Millennium Post

USA to quit Kabul, South Asia suffers withdrawal symptoms

The much talked draw-down of the US-led NATO forces from Afghanistan, expected to be completed in 2014, has already created some justified and other unjustified fears in the South Asian sub-continent as very few have a comprehensive understanding of the scenario that is likely to emerge in the region after the completion of the process.
Lack of knowledge about the exact details of the draw-down of the NATO forces in general and that of the US in particular makes the task all the more difficult as almost all the stakeholders are busy readjusting their present and future priorities and goals. There are many imponderables but few are clearly visible. While Afghan President Hamid Karzai is currently in Washington on a three-day trip to deliberate with Obama, Taliban and its associates are giving out some clue to their post withdrawal strategy and thinking. A US spokesperson told journalists in advance of Karzai’s visit that the White House is prepared to consider all options for US troop levels after 2014 including a so-called ‘zero option’ if conditions allowed.
Theoretically, the US is committed to withdrawing the majority of its 68,000 strong troops stationed in Afghanistan by the end of the next year-with the size of the remaining force still to be decided, as well as the key question of legal immunity for US military in the country post-2014 but exact details of the plan would decide the rules of the future game there. Neighbour Pakistan including the Army along with the ISI like always is very keen to secure its strategic depths and it has successfully convinced Washington of its intents. Pakistan has cleverly worked to regain its vantage position with the US and is clearly putting its key assets in strategic positions to remain a key player in Afghanistan after majority of the NATO forces have left the war-torn country. Pakistan is in tandem with China as Beijing would listen to it knowing well that Islamabad alone can help it to achieve goals of economic exploitation of the mineral rich country.

Iran, situated on western borders, too has an important role but the US-led western world does not appear to be very keen rope Tehran in to ensure that Afghanistan after 2014 does not again become a fundamentalist versus nationalist ideologies battle ground.
The US as well as the present government in Kabul appears to be very keen to talk to Talibans and have gone to the extent of making a distinction between ‘good Talibans’ and ‘bad Talibans’ which clearly means that the US is looking for a face saving exit from a country where it entered in 12 years back to wage a war against global terrorism.

Russia and Central Asian countries also have a stake in Afghanistan whose future is so uncertain. What kind of government comes to power after the 2014 presidential election in Afghanistan and whether Taliban is part or not a part of the Kabul government is going to be very crucial to every stake holder in the South Asian region. For India, the post-2014 scenario in Afghanistan is going to be very crucial and the so called ongoing peace process which is reportedly being brokered by Turkey has pushed New Delhi to margins. Ankara is emerging a new player which has expressed its intentions to work on a peace roadmap. Turkey, which is a member of the NATO, has the blessings of both Washington and London and has expressed its readiness to host those Taliban leaders who are being released from Pakistani prisons. Media reports suggest that Islamabad is already playing games in selection of release of Taliban leaders. Only those leaders get the Pakistani Army’s nod that is on their good books and Kabul has even protested at this discriminatory approach. India has invested a lot in Afghanistan and contributed to human resource development which would have gone a long way in the building of a peaceful and democratic country. (IFS)
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