India needs a neighbourhood strategy document

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“For most Americans, the Soviet withdrawal is victory. For our friends in South Asia, it’s just the first act in a much bigger drama, “said Arnold Lewis Raphel, a former US ambassador to Pakistan, more than three decades later, it is the US withdrawal from Afghanistan that is looming. In a big way, and another drama is waiting to unfold in South Asia, the Taliban and the United States agreed on a draft peace framework after several rounds of talks, and the United States is ready to withdraw its troops within 18 months. A change from a Taliban promise that it will not allow Al Qaeda and the Islamic State to operate from Afghan territory, the United States also wants the Taliban to agree to a ceasefire and a dialogue with the Ashraf Ghani government in Kabul. accepted these two demands.

The Taliban has only one short-term objective: to see the backs of foreign troops in Afghanistan. He knows that EE. UU He is in a hurry to win a retirement and is looking for an agreement to save his face. This has strengthened the hand of the Taliban in the ongoing negotiations. The Ghani government, on the other hand, is feeling the heat and is warning against a hasty agreement. The then Afghan president Hamid Karzai opposed a similar attempt in the talks between the United States and the Taliban during the mandate of Barack Obama. He only aligned himself with Obama’s personal intervention.

Let’s see what the Taliban agreed: not to provide sanctuaries to al Qaeda and the Islamic State. One, the Taliban oppose the latter, but has maintained a symbiotic relationship with the former. Although the Taliban’s confidence in al-Qaeda today is much lower than ever, it has never completely broken the relationship that was carefully nurtured by its late leader Mullah Omar. Osama bin Laden, Omar continued insisting, was his guest who could not simply be delivered to a non-Muslim nation. This irrational position eventually led to the expulsion of the Taliban from Kabul in 2011.

Two, you can not trust the Taliban to keep their words. Negotiations over Obama’s tenure finally failed because the Taliban decided to elevate, in violation of negotiated terms, their political office in Qatar to an office of the not-recognized Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

Delhi tizzy on the United States, Taliban talks in Kabul
The soft power of India is very effective in Afghanistan.

Three, the fear of fragmentation in the Taliban is real. If he gives up on Al Qaeda under US pressure, he could lose a number of fighters against the Islamic State or Al Qaeda itself or the smaller militias. The Taliban have suffered a large number of desertions since the death of Omar was made public in 2015 and there was a battle of succession. Betraying al-Qaeda, a failure to go to Omar when he was alive, could exacerbate the trend.

Four, the United States has little means of compliance if the Taliban simply decide not to honor their commitments. Unlike economic sanctions, which can be recovered in a flash, putting your boots back on the floor after you retire is a difficult question.

All this means that the withdrawal of the United States in this way does not augur well for Afghanistan and the region. How should India manage this transition? New Delhi has two objectives in Afghanistan: 1) not allowing extremist forces to take control and 2) preserving and expanding its economic projects and state construction activities in the country. But we do not know the tools that India is ready to deploy to achieve these objectives. Writing for The Wire, Pranay Kotasthane and Anand Arni, of the Takshashila Institution, have suggested several ways in which India can improve its support for the Afghan administration of the United States before putting boots on the ground.