Carrying on from this tweet, let me share some thoughts on the recently concluded US-Taliban deal. What I write below is just my observations / opinions. Feel free to disagree.
Firstly, is this deal a sign that America has lost the war?
Well, many people say it is. Let me, however, offer a different point of view.
If America has indeed lost, who is it that has won this war?
Is it the Taliban? Is it Pakistan? Or is it someone else?
Let’s see ..
Taliban – Some ppl might say that they have won. But then, given the run-up to this deal when they couldn’t initially agree as to who will be the delegates representing the Taliban, leading to the postponement of the talks on atleast one occasion, I can only say that I look forward to the post America future of Afghanistan with increasing scepticism.
Till such time there was a common enemy to be fought, they stayed more or less together, though with a number of factions having their own geographical areas of influence which they guarded zealously even as they went about fighting the Americans. Now with the Americans soon to be gone, and suddenly so much more at stake, it is anybody’s guess as to how they will try and jockey for favourable positions with respect to the self appointed king makers.
Who are these self-appointed king makers, you asked?
Well, the Brown Panted ones sitting in Rawalpindi, of course!
They must be salivating at the laurels coming their way after defeating ‘yet another’ superpower, just like they ‘defeated’ the USSR in the 80s!
Which brings me to the question whether it is Pakistan that has won this war.
Well, they do come close to being the ones who have ‘won’. The simple reason for this being that they will get yet another opportunity to place yet another friendly regime in Afghanistan.
But .. the biggest question here is ‘Will they get an opportunity to install another friendly regime in Kabul at all?’
Feel free to ponder over that for a bit.
Firstly, let us see what constitutes a ‘friendly’ regime in Kabul from a Pakistani perspective. Quite simply, it is the Taliban who are under the thumb of Pakistan Army, who will gladly be their proxies when it comes to drug-running and exporting terror.
But more than that, they need the Taliban for what they are really meant to do – keep India away from Afghanistan, regardless of all the goodwill and all the humanitarian work that India has done for the Afghans. THIS is what their concept of ‘strategic depth’ is all about.
But then, given the recent statements from the Taliban leadership about India, this time round it may be a difficult thing to achieve, PROVIDED the Taliban manage to bomb their way to Kabul in the first place like they did in the ‘good old 90s!’
Somehow I find this prospect of a military takeover of Kabul a highly unlikely outcome.
90s were a very different world from what exists today. Even then, despite all economic and international diplomatic pressures, India was a steady supplier to the Northern Alliance. Today, with a $3 Trillion strong economy and much more ground presence by the way of humanitarian developmental projects executed over the last two decades or so and a more robust foreign police coupled with a friendly USA, not just the ethnic Tajiks but even the Taliban are more likely to accommodate Indian interests than was the case in the 90s. Plus the history of Balakot (will write another blog on that in the next couple of days, btw) and other not-so publicized military slaps on Pakistan Army, Indian influence is bound to be a viable countervail to Pakistani pressures.
Remember, even in the 90s, the Taliban had STILL refused to recognize the Durand Line as the international boundary between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Talking about the Durand Line, I’ll just leave this tweet here 🙂
This is another reason Pakistan always looks to have a pliant government in Kabul – The natural / historical border between present day Pakistan and Afghanistan is not the Durand Line, but the Indus River. On that note, I’ll just leave the screenshot of another tweet here as well:-
Moving on, it is fair to assume that Pakistanis will be going to town celebrating the defeat of yet another superpower. Heck, that has already started, in fact!
But, there are still 14 months to go.
And this is an American establishment which has seen Pakistani perfidy first hand, mind you. An American President starting a new year with these thoughts says a lot.
Yes, he might be withdrawing from Afghanistan, but if I were a Pakistani, I would be very cautious celebrating this withdrawal.
Why, you asked?
Well, because it will remove perhaps the ONLY leverage Pakistan has over the USA at present.
Yup. Let that sink in for a moment.
And even when Pakistan had this leverage, Americans freely droned the hell out of the Taliban in ‘sovereign’ Pakistani territory, as also killed dozens of their troops as well.
Now imagine an America that is NOT beholden to Pakistan for logistics supplies to Afghanistan!
Remember the difficult days that Pakistan faced once the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan in the 80s?
Here’s what it was like – The Pressler Amendment, withheld F-16s that were already paid for, economic sanctions and basically, utter neglect of a terror breeding country by the USA.
You get my drift, right?
Let me now offer another chain of thoughts about the Americans withdrawing.
The moot question is Do They Even Need to be in Afghanistan?
They’ve killed Osama Ji a long time ago. Their homeland is much more secure today than it was pre 9/11.
IS IT STILL AMERICA’S WAR?
What Afghanistan is today, and what it might be 14 months hence, will still be a big improvement over what it was on September 11, 2001.
You may read the above statement of mine once more.
It is also brought out in the text of the agreement wherein the USA “commits to facilitate discussions between Afghanistan and Pakistan to work out arrangements to ensure neither country’s security is threatened by actions from the territory of the other side”
Understandably, Pakistan is jittery! So much so that they are already issuing ‘not so subtle’ threats to Afghanistan! Mind you, this is the same Pakistan that gets orgasmic everytime the USA hints at ‘mediating’ between Indian and Pakistan on Kashmir!
Now tell me that Pakistan will NOT be playing a spoilsport in the US troops’ withdrawal from Afghanistan just as it did when they were actually fighting there, and I will show you a white marble building in Agra that I wish to sell to you!
This is where the next 14 months become very critical. Any party not happy with the withdrawal of US troops can potentially be a game-spoiler by precipitating an incident or two whereby the Americans get involved for a bit longer. And such parties include Pakistan as well.
In any case, the 14 month period can be divided into two parts – pre and post US Presidential elections. Heading towards elections, the current US President would like to ensure things move ahead smoothly.
And in case he comes back for a second term (something that looks quite likely), well, all gloves will be off. In case the situation so demands, a small America force might still stay behind in Afghanistan. Trump would STILL want his troops to be out, however, especially since he is now committed to it. That would mean carrots (as in the current deal with Taliban) as well as sticks, as needed.
Pakistanis might celebrate all that they want, for now. That their new godfather, China, is a very rich fellow, also encourages them to some extent, no doubt.
But China is no America, especially when it comes to simply throwing away money!
If CPEC is any indicator, Pakistan will soon find itself in an even tighter hug of death with China, and with no other friends / benefactors to lean upon.
To that end, China might be a party that gets to benefit the most – a new colony in the form of Pakistan, and access to the vaunted mineral wealth of Afghanistan!
But then, that is a topic for discussion some other day. For the time being, let me talk about implications on India.
We already have a template from the 90s as to what might be the impact. Once the Taliban captured Kabul in the 90s, the Pakistani terror exports to Kashmir saw a qualitative change with more and more Afghans and even a few fighters from other Arab / African countries landing up. On the above note, I’ll just leave this tweet from a few days ago over here (LINK). Do click on it and check out some of the replies as well.
These were the ‘surplus stock’ from the terror factory feeding the Afghan Jihad, no doubt, but the Indian Army made sure that they didn’t make it out of Kashmir alive.
Much of the terror training too was ‘outsourced’ by Pakistan to the Taliban, as well as the al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Remember the cruise missiles that Bill Clinton sent cruising via Pakistan into Afghanistan to target Osama bin Laden after the Tanzania and Kenya embassy bombings?
Amongst those killed were LeT terrorists as well as a number of ISI personnel.
Osama Ji, however, had escaped, thanks to the early warning by his Pakistani friends!
Bottomline: Expect a short term spike in terror related incidents in Kashmir as well as elsewhere in the country once the US withdrawal is well underway.
Atleast this is what conventional wisdom says, no?
But, there is a counter-point to that as well. The India of 2020 is no longer the isolated, economically weak India of 1990s. If they couldn’t do anything to us then, what makes them think they will be able to do so now?
The answer might partially lie in the Pakistani hubris and that cannot be denied. However, given the kind of ‘interaction’ that India and Pakistan have had in the non-diplomatic sense, commencing with the carpet bombing by the BSF in 2014, right upto Balakot and the subsequent downing of a PAF F-16 by and Indian MiG 21, they will surely be looking to keep things below another such flare up. In any case, it will also be in Indian interests to ensure that Pakistan acts this way.
So what happens to the ‘surplus’ terror infrastructure suddenly at hand?
Well, this is where I sense an opportunity. The Taliban act in sync with Pakistan establishment mostly because of the hold they have over their families, many of whom reside inside Pakistan. This does get frustrating for them at times. Now with an Afghan leadership (Taliban included) ‘guided’ by powers that be, quest for reuniting of Pashtun lands with Afghanistan can commence in earnest. This is a worst case scenario for Pakistan, but then, so be it. Better they fight within their borders than on mine, right?
The time is ripe for such a scenario to unfold, what with the PTM movement and the violent crackdown on it by Pakistani authorities. There still exists adequate time to put such things in motion at our end.
In any case, with the Zaranj-Delaram highway operational, Afghanistan already imports more via Iran than via Pakistan. So there goes another lever of blackmail that Pakistan had over Afghanistan in the 90s.
Now, add to that a ‘far-fetched’ hypothetical scenario wherein we have an independent Balochistan, and Afghanistan will have the means to completely bypass Pakistan when it comes to accessing the Arabian Sea!
THIS is where the duplicitous game of Pakistan can, and should be called out.
A clean US withdrawal is NOT in Pakistan’s interests. Have no doubts about this.
If that happens, why would Afghans (with the blessings of remnant US presence in whatever form) do Pakistan’s bidding?
Especially when Pakistan is a country they loathe completely?
Especially when the US administration right up to the POTUS know about the perfidious Pakistani role in the past 19 years that led to the current quagmire?
Especially when India too is a $3 Trillion economy & growing fast?
The best case scenario for Pakistan is that it is still able to extract some concessions from the US by being appointed as the gatekeepers of ‘Afghan interests’ in return for monetary ‘assistance’!
Do I see that happening?
Not quite, I’d say.
Another interesting outcome of American withdrawal that not many are talking about is the implication of the same on India’s options for punitive action in case of future Pakistani provocations. Pakistan literally got away with murder, thanks to the American war in Afghanistan that took priority over every other regional power’s national interests. A lot of doors were closed for us thanks to this, while terror export from Pakistan continued gleefully. I tweeted this some days ago as well. Here is a screenshot of that tweet:-
So yes, regardless of who comes to power in Kabul, there will be a LOT MORE freedom for India to do what it wants to do across the LoC and even the IB. I’m sure, the powers that be, in New Delhi, must be salivating at this prospect as well.
To cap this blog, all I will say is that the USSR and the USA failed in Afghanistan because of one key reason – they didn’t crush the pipeline from Pakistan feeding their enemies.
This is what I tweeted way back in 2012. It still holds true.
On an unrelated note, here are some thoughts I blogged on the question of India sending her troops to fill the vacuum in Afghanistan – Indian Troops in Afghanistan.
May have a look.
That the POTUS made no mention of it lately, only reinforces my point of view- India has already refused!
In the end, I’ll just leave this one year old tweet here. Remember, since Jimmy Carter, Trump remains the ONLY US President who hasn’t invaded a new country. Will he remain so in case of a second term as well? If not, which might that country be? 🙂