ISSN 2330-717X

Afghanistan Sliding Into A Catastrophe – OpEd

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Warnings galore; Afghanistan after decades of war is once again heading into a disastrous situation, this time in addition to other issues a humanitarian catastrophe is about to be witnessed if timely remedial steps are not put in place. The United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the donor community have all been warning of the humanitarian catastrophe emerging with the imminent collapse of the Afghan economy.The sudden withdrawal of US and allied forces from the country led to the disintegration of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban takeover  has been the major cause as all incoming aid has since been stopped.

At the outset Pakistan’s PM Imran Khan needs to be complemented for his timely initiative in mobilising the Muslim world in spite of his and his country’s standing in the community of nations. Pakistan’s sole concern in hosting the meeting was to mobilise support for the Afghans with the hope that the Muslim world would make generous pledges of financial and in-kind support. The real test would be how early the Muslim world comes forward to aid the Afghanis. PM Imran Khan said that “the threat of terrorism from Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) could only be tackled effectively through an economically stable government in Afghanistan” but what has he to say about his own country on the issue? However, it is puzzling that Pakistan, which has been a part of the problem, is so concerned now! Pakistan’s major worry is the likely exodus of refugees into Pakistan if the situation worsens especially when their own economy is in shambles.

30 OIC member states as well as the UN Secretary General, China, the US, the UK, France, Russian Federation, Japan, Germany, Italy, European Union, Economic Cooperation Organisation, League of Arab States and the Gulf Cooperation Council and Taliban government in Afghanistan attended the 17th Extraordinary Session of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers on 19th December 2021 in Islamabad. The OIC Council agreed on providing all help to Afghanistan on humanitarian grounds. Strangely, all five Central Asian Foreign Ministers gave a miss to the Organisation of Islamic Countries Meet in Islamabad and attended the meeting hosted in Delhi.

Afghanistan’s illegal poppy drug trade has been a boon for Afghanistan and it remains the world’s biggest illicit opiate supplier and looks certain to remain so with the Taliban in power. The question to be asked to the Taliban government in Afghanistan is that Taliban fought the Americans with this money for 15 years so how are they using this drug money now? Why is the Taliban government in Kabul not using this money for the upliftment of the masses before the world body’s step in with assistance? Widespread destruction during the war with a large number of families uprooted from their homes and foreign aid cut the country is sliding into a humanitarian crisis. It is not known what Taliban is doing for its Afghani people? Taliban came in for the people so what has been their performance after taking over on 15 August 2021.

UN officials reported that the Taliban likely earned more than $400 million between 2018 and 2019 from the drug trade. A May 2021 US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan (SIGAR) report quoted a U.S. official as estimating they derive up to 60% of their annual revenue from illicit narcotics.

There was an expectation that the Taliban government would honour the commitments it made and take practical steps in that direction: form an inclusive government, respect human rights especially of women, and not allow Afghan soil to be used by any terrorist groups. However, the Taliban government appears to be failing to fulfil the promises made to the international community. There seems to be little change in the Taliban of the earlier days. The age-old ethos of the Pathans have been thrown into the winds. ‘Pathans like the Rajputs were known for the word given or a promise made’. So where are those good Pathans?

Pakistan’s Durand Line barbed wire border fence: Afghan Taliban has removed the Durand Line barbed wire fence erected by Pakistani forces in the Gushta district of Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province  and even threatened to go to war. His Master’s Voice (HMV) the ISI days seems to be over with the Taliban despite being funded and supported by the Pakistan Army. The Afghan Taliban has steadfastly refused to accept the Durand Line which separates Afghanistan from the Pashtun-dominated regions of Pakistan. Pakistan is about to complete the construction of the Durand Line border fence ( 2,640km ) which was started in March 2017.So can Taliban be trusted? And surprisingly  the fence was removed after the OIC Council met!

No nation or Organisation is coming forward at a large scale to help the people of Afghanistan as they are not yet confident of the Afghan Taliban’s performance so far in running the country. If the Taliban government fails to meet the expectations of the international community the situation is likely to worsen and aid may be a distant dream. The Muslim world post OIC Council meet on 19th December 2021 in Islamabad has promised to help Afghanistan but how soon and to what extent? The OIC Muslim world needs to take the lead for the international community to observe the deployment and distribution on ground to the common people so as to follow it up if implemented judiciously.

India advocates Afghan-led and Afghan-controlled, but is it possible? So far the so-called Afghan Taliban government was being controlled from Rawalpindi through the ISI. Pakistan discreetly has a tacit understanding with the ISI or to say has given its approval to control the Afghan Taliban for their selfish motives.

Indian External Affairs Minister Jaishankar said at the 3rd meeting of the India-Central Asia Dialogue of foreign ministers from all the five Central Asian countries — Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyz Republic:  “We all also share deep-rooted historical and civilizational ties with Afghanistan. Our concerns and objectives in that country are similar: a truly inclusive and representative government, the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking, ensuring unhindered humanitarian assistance and preserving the rights of women, children and the minorities. We must find ways of helping the people of Afghanistan,” According to a joint statement, the ministers reiterated their “strong support for a peaceful, secure and stable Afghanistan while emphasizing the respect for sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity and non-interference in its internal affairs”.

All possible international leverages should be applied for the security, political and overall economic development of Afghanistan as the stability of Afghanistan has implications for the region around Afghanistan, India and the world at large. To promote peace and security in the region the international community has to come forward but Pakistan had to be brought under control and prevented from meddling in Afghan affairs.

*Patial RC is a retired Infantry officer of the Indian Army. He possess unique experience of serving in active CI Ops across the country and in Sri Lanka. Regular writer on matters military in professional journals. The veteran is a keen mountaineer and a trekker. 

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