban and its allied groups and warlords, some democratic institutions along with law and order machineries and armed forces have been built which have been supporting administration in governance. They are only silver-lining and ray of hope at the end of four decades long anarchy and bloodshed. If they are deprived of modern armed force support, which has huge psychological support, note they cannot survive the assault of highly motivated Islamic terror army –now lying low hoping for early departure of US forces- in a very rocky terrain.
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The most powerful man of the world before making the above discussed ‘excusable’ observations to ensure US forces withdrawal should have asked himself a few pertinent questions such as ‘Who has made Taliban and its ideological mentor ISI a formidable force? Who allowed them to harbor OBL and al Quada and why? Who allowed Taliban to capture power in Afghanistan and rule it for decade unhindered post-Red Army withdrawal and before 9/11?’ When answers to all these questions are searched, the US is found as the needle of suspense. But, President Biden says ‘US forces are not for generation of war’.
During Cold War, the US rival Soviet Union invaded and occupied Afghanistan in 1979. And at best it would have been another Soviet Federal states a la Afghanistan’s northern neighbors Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, etc. Decade later, with the collapse of Soviet Union, all these federal states under Soviet Union were declared themselves free sovereign countries without the kind of terror and civil war legacies that Afghanistan has. But, the US intervention by way of costly dollar funding, modern lethal arms supplies and guerrilla trainings to Afghan dissidents in ISI and CIA provided infrastructures in Pakistan, which is on the Eastern and Southern of border of the victim, since 1979, was the most deadly to Afghanis fate than the Soviet Union intervention.
Has ever trained armed guerrilla, and that too, drunk with theology slept quietly without capturing power? As soon as the Red Army left Afghanistan, Taliban backed by Pakistan Army and ISI occupied power in Kabul in lightening speed and implemented Quranic rules. But, the most lethal was theirs’ provisioning of infrastructures and safe abode to anti-West Sunni-Wahabi Islamic terror outfits, who were refused bases in the US-friendly (Saudi Arabia, UAE, etc.) and somehow some secular Arab countries (Iraq, Egypt, etc.) during 1980-1990s. Osama’s al Qaeda was one of them. When all these were happening and it was also well-known that Pakistan had a major role in this transition, the US and West had closed their eyes enjoying victory of democracy over communism.
Post-US forces withdrawal will lead Afghanistan to 1990s situation. In 1990s, Pakistan was somehow different. Now, Islamic elements have encroached Pakistan governance. Even so-called elected but military backed minority government of Imran Khan has conceded their (Islamic fundamentalists) demand for expulsion of French Ambassador from Pakistan on flimsy ground. What next is difficult to predict now? Given the present situation in Pakistan, Taliban and Pakistan Army will have large territory to regroup and wage war against whosoever oppose Islamic rule in their future Islamic Caliphate. And they are sure West and US -so scared as seen from their desperation to leave- won’t return to South Asia, and even if they wish in the worst case, they won’t get a base like they got in Pakistan in 2001. Other countries in the region, Shia Iran in west and democratic multi-religious India in the east cannot allow their soils to be used as base to fight Islamic terror in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And in the north, the Central Asian countries already in grip of Chinese debt diplomacy and part of Commonwealth of Independent Countries under the vigil of Putin’s Russia are no go zone for US and West. The other major power and having some influence and geographical proximity in the region that is China has her own compulsion in East Asia due to aggressive posturing of newly formed US-led Quad that opposes former’s expansion in resource rich East and South China Sea, may not show interest in the region in immediate term.
In view of the above, the US’s other excuses that the middle-east has relative stability post-Abrahamic Accord and Biden Administration wish to concentrate in East Asia to tame authoritarian communist China’s belligence to withdraw forces from Afghanistan may backfire. As per some reports, US commanders having expertise over Afghan conflict are not in same page with Biden. It is not at all wise strategy to fight another enemy, one should leave the fight half-way with existing enemy though for the US both the fronts are equality important. But the nature and strategy of fights in these two fronts are different. If Biden thinks, the US forces withdrawal will forces region’s biggest military power India, which has so far avoided armed intervention, will intervene to protect her huge investment in Afghanistan in one side and to protect Kashmir from terror infiltration on the other hand, it may flare up the situation in nuclearised South Asia in which China will be the biggest strategic beneficiary in long-term in view of her all-weather friendship with Pakistan, and through Pakistan with Taliban, to expand her influence to relatively unexplored hydrocarbon rich Iran where she proposed massive investment amounting $400 billion in exploration, processing and transport of oil and gas to support in her economy marching to overtake the US, the present No.1 economy in the world.
(Author is Assistant Professor of Management Studies at Bhubaneswar based Trident Group of Institutions. The views expressed are personal opinion of the author. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)