As India Re-Works Afghan Strategy, Republican Leader Says US Withdrawal From Afghanistan A Bad Decision

President Joe Biden’s announcement to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan has fuelled curiosity over India’s possible role in the war-ravaged country after September 11.

News agency AFP reported that US-led NATO had agreed in April to wrap up their 9,600-strong mission in Afghanistan after Biden’s call to end America’s longest war on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.

“NATO Allies decided in mid-April to start the withdrawal of Resolute Support Mission forces by May 1 and this withdrawal has begun. This will be an orderly, coordinated, and deliberate process,” a NATO official told AFP.

Washington is of the view that there is no reason for the US troops to stay put in Afghanistan as it has achieved its objective of making the country free of terrorists. It also claims to have uprooted Al Qaeda, which carried out the September 11, 2001 attacks on America, from its soil.

However, top US general Mark Milley has said it was not possible to predict Afghanistan’s fate after the withdrawal and warned of a “worst-case” outcome of a government collapse.

US Withdrawal From Afghanistan Condemned 

President Joe Biden’s decision to evacuate all remaining US combat forces from Afghanistan by September 11 is “unfortunate” and will probably lead to a total takeover by the Taliban of the entire country, US Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said on Friday.

“I think it is a very unfortunate decision,” McConnell told a podcast of the Sedona Forum. “We haven’t lost a single person in combat in Afghanistan in over a year. … What I fear is by the end of the year the Taliban will be back in charge in Afghanistan.”

McConnell acknowledged that Biden’s decision would prove popular in the short term, but cautioned that all US allies in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan would also entirely remove their forces from the country at the same time.

“The president will get a short-term headline that everyone will like. … [There are] twice as many allied troops in Afghanistan now as US ones, but they will all pull out too. I fear we’re setting the predicate here for Afghanistan looking petty much again like it used to,” McConnell said.

The Biden administration had decided that the war on terror was “over-hyped” and wanted to switch resources away from it to great power competition with Russia and China instead. However, the war on terror was not going to end simply because the US government gave up on it, McConnell added.

India’s Role In Afghanistan

The Afghan peace process involving the Taliban has made no significant progress since September last year. Instead, civilian casualties have gone up 45% in the last three months of 2020 from a year earlier, Reuters said citing a UN report.

Questions are also being raised about whether the Taliban can be trusted given their history and terror links to Pakistan.

Strategic analyst & consulting editor of the EurAsian Times Prakash Nanda writes, “India has a bitter experience with the Taliban when it controlled Kabul between 1996 and 2001. After all, this was the outfit that had played a notorious role in helping and escorting terrorists into Pakistan following the hijacking of an Indian Airlines flight in 1999.”

He goes on to say in the article – “That the Taliban has close links with the Pakistani ISI is well-known. One key Taliban faction, the Haqqani group, remains firmly anti-India even today.

Despite all this, the Taliban has maintained its distance from the Kashmir issue. It officially dismissed “claims” made by a section of its members that it could join Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in Kashmir.

According to Nanda, India is “reconciled to the Taliban participation in the future Afghan governments”, and that the same is “becoming increasingly evident, given the presence of Indian officials at international peace conferences in recent months on Afghanistan that are attended by the Taliban representatives.”

Another article published by The EurAsian Times highlights the high hopes that Afghan leadership has pinned on India because with “massive investment as aid and construction activity in the country, India has played a significant role in the peace and stability of the country.

This gives New Delhi the opportunity to work towards its goal of becoming a regional superpower, a status it has always longed for by providing collective security and increasing its humanitarian role.

In January 2020, Afghanistan’s National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib visited India and made a private request to send its troops in a peacekeeping role in the war-torn nation. While India has been an ally and has shown commitment towards maintaining peace in the region, it has shied away from having any direct confrontations with the Taliban. 

Some analysts are of the opinion that the deployment of Indian military in Afghanistan is sustainable and provides insurance to them against Pakistan proxies while CNBC TV 18 quoted Col. Vivek Chadha (retd), as saying –

“Missions like these tend to snowball. We’ll send troops; they’ll be attacked by Pakistan’s proxies, and we’ll have to send more troops to protect them.”

In January this year, ThePrint reported that New Delhi had assured Kabul of greater military assistance in times to come as the US begins the process to bring down its troop presence to 2,500 by February, from about 5,000 troops at present.

It said, since 2016, India has quietly been scaling up its military assistance to Afghanistan. New Delhi has already supplied four attack helicopters, and there are talks of more such assistance as the US troops completely exit in the coming months.  

It’s important to note India has played a key role in the reconstruction of the war-ravaged country by massively investing in the country. New Delhi and Kabul share long diplomatic ties, and Pakistan’s cozying up to Afghanistan may look like a concern but India has been sure about its position.

In her book, Pakistan Foreign Policy: Escaping Indiaauthor Aparna Pande, says that Pakistan views Afghanistan and India’s friendship as a threat to its existence.

Pande, who is the director of the Initiative on the Future of India and South Asia at Hudson Institute, has observed that Pakistan wants a government in Afghanistan that is pro-Pakistan and anti-India but has failed to convince Afghan leadership to opt for such measures. Establishing bilateral ties between the two has been difficult because of Afghanistan’s support to Pashtuns and Balochs. 

With the Afghan Taliban likely to sweep power and the pro-India Ghani government anticipated to take a back seat, India would be carefully calculating its options, Nitin J Ticku, a strategic analyst told the EurAsian Times. India needs to strike a  deal with the Taliban, if the Russians can do, then India must do it too.

Via: EurAsian Times Desk & Sputnik International