By Dr Subhash Kapila
The United States perspectively seems headed for an inglorious military exit from Afghanistan prompted not by any significant military failures against Taliban but a military exit ordered by US President Trump for reasons politically expedient related to his bid for re-election as US President for a second term in 2010.
Afghanistan can be said that as consequence of the above United States determination stares at the likelihood of a vicious ‘Civil War’ the day after US exit from Afghanistan—a second military abandonment of Afghanistan by the United States.
The Taliban is viewed with intense hatred by a wide cross-section of the Afghanistan population due to their earlier barbaric medieval subjugation of Afghanistan spearheaded by Pakistan Army. Northern Afghanistan is not definitely not likely to countenance US current moves to incorporate Taliban in governance of Afghanistan in exchange for dubious Taliban guarantees that they will enable safe exit of US Forces from Afghanistan
Contextually, the above scenario provides the reality of a ‘Civil War’ engulfing Afghanistan on the day after the United States exiting Afghanistan.
The second abandonment of Afghanistan by United States is significantly different from the first abandonment. Unlike the US first military intervention which was a proxy war fought by United States through Pakistan Army and its terrorist affiliates, the second US abandonment occurs after United States unilaterally undertook a military intervention in the wake of 9/11 for displacement of the Pakistan Amy propped Taliban Regime in Kabul which had converted Afghanistan into the Mecca of Global Terrorism’ which also spawned the horrific 9/11 attacks on citadels of US power in Homeland United States.
Ironically, the United States now seems engaged in an undignified compromise to install a Taliban Regime in Kabul, side-lining the democratically elected Kabul Government. The Taliban is adamant that it will not talk to the Kabul Government laying bare their underlying intentions.
Perspectively, US President Trump’s decision for a military exit with Chamberlainisque contours of peace at any cost with Taliban portends that US political determinations have outweighed US national security imperatives and reengaging US commitments made in the past to Afghanistan.
Perspectively, the US decision emerges as Chamberlainisque because US Military Forces in Afghanistan have in 2019 still an upper hand on the Taliban military challenge despite claims that Taliban controls half of Afghanistan. Repeating from my earlier Papers it needs to be recorded that Taliban control of half of Afghanistan is not by willing acceptance or support by Afghan populace but by Taliban fundamentalist brutalities.
More significantly, the Taliban even by hybrid warfare techniques honed by Pakistan Army advisers has not been able to inflict any despondent military defeat on US Forces battling their Pakistan facilitated proxy war, suicide bombings and terrorism. The Taliban has not been able to capture Kabul or other important cities of Afghanistan.
Perspectively, US President Trump’s fateful decision amounts to condemning Afghanistan which was just finding its feet for democracy and moves to modernity, once again condemned to a likely ‘Civil War’ in Afghanistan reminiscent of US first abandonment of Afghanistan in the 1990s and emergence of Pakistan Army proxy Taliban governed Afghanistan. It would amount to condemning Afghanistan to Taliban Islamic medievalism brutalities for a second time.
Such an ill-advised move by United States unveiled by US Secretary Of State Pompeo last week stating that he had been so ordered by US President Trump creates serious implications for the United States at global levels, in terms of US Indo Pacific Security template evolving currently, US standing and stature in South Asia and most significantly for the hapless nation of Afghanistan creeping towards modernity and democracy.
Repeated in my SAAG Papers of over a decade was that the stalemate in Afghanistan was not due to lack of military competence of US Forces Commanders or troops. The malaise rose from Washington’s policy establishment’s micro-management of US Forces operations in its Taliban-centric offensives.
Globally, the United States image will be severely dented as it will be viewed as US power on decline temporising with Taliban as a terrorist militia and together with Pakistan Army who for last 20 years have been undermining US military presence in Afghanistan. Global Powers with unrivalled predominance do not temporise with terrorist militias or rogue nuclear and terrorist nations like Pakistan or North Korea.
For a Global Power it will be perceived as ‘demeaning’ when Pakistan is beseeched by US President to help “Extricate us” from Afghanistan.
Geopolitically, US inglorious exit from Afghanistan will create a power vacuum in Afghanistan with China and Russia, nations declared by President Trump as adversarial, ready to jump into Afghanistan. My past Papers were warning the United States of the China-Pakistan-Russia Trilateral moving towards displacing United States from Afghanistan. This is exactly what will happen on US Forces exiting Afghanistan.
In terms of Indo Pacific security template, US Permanent Forward Military Presence in Afghanistan has been recommended in my past writings. Such a US military presence offers multiple advantages to overall US national security interests both globally and regionally. It would provide the United States a strategic perch to keep an eagle eye on China, Central Asia and Al Qaeda/ISIS threatening the United States. More importantly Indo Pacific security imperatives dictate that United States have a Western Outpost to widen its Asia Pacific horizon to Indo Pacific horizons.
The United States stature and standing in South Asia is vitally impacted and has the potential of endangering US-India Strategic Partnership. The damage has already been done by US President Trump’s remarks to please Pakistan Army by offering to act as mediator on Kashmir in his meeting with Pakistan PM Imran Khan at the White House. Indian PM had not solicited the America President’s mediation.
US President’s credibility in the eyes of Indian public opinion gets seriously dented when viewed from the perspective that only last year President Trump was seriously castigating Pakistan and its terrorist activities sponsoring in India and Afghanistan. Nothing dramatic has changed to warrant US President now to beseech the same Pakistan Army to “Extricate us” from Afghanistan.
US President’s such unpredictabilities sow doubts in Indian minds as to how reliable the United States would be a ‘Strategic Partner” against a Rising China.
Significantly for India, the biggest impact will be Pakistan resorting to military adventurism against India in Kashmir Valley with 30,000-40,000 terrorists claimed by Pakistan PM Imran Khan present in Pakistan. Logically, these will be used by Pakistan to push into Kashmir Valley.
Afghanistan the day after US military exit with Taliban once again in the driver’s seat in Kabul will collude with Pakistan Army in its military adventurism against India.
United States reversed policy gears in the last decade to favour Pakistan Army. India would be right in not countenancing a second ‘Reverse Gears’ in South Asia when India has since moved up in the geopolitical ladder.
It also needs to be recorded for the benefit of US Presidents and leaders of Major Powers that India and Indians consider their utterances of the K-Word as “Politically Blasphemous” and directed against India’s national security interests.
Afghanistan and the Kabul Government installed by a democratic process enunciated by United States would be traumatically impacted by President Trump’s announcement and further relying on the Pakistan Army to help United States to “Extricate” itself from Afghanistan. Don’t the Afghan people know that it is the Pakistan Army, its ISI and their protégé the Afghan Taliban sequestered in Quetta has been brutalising Afghanistan ever since the 1970s?
More sordidly, in political terms, the legitimate Kabul Government stood completely side-lined and excluded as the US Special Envoy Khalilzad went about dancing with the ‘Taliban Wolves’ –wolves in Afghan people’s perceptions.
Contextually therefore, the day after US inglorious exit from Afghanistan, portents suggest that Afghanistan would be once again be engulfed in a ‘Civil War’ which unlike the past one could be more vicious than the last one in view of the ongoing geopolitical churning.
What would be United States national security decision-making in that eventuality? Another costly US military intervention or just let the turbulence take its own course? In either eventuality, the national security interests would be seriously be impacted especially in terms of Indo Pacific security. One serious implication could be India logically having second thoughts on the credibility of being co-opted by United States as a strategic partner in Indo Pacific security.
Concluding, it needs to be emphasised that the United States must have a second look at its intended exit from Afghanistan that portends to be an inglorious one. National security interests of the United States do not deserve to be subordinated to political compulsions or expediencies of presidential elections.