September 29, 2022

Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan – Fallouts?

The manner in which Afghanistan was abandoned to Taliban and resultant human tragedy has shattered America’s image of reliability, champion of human rights, counter-terrorism and democratic values. Knowing the ISI, their sleeper cells and agents would be part of Afghan refugees streaming into the US, UK, India, Central Asia and other countries as a pre-planned strategy. Ignoring this would prove costly.

By Lt Gen Prakash Katoch (Retd.)

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is a reality notwithstanding when the official announcement comes. India’s ‘Mission Kabul’ is far from over; diplomats and officials were evacuated after Indian embassy activated newly established contacts with Taliban but civil flights to Kabul are prohibited and one C-17 Globemaster of Indian Air Force (IAF) is standby in Tajikistan. Some 15,000-20,000 Americans too are stranded in Afghanistan. 

There is astonishment over swift capitulation of the US-trained and equipped Afghan National Army (ANA) but the Iraqi Division in Mosul (also trained and equipped by US) collapsed similarly in June 2014 to the ISIS. Some opine that a US-Pakistan-Taliban pact or US-Pakistan-Taliban-Afghanistan pact was the reason. But a major reason was the US-Taliban peace deal leaving ANA bereft of air, artillery and logistics support with civilian contractors pulled out.   

The manner in which Afghanistan was abandoned to Taliban and resultant human tragedy has shattered America’s image of reliability, champion of human rights, counter-terrorism and democratic values. Henry Kissinger’s quip: “It may be dangerous to be America’s enemy, but to be America’s friend is fatal” has resurfaced. US invaded Iraq on false pretext, destroyed Libya because Gaddafi agreed to shut his nuclear programme but in Afghanistan the US gifted Taliban an air force with 167 operable air platforms and control of 11 military bases – some USD20 billion worth of most dangerous military hardware.  

US invaded Iraq on false pretext, destroyed Libya because Gaddafi agreed to shut his nuclear programme but in Afghanistan the US gifted Taliban an air force with 167 operable air platforms and control of 11 military bases – some USD20 billion worth of most dangerous military hardware.  

President Biden says he stands squarely behind his decision – the royal mess! ANA is blamed but what about the gross intelligence failures? Americans should read the article ‘We All Lost Afghanistan – Two Decades of Mistakes, Misjudgments, and Collective Failure’ by former ambassador P Michael Mckinley. The expected response will be nation-building is not our responsibility – but is that license for destroying nations?

Chairman of US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley has said terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda can reform sooner than estimated and terror threat on US soil would go up. America has frozen assets worth USD9.5 billion belonging Da Afghanistan Bank but China will step in with financial aid to Taliban.

It is said Afghans are unconquerable but we forget Hari Singh Nalwa (General of Maharaja Ranjit Singh) with 7,000 of his men defeated the 20,000-strong Afghan Army. The defeat was so decisive that Khyber Pass from where invaders came to India started working in reverse. Despite a hi-tech military at its disposal, did US give power to Taliban so the Af-Pak region continues festering in terrorism?

Pakistan’s nemesis Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has Pakistan in its crosshairs. The bad news for Pakistan is that TTP’s former deputy Emir Maulana Faqir Muhammad Sahib Hafizullah along with 2,300 TTP fighters have been freed from Bagram prison by the Taliban.  

One postulation is that US sacrificed Afghanistan for Taiwan; US wants China to bleed in Afghanistan. But China is no fool. Chinese links with the Taliban date back to the ouster of Soviets from Afghanistan. Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi welcomed the Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (likely President of Afghanistan) delegation to China describing Taliban a “political and military force”. Instead of pumping pump troops into Afghanistan, China will extend its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to Afghanistan-Eurasia, develop infrastructure and help Taliban tap the USD1-3 trillion oil and mineral reserves in Afghanistan.

Taliban takeover of Afghanistan was a foregone conclusion after Barak Obama had announced US troop pullout. Displaying geopolitical foresight Russia and Iran established contacts with the Taliban but India remained stuck with its US obsession; failure of foreign policy for which the blame rests on our diplomats, national security advisor and external intelligence. Now our embassy in Kabul was forced to negotiate with Taliban for evacuating Indian citizens. Incidentally, the British embassy contacted Taliban through the Pakistani embassy for evacuating British nationals.

Using the Taliban in conjunction of Pakistan, China has kicked the US out of its last foothold in Asia; after the well-planned Wuhan Virus bombing and interference in US elections? China will extend total political, military, economic and infrastructure support to Taliban boosting its own economy. All Beijing wants from Taliban is to rein in the ETIM (The Turkistan Islamic Party or the Turkistan Islamic Movement, formerly known as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement and other names) and Uyghur.  

Taliban victory will boost terrorism and even in a Sunni-Shia alliance. Iran and Turkey have agreed on ‘saving Palestinians from Zionist oppression’; meeting of the Supreme Council of Iranian-Turkish Strategic Cooperation in Tehran is being speeded up.

A French naval ship dropping anchor off the Taiwan coast and more allied navies heading for Taiwan waters is in news. But China is in no hurry though it has been conveying that Taiwan will be assimilated into mainland China by 2025.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan endorsed Taliban victory saying Afghanistan has broken the “shackles of slavery”. Pakistan’s nemesis Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has Pakistan in its crosshairs. The bad news for Pakistan is that TTP’s former deputy Emir Maulana Faqir Muhammad Sahib Hafizullah along with 2,300 TTP fighters have been freed from Bagram prison by the Taliban.  

Taliban victory will boost terrorism and even in a Sunni-Shia alliance. Iran and Turkey have agreed on ‘saving Palestinians from Zionist oppression’; meeting of the Supreme Council of Iranian-Turkish Strategic Cooperation in Tehran is being speeded up. The Iranian President says, “The military defeat and withdrawal of the US from Afghanistan should be an opportunity to restore life, security and lasting peace in this country.”

On August 15, Russia’s foreign ministry stated Moscow has good relations with both the Afghan government and the Taliban, so the Russian Federation is not worried about the situation in Afghanistan.

On August 15, Russia’s foreign ministry stated Moscow has good relations with both the Afghan government and the Taliban, so the Russian Federation is not worried about the situation in Afghanistan. Concurrently, Sheikh Ahmad bin Hamad Al-Khalili, Grand Mufti of the Sultanate of Oman, congratulated Taliban on its ‘clean victory’ and called seizure of the country by the Taliban “fulfillment of God’s sincere promise.”

Taliban’s spokesperson Suhail Shaheen told a Pakistani news channel that India should complete its projects in Afghanistan. But the safety of Indian workers in Afghanistan can hardly be guaranteed with the Pakistanis embedded in Taliban and Pakistan-based Haqqani network, LeT, LeJ etc. operating in Afghanistan. Besides, China and Pakistan would want Indian involvement in Afghanistan finished.

Mullah Baradar has returned to Afghanistan from Doha. Taliban held a press conference making following points: Taliban will not seek revenge from those who opposed them; women can work in accordance within Islamic principles; will connect with all sides to form government; no change in beliefs and ideology and government will have domestic and foreign components like all governments. However, reports and video clips of Taliban atrocities in Kabul and other parts are streaming in including Taliban opening fire on protestors in Jalalabad.

Recently police caught some Bangladeshis trying to go to Afghanistan. Taliban in Afghanistan have direct link and influence on militancy in Bangladesh. He feels US has no alternative but accept China’s new position in Afghanistan and India’s objective will certainly be curbed.

Veteran Major General ANM Muniruzzaman of Bangladesh says militancy in Bangladesh emerged through fighters returning from Afghan jihad whose slogan was, ‘We are all Taliban, Bangla will be Afghan”. Recently police caught some Bangladeshis trying to go to Afghanistan. Taliban in Afghanistan have direct link and influence on militancy in Bangladesh. He feels US has no alternative but accept China’s new position in Afghanistan and India’s objective will certainly be curbed.

Taliban wants to convince the world of change but their ideological mindset will promote jihad in all directions. India has plenty to worry, not in J&K alone. Af-Pak has the largest congregation of terrorist organisations whose common goal is to spread Islamic jihad globally. Many of them have links in India. Pakistan’s ISI now has added advantage to attack India. If Pakistan is Talibanised in the process, its radicalised military may welcome it. Imran Khan aka Taliban Khan anyway has always displayed his wife in public attired the way Taliban wants.

Beijing would not mind if its economic interests remain unharmed and terrorism stays away from China. That is where the Biden administration has an opportunity provided it can dunk its so-called “constructive” partnership with Pakistan, disrupt the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor-Belt and Road Initiative (CPEC-BRI) and use ETIM-Uighur.

India has plenty to worry, not in J&K alone. Af-Pak has the largest congregation of terrorist organisations whose common goal is to spread Islamic jihad globally. Many of them have links in India. Pakistan’s ISI now has added advantage to attack India.

Knowing the ISI, their sleeper cells and agents would be part of Afghan refugees streaming into the US, UK, India, Central Asia and other countries as a pre-planned strategy. Ignoring this would prove costly.

India has indicated it would side with the democratic bloc in dealing with the Taliban government. But prudence demands we stay in touch with ‘all stakeholders’ in Afghanistan. Hardening of Taliban stance against India is evident from stopping all imports and exports from/to India. Hence, India will have to play the game depending on how the new government in Afghanistan functions.  

India must examine how the large number of refugees from Afghanistan, Balochistan and Sindhis with us can contribute to promote our joint interests. We also have some 600 Afghan officers undergoing training in India presently.

The sane world needs to collectively deliberate how to deal with a more belligerent China now. America will continue with its policy of ‘America First’ but it would be good to expand the Quad to include countries like Vietnam, Singapore, New Zealand, Philippines and Taiwan if they are willing.

The sane world needs to collectively deliberate how to deal with a more belligerent China now. America will continue with its policy of ‘America First’ but it would be good to expand the Quad to include countries like Vietnam, Singapore, New Zealand, Philippines and Taiwan if they are willing. Chinese media has threatened that any US troops in Taiwan will be blasted. America needs to station 2,000 troops in Taiwan to challenge China’s redlines, calling its bluff. Can the US do this with Biden saying America continues to lead the world?

The author is a veteran of India Army. Views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of https://strategicaffairsindia.in

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