The fall of Kabul

| Updated on August 16, 2021

A man pulls a girl to get inside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on Monday   -  REUTERS

A vast humanitarian crisis stares at the region as the Taliban takes control of Afghanistan, again

The fall of Kabul to the Taliban plunges Afghanistan and this key geo-strategic region into deep instability, for which the NATO, the US and their post-haste, deadline-driven troops withdrawal is entirely to blame. The last-minute rush of 3,000 US troops to Afghanistan for evacuating the US embassy is symbolic of the utter failure to comprehend the extent of the Taliban’s resolve and strategic advantage over the Afghan Army, which has been entirely dependent on the US for weapon systems, air support and intelligence. Beyond extinguishing the Al Qaeda, the process of rebuilding an indigenous security apparatus and democratic government remained stunted in Afghanistan.

There is little doubt that the Taliban has been encouraged in the last few years of American engagement. The signing of the “Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan” between the US representative Zalmay Khalilzad and his Taliban counterpart Abdul Ghani Baradar as also constant undermining by the US of the Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai-led government paved the way for Taliban capture. At the time of signing of the Taliban-US peace deal in Doha in February, 2020, Abdul Ghani Baradar made no secret of their ambition: “I hope that with the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan, the Afghan nation under an Islamic regime will take its relief and embark on a new prosperous life.” The Taliban’s advance began soon after the Doha agreement.

Afghanistan has always been the playground of the big powers in the region that includes India, China, Russia and of course, Pakistan. Pakistan, which has supported the Taliban overtly and covertly, is seen to benefit from the turn of events and there are dire predictions of a possible Pakistan-China-Afghanistan axis emerging to India’s detriment. Yet, Pakistan may have to contend with headaches of its own as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan is likely to regroup with many of its members released from Afghan jails by the Taliban when it swept through the provinces. Pakistan may yet regret its support to the Taliban especially with Pashtun refugees starting to show up at its border in the thousands. China has been playing its cards deftly trying to get the Taliban on its side to ensure that the extremists do not add to its problems in Xinjiang. Foreign Minister Wang Yi even hosted the Taliban in China a fortnight ago signalling its willingness to do business with the Taliban. India has been lying low the last few days with enough reason — it stands to lose the most now. It has invested in Afghanistan in infrastructure projects to build dams, power lines, schools and roads. All that goodwill earned has been laid waste by the return of the Taliban. India’s priority right now should be to evacuate all its citizens, including diplomats, safely. As for the US, it stands diminished as a superpower, not just in military and strategic terms but also humanitarian for selling the Afghan people short, after messing around in their country for several decades.

Published on August 16, 2021

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