Experts raise concern over Taliban emerging powerful after US withdrawal from Afghanistan

ANI
·5-min read
Over time, however, Afghanistan has also emerged as an 'insulator,' absorbing the political shocks and developments from surrounding regions.
Over time, however, Afghanistan has also emerged as an 'insulator,' absorbing the political shocks and developments from surrounding regions.

Amsterdam [Netherlands], March 17 (ANI): Experts and diplomats have raised concerns over the Taliban becoming more powerful after the withdrawal of the United States and NATO forces from Afghanistan.

At an event titled "Trajectories of terrorism in South Asia post US withdrawal from Afghanistan" organised by the European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS) on the sidelines of the 46th Session of UN Human Rights Council a panel of diplomats, policy analysts and scholars in the field of terrorism and South Asian geopolitics discussed the likely developments in the region of South Asia following a possible US troops pull-out from Afghanistan.

Nasir Ahmad Andisha, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the UN in Geneva retraced Afghanistan's geopolitical trajectory and specifically discussed the modern role of Pakistan.

Andisha argued that Afghanistan had long served the function of a buffer state, first between Czarist Russia and British India and later between the Soviet Union and the United States (US).

Over time, however, Afghanistan has also emerged as an 'insulator,' absorbing the political shocks and developments from surrounding regions.

The invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union in 1979, Andisha suggested provided Pakistan with the 'golden opportunity to boost its defence, diplomacy and development cooperation with the US, NATO and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

By inserting itself into Afghanistan, Pakistan thus gained diplomatic leverage over other regional actors. Yet, over time, Islamabad has increasingly lost control over the regional security dynamics.

Considering the regional role of India, which Andisha viewed as remaining focused on its own domestic affairs, the government of Imran Khan has seemingly managed to somewhat control terrorist organizations within Pakistan, however, Pakistan could nevertheless become the destination of more battle-hardened Taliban following the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

As such, Andisha opined that the future trajectory of terrorism in the region especially raises concerns for India, also as the close ties between Pakistan and the Taliban could further jeopardize relations between the Afghan and the Indian governments.

Michael O'Hanlon, Senior Fellow and Director of Research in Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution and adjunct Professor at Columbia University and Georgetown University, spoke about the strategic implications of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The withdrawal of foreign troops, O'Hanlon argued, would nevertheless not end fighting in Afghanistan but would cause a drawn-out civil war.

"This potential trajectory would heighten inter-ethnic tensions and specifically culminate in a targeting of Afghanistan's Pashtun populations as Pashtuns would be conflated with the Taliban and the Taliban would be able to control the southern and eastern part of Afghanistan but would lack legitimacy in the remainder of the country, in this case, held by ethnic groups such as Hazaras, Tajiks and Uzbeks", said O'Hanlon.

O'Hanlon argued that in such a scenario, for the US, the establishment of two separate "proto-States" in Afghanistan would significantly diminish Washington's capacity to project power and gather intelligence in the Taliban-held areas.

Based on this strategic analysis, Dr. O'Hanlon suggested that a full withdrawal of the US from Afghanistan is unlikely to materialize and especially described the withdrawal date of 1 May 2021 as unrealistic. Additionally, he argued that the Biden administration would refrain from such actions as it will not portray it in a positive light.

Petr Topychkanov, Senior Researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) and former Fellow at Carnegie Moscow further discussed how the US military presence in Afghanistan could pose potential risks on the nuclear stability of the region.

Topychkanov emphasized the fact that the danger of nuclear terrorism also included the means of a terrorist groups using threats with the aim of convincing its adversary that they are in possession of such materials and are willing to use them regardless of whether that is the reality or not. Thus, it is not a matter of certain capabilities, rather the capacity of an extremist entity to capitalize on such threats.

Topychkanov further argued that while Afghanistan is not the most developed country in terms of using nuclear materials, its neighbours, such as Pakistan, India, Russia and China, make it a potential transport hub for the transferal of illegal materials by both terrorist and criminal outfits. Therefore, he highlighted the importance of regional collaboration in regard to the exchange of intelligence information and the protection of borders and transport routes.

Malaiz Daud, former Chief of Staff of Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani, Research Fellow at the Barcelona Center for International Affairs and Research Fellow at EFSAS, described the anocratic set up of the Pakistani State, being partially a democracy and partially a dictatorship.

He described how this so-called 'hybrid democracy' of the country is weaved of consecutive cycles of military and semi-democratic rule. While he exemplified how the Army rules the country directly and indirectly and has established a perception that it is more capable than the democratic government to deliver social and physical goods, the Military Establishment of Pakistan currently finds itself challenged, especially by the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) and non-violent & violent insurgencies such as the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) and the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

He further said that such occurrences are usually triggered by a particular event, and implied that the Afghan Peace Process might be a small possibility. Nevertheless, given how autocratic cycles in Pakistan are accompanied by heightened insecurity in Afghanistan, higher levels of violence are likely to materialize in Afghanistan and in the wider region in the coming years. Yet, Daud was hopeful that if the international community continues to support Afghanistan, the people of Afghanistan will prevent the Taliban from gaining too much power.

Junaid Qureshi, the director of EFSAS said that terrorist organisations in the region, as also in India's Jammu & Kashmir are targeting the moderate voices and misusing the religion.

Regarding the Taliban 'Peace deal', Qureshi urged that we not lose sight of the fact that that the basic premise of this agreement is unnatural as it is a manifestation of negotiating with terrorists, which 20 years ago would have been inconceivable. (ANI)