Regional powers and the Afghanistan question

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Source: Indian Express

Relevance: This article explains the implications of US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Synopsis: Regional powers now have the burden of managing the military vacuum created by the US retreat in Afghanistan.

Introduction:

The two developments have moved Afghanistan into the court of regional powers. These are:

  • The speedy withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan has resulted in the swift advance of the Taliban across the nation.
  • And the Taliban leadership has claimed that it is in control of 85 percent of Afghan territory.
Why regional powers should get involved for more sustainable peace?
  • Firstly, the idea of a regional solution to Afghanistan has always had much political appeal.
  • Secondly, Geography, membership, and capabilities make the SCO an important forum to address the post-American challenges in Afghanistan.
  • Thirdly, Afghanistan is at the center stage of international politics and right at the top of the SCO agenda.
    • The SCO was launched to promote inner Asia stability.
    • A few months after the SCO was set up, the world saw the terror attacks on New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, by Al-Qaeda.
    • The US marched in quickly to oust the Taliban from power and launched the Great War on Terror.
  • Fourth, China and Russia were deeply apprehensive about the implications of extended American military presence in Afghanistan.
    • However, Beijing and Moscow did not oppose US intervention in Afghanistan in 2001.
  • Fifth, the US withdrawal from Afghanistan also reinforces the strongly held conviction in Beijing that the US is in terminal decline.
    • Now, China is offering an alternative to the Western model of domestic and international governance.
  • Lastly, there is quiet satisfaction in Moscow, Beijing, Tehran, and Rawalpindi at seeing American withdrawal from Afghanistan.
    • However, it is tinged by worries about the long-term implications.
    • Now, they have to cope with the consequences of the US withdrawal and the resurgence of the Taliban.
Challenges lying ahead for regional powers and Afghanistan:
  • Iran: It can’t ignore the Sunni extremism of the Taliban and its oppressive record in dealing with the Shia, and Persian-speaking minorities.
  • Pakistan: Geography has given Pakistan the capability to destabilize any government in Afghanistan.
    • There is a danger of the conflict spilling over to the east of the Durand Line, and hostile groups like the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) gaining sanctuaries in Afghanistan.
    • Many in Pakistan would like to turn Afghanistan into a protectorate, but Afghans deeply value their independence.
  • China: potential Taliban support to the Xinjiang separatist groups is a major concern.
  • Afghanistan: If the Taliban is unwilling to accommodate the interests of all Afghans, it simply sets the stage for the next round of the civil war in Afghanistan.
    • All Afghan sovereigns, including the Taliban, will look for partners to balance Pakistan.
  • India: There is a danger that Afghanistan under the Taliban could also begin to nurture anti-India terror groups.
    • Since there is a lack of direct access, India needs to have effective regional partners to shape India’s Afghan policy.

India should focus on intensifying its engagement with various Afghan groups, including the Taliban, and find effective regional partners to secure its interests.

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