Sunday, June 15, 2014

Is Afghanistan Next?

Events last week in Iraq, where the Al Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), have opened up a grim reality in the Middle East - terrorists are not just strong but they are gaining in strength and territory. Western intervention, which were supposed to stop the spread of terrorism post-9/11, have actually destabilized the region so badly that it has come to this. In many ways, Iraq is lost forever - even if America and Iran stitch up some sort of coalition to defeat ISIL, the Civil War there is not going to end, maybe ever.

But even as Iraq seems to be going down the road of no return, a greater danger is on the horizon for the entire world: the NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan, even as a good chunk of that country is under the control of the Taliban and the Afghan National Army not being prepared to take them on without active support from America. If Iraq is anything to go by, then the day when Kabul falls once again to the Taliban is not far. Indeed, when the US left Iraq, it was with the rhetoric of being a triumphant superpower that created the second Western-style democracy in the region (Israel being the other). In Afghanistan, we are seeing a full-fledged, much publicized retreat.

For India and all countries around Afghanistan, this is a crucial question for the future. A return of the Taliban will spell disaster for every country (except Pakistan) and this actually seems to be the most likely case. With America withdrawing, it is important for regional powers to do as much as they can to stop this threat. Of course, for a variety of reasons, a regional military occupation of Afghanistan can be safely ruled out - it is neither practical nor is there any proof that it helps. Indeed, the only time in history when Afghanistan has been at peace internally has been under the control of Afghans themselves. The best way forward then would be to strengthen the Afghan state, including its army. India has taken the first steps towards that by training Afghan soldiers and officers in its military institutions. There is talk of transferring Russian military weapons to the Afghans. For its part, China has a big role to play in shoring up Afghanistan's finances and bringing some measure of economic prosperity to its people, particularly in the Opium-growing belts.

To be clear, the danger of a Taliban takeover in Afghanistan is real and very clear and it will be far more devastating that ISIL's takeover of Iraq (although that too will have its repercussions). Unfortunately, America under its very weak President Obama, has chosen this time of all times to beat a hasty retreat. The world is quite truly multi-polar and this multi-polar world must rise to the occasion to protect its people from the scourge of terrorism. 

No comments: