AFGHANISTAN: POST-TALIBAN CHALLENGES FOR THE REGION

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Munir Ahmed

Taliban’s brisk takeover of Afghanistan has shocked in particular the geopolitical security experts across the world. Many questions are being asked to the US about their huge spending there in the last two decades. What went wrong with the capacity and vigor of the Afghanistan army that was built with the taxpayers’ money?

Key facts are very alarming that since 9/11, US squandered $6.4 trillion on ‘war on terror’ including $2.2 trillion in Afghanistan. It is almost $100 billion on 300,000-strong Afghan Army and Air Force which roughly means spending $100 billion every month on the Afghan War for the last 20 years. US had 25,000 military casualties in Afghanistan including 2448 deaths, about 250,000 Afghans lost their lives. According to the UN Security Council report of July 26, 2021, there are 12,000 foreign terrorists in Afghanistan, with the largest contingent of 6500 from Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan. World’s largest US embassy in Kabul sprawling 15-acre compound and having 4000 staff including 1400 Americans along with NATO and other allies could not build a modern and contemporary Afghanistan with the funds spent there.  

Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed speaking to a webinar organized by the Devcom-Pakistan has termed the current situation in Afghanistan as “monumental failure” of the US policy in Afghanistan. The US incompetence to plan, organize and implement even the airlift of its remaining staff from Kabul just because of the abrupt withdrawal of the remaining 2500 US troops through a self-imposed deadline, and then reversing that decision by bringing about 5200 US troops for securing the disorganized exodus of Americans and their staffers. It has propped up a narrow-based corrupt self-serving Kabul Elite which had no roots in the Afghan masses and whose leader fled at the first sign of trouble.

The situation in Afghanistan has become worrisome for the neighbouring countries too as the Taliban’s videos coming up show the same brutal behaviour with the natives despite many positive announcements. Perhaps they did not reach their own armed men roaming around the streets across all parts of Afghanistan. The savage and brutal spillover is expected to the neighbouring countries. Pakistan would be the main and easy target to fuel up the similar situation once again. In Islamabad, the Lal Masjid administration has already hoisted the Taliban’s flag while the District Management has failed to take any action. Pakistan’s interior ministry knows exactly how many mosques were captured by the students of the Lal Masjid, and taking any action against their headquarters in the centre of the city will flare up the situation in different parts of the federal capital. Tribal belts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan are ever active fault lines of extremism and terrorism though much significant has been done to eradicate the banned outfits.

Lt. General Retd Muhammad Asad Durrani has advised the state institutions and government to take into confidence the Taliban’s like minds in Pakistan before we see the spillover from Afghanistan’s present situation.

In the given circumstances, the neighbouring countries core interest in Afghanistan shall be to strengthen unity among themselves and among different factions in Afghanistan. It is vital for the stability, territorial integrity and independence of Afghanistan. Pakistan, Iran, China, Russia and Turkey shall put every effort in to facilitate the formation of a rationally inclusive and broad based government in Afghanistan through political consensus. They shall also ensure that Afghan territory should not be used for cross-border terrorism against Pakistan, or to harm the strategic and economic interests of other countries as was the case in the recent past. It is a good sign that Taliban are behaving more mature this time and talking to the neighbouring countries in their language. They have a more rational approach towards their own people from different segments of the society with exception to some brutal incidents.

Taliban’s brisk takeover of the country without any strong resistance from the Afghan army shall not be taken as their wide acceptance in Afghanistan. Taliban’s smooth sailing through all the parts could have been a planned conspiracy of some external forces to create chaos in the region against China’s aggressive economic moves. However, we shall believe that only infrastructural and economic development in Afghanistan would lead to peace and prosperity in the region. All the neighbouring countries should support the government in Afghanistan that is acceptable to the natives and different political factions. It is possible only if the countries in the region forge a regional policy with China, Russia, Iran and Turkey at the core, plus Central Asian neighbors of Afghanistan including Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. Call a conference of these countries inviting the USA too for a comprehensive plan for peace and stability in the region.

The writer is a freelance journalist and broadcaster, Director Devcom-Pakistan, an Islamabad-based policy advocacy and outreach think tank. He can be reached at devcom.pakistan@gmail.com and tweets @EmmayeSyed