Afghanistan, after long years of occupation, war and militant mayhem, is far from being normal. Taliban factions remain lethal with Pakistani support on the one side and machinations from multiple interests on the other. Despite the long years of direct involvement by the US in a peacekeeping form and to “protect” democracy there, there is neither peace nor an effective form of people’s rules there.
In this context, the announcement made by US President Joe Biden a day ago that all American and NATO troops will be pulled out from Afghanistan by September 11 is both significant and a matter of serious concern to Afghanistan’s well-wishers like India. In the event, chances are that the field will be “wide open” to both home-grown militants and also those who were nurtured from Pakistan and the West Asia region, who are active in the landlocked kingdom.
For good or for bad, several nations are happily getting involved in the affairs of Afghanistan. The Russian occupation at the fag end of the last century was only a start for fresh incursions and involvements there from external interests. The US sent in Osama bin Laden to fight the Russians out of Afghanistan. Eventually, Laden started the Al Qaeda in the Afghan soil to target the US.
Pakistan has all along been playing its games in Afghanistan, also to counter the Indian influence there. The Hamid Karzai era, which saw the start of the democracy initiative in Afghanistan in the first decade of this Century with US and Indian support, was a relatively better period for Afghanistan. With Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah coming into the scene in later years, India lost a part of its influence on Afghanistan and Pakistan began taking the upper hand for a while. For various reasons, Pakistan’s role has been reduced by Ghani himself in recent years.
However, Joe Biden’s offer is that Afghanistan should now be cared for jointly by Pakistan, Russia, China, India and Turkey, in that order. China is making serious bids with Pakistani support to largely involve itself in Afghanistan. This sends out danger signals to India in more ways than one. Russia is no more a close friend of India. Neither is Turkey as some recent scenarios make clear. Chances are that India will get increasingly isolated from Afghanistan, where this country has gone out of its way to build friendship.
Joe Biden’s aim is to extricate the US from a long-drawn military engagement. But, its implications are serious and scary for this geopolitical region.