By Dr Subhash Kapila*
Afghanistan seemed to have disappeared from the United States radar in the months to the run-up to US Presidential Elections resulting in a void which the China-Pakistan-Russia Troika has exploited to US disadvantage.
Strategically the United States invested heavily in Afghanistan in terms of billions of dollars and thousands of US soldiers lost to Pakistan Army duplicitous double-timing the United States while professing to be a trusted ally of long-standing. In 2017, the United States would be well-advised not to let the China-Pakistan-Russia Trilateral muscle into what rightly deserves to be called United States strategic turf.
The US incoming Trump Administration’s highest priority task on assumption of office on January 2017 should be not to abandon Afghanistan .On the contrary the United States should ensure that the machinations of the China-Pakistan-Russia Troika by what initially appears only as a ‘pious’ political intervention is not allowed to morph into an eventual some sort of quasi-military Troika intervention.
The United States new policy establishment must be alive to the developing China-Pakistan-Russia Troika’s unfolding of prompting the United States exit from Afghanistan. It is akin to China’s evolving strategic end-aim of prompting the United States military exit from Western Pacific due to sheer combat fatigue.
Abandoning Afghanistan to the Troika would not amount not only to United States exit from Afghanistan but also selling away on a platter United States vital strategic interest and influence in Greater South West Asia and Central Asia. Combining China’s strategy to prompt United States exit from the Western Pacific and China’s new attempt to prompt the United States to abandon Afghanistan, both added together, would result in an inexorable strategic diminution of the United States status as the global Superpower.
In the recent past, the United States co-opted in its efforts to restore stability in Afghanistan oblivious to the fact that China was the only other country than Pakistan to maintain links with the Taliban. China all along has been securing Pakistan’s security stakes in Afghanistan. In more simple words China’s strategy is to ensure a Pakistan Army-friendly regime is installed in Kabul. Obviously, this would be a return of the Taliban regime in Kabul propped by Pakistan.
In 2017, with the concerted efforts of China-Pakistan-Afghanistan Troika to meddle in Afghanistan as evidenced by the Troika holding three meetings including the last one in Moscow, excluding Afghanistan’s participation, it becomes pertinent to analyse the motives of these three countries in meddling in Afghanistan.
But before that what needs to be highlighted is the salient fact that all indicators available point to Troika’s one end-aim and that is to embed them in Afghanistan excluding the United States. The plea taken is that instability in Afghanistan affects the stability of their respective countries. Can the United States accept such a strategic situation to develop?
Analysing the intentions of these countries, Pakistan heads the list. Pakistan’s motives for the last seven decades are glaring. If it has its way, Pakistan would very much like to reduce Afghanistan to a Pakistani colonial entity. That has not been possible and the next option was to keep Afghanistan in a constant of turbulence by Pakistani disruptive activities including use of Jihadi affiliates of the ISI for suicide bombings and attacks.
In tandem, Pakistan has succeeded in ensnaring the two Major Powers, China and now Russia, both adversarial to the United States, to get involved in Afghanistan on specious grounds.
China’s end-aims stand stated above. Other than propping up Pakistan’s security stakes in Afghanistan, China has no substantial stakes there other than geopolitical power games against the United States. Afghanistan is not even material to China’s latest project in Pakistan, the CPEC.
0f course China and Pakistan have convergent aims in keeping India’s presence out of Afghanistan, both for military and geopolitical reasons.
Russia is the odd-man out in the China-Pakistan-Russia Troika. By seconding China and Pakistan on Afghanistan, Russia may be playing geopolitical games against the United States, but in the process Russia is losing immeasurable goodwill in India. But that that does not seem to be bothering Russia presently, unless Russia-United States relations take a different turn with incoming US President Trump, and Russia then desists from geopolitical games in concert with China against the United States.
Concluding, it needs to be pointed out that with a galaxy of US Generals included in President-elect Trump’s Cabinet who have dealt with Afghanistan, the United States does not need an Indian strategic analyst to highlight how vital Afghanistan is for United States national security interests. More so, when China in the garb of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and the China-Pakistan Axis is bent on overturning the geopolitical stability of the region. Afghanistan now is the incoming US President Trump’s most pressing call.
*Dr Subhash Kapila is a graduate of the Royal British Army Staff College, Camberley and combines a rich experience of Indian Army, Cabinet Secretariat, and diplomatic assignments in Bhutan, Japan, South Korea and USA. Currently, Consultant International Relations & Strategic Affairs with South Asia Analysis Group. He can be reached at [email protected]