US president Joe Biden has announced withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan by September 11. This move came as surprise for many. In this article we will try to understand a brief background, current scenario in Afghanistan and the possible implications of US withdrawal from Afghanistan on Afghanistan, India, Pakistan and China.
Soviet Occupation Of Afghanistan–
Soviet Union (USSR) had invaded and occupied Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989. This was the period of the cold war. The US has committed itself to counter the USSR and socialism in every corner of the globe. But instead of direct military confrontation, the US used proxies. In Afghanistan, the US with the help of Pakistan used Mujahidin’s to counter Soviet forces. These were primarily radical Islamic groups.
USSR withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989. The cold war ended within the next two years. But Afghanistan was pushed into turmoil. The Mujahidin’s created by the US and Pakistan were now free to create instability in Afghanistan. Finally, the Taliban, a radical Islamic movement and a military organization established its rule there in 1996. They also call themselves the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
The Taliban Rule (1996-2001)-
Taliban’s rule was characterized by strict interpretation and implementation of Sharia, the Islamic law. This caused brutal treatment of many Afghans, especially women. Women were denied jobs in many sectors apart from education. They were virtually locked into homes. There was large scale persecution of religious minorities. Taliban also carried out cultural genocide. One example is destruction of historical Buddha statue of Bamiyan.
9/11 And Aftermath-
Many terrorist organisations operated on soils of Afghanistan during Taliban Rule. One of them was the Al-Qaeda. Under the leadership of Osama bin Laden it carried out 9/11 terror attack on US. In response, USA started the global ‘war on terror’. US forces along with NATO forces invaded Afghanistan and overthrew the Taliban government. The democratic government was put in place.
But USA has not been successful in totally eliminating Taliban, its own creation. Thus the war is still going on after 20 years. Now the unconditional withdrawal of US is being seen as the its defeat.
Current Scenario In Afghanistan-
Currently around 2500-3500 US troops are stationed in Afghanistan. Total number of NATO forces is around 8000.There has been growing demand in US to pull back troops from Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011 and it’s been 10 years since then. Also the Al-Qaeda has faced serious retreat. So the US feels there is no point in fighting anyone else’s war.
Doha agreement (US- Taliban pact) was signed last year by the US government under President Donald Trump. It was expected that President Biden will rethink it and will not withdraw troops until the situation gets better. But the recent announcement made it clear that Biden is also going as per the plans of the Trump administration. It’s just that the final date of troop withdrawal is postponed from 1 May to 11th September.
Possible Implications Of US Withdrawal From Afghanistan-
The democratic government of Afghanistan will be on its own to fight against Taliban after US withdrawal from Afghanistan. The role of US air power was crucial in fight against Taliban. The US provides air support when Taliban attacks any town that is under government’s control.
Now the Taliban will emerge as a strong force. Though the Government may not fall immediately but it will be difficult for Government to hold against Taliban. Eventually if Taliban comes back to power, the horrors of Taliban regime may get repeated. The gains of last twenty years will be lost.
Pakistan will be delighted to have a friendly government in Afghanistan if Taliban comes to power. At the same time it may face increased flow of refugees from Afghanistan. Pakistan’s economic condition is not good to manage this refugee crisis.
China wants stability in Afghanistan. Unstable Afghanistan poses threat to China’s ambitious CPEC (China-Pakistan economic corridor) project. Recently one report had indicated that China may send its troops on peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan.
India is worried about the recent developments. It has substantially invested in development projects in Afghanistan. India has invested in infrastructure, energy, connectivity, health, education, etc. If Taliban comes to power all these investments are under threat. Thus India wants US to remain there for little longer.
Also it poses a direct security threat to India. The decade of 1990s saw large scale intrusion of trained terrorists from Afghanistan into the Kashmir. The same situation may get repeated. It will create instability in Kashmir as well.
Should India Put ‘Boots On The Ground’?
There is difference of opinion among scholars on this issue.
The scholars who oppose sending troops to Afghanistan put following arguments-
- Afghanistan has been the ‘graveyard of the empires’. Even USSR and the USA have faced defeats there.
- The huge financial and logistical burden of a foreign expedition.
The advocates of military intervention put the following points-
- It will be a proactive step against possible instability in Kashmir.
- Also, it will create pressure on Pakistan from their Western border as well. Terrorist activities in Northwestern Pakistan can be kept in check.
- Securing Afghanistan will help secure the land route to the Central Asian region and to Europe.
- India can emerge as a net security provider in the region.
What Should India Do-
India should continue its developmental aid to Afghanistan.
Also some experts are also suggesting engaging in dialogue with Taliban. But this can be in contradiction with India’s stand on the terrorism.
India can increase its support to democratic government of Afghanistan in terms of military equipments, training, etc.
India can send forces into Afghanistan under the UN peacekeeping mission. India’s Farkhor airbase in Tajikistan can play a major role in supporting operations in Afghanistan.
The US decision to withdraw troops without reaching any agreement with the Taliban is surely going to push Afghanistan towards instability. India has a crucial role to play in the upcoming time.
Sending troops to Afghanistan will be a big decision for India. But if India’s interests are under threat and there is a direct security threat, India should not hesitate from taking bold decisions. India should take such bold decisions in order to become a regional and a global leader.
What do you think? Should India send its troops to Afghanistan? Do let us know your thoughts about the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in comments section.