By Pratip Chattopadhyay
Taliban and their 2021 conquest of Afghanistan have created massive ripples across global politics and international affairs. Despite being pressurized by the US and international coalition armed forces, what resulted in the fall of Kabul in the hands of Talibans? What are the future consequences of the reemergence of the Taliban?
The entire world has been disturbed off late by the developments in Afghanistan in the last one and a half months whereby Taliban, an ethnic group in the country through sudden military attack under the leadership of the Taliban to topple the civilian government and take control of the vacuum created by the withdrawal of American troops.
This explicit eventalisation needs to be understood in greater detail underscoring the relative effect by and on the United States of America, Pakistan, Russia, China, India and most importantly on the lives of the ordinary citizens of Afghanistan. This requires employing an approach of demystification of events or in other words decoding the messages inherent in the event. By employing such a perspective this piece wants to elaborate on the role of agency and structure in contemporary Afghanistan.
Afghanistan is important not because it had perceived links behind the 9/11 terrorist incidents in the twin towers of WTO centre and in Pentagon centre in United States of America at the turn of the millennium in September 2001. Afghanistan attracted the attention of the world public gaze in the 1970s when it was a centre of the Cold war tangle between the United States of America and the Soviet Union when the latter invaded the country.
Later on, when the Cold war ended, the United States of America which gave shelter and support to the mujahidin’s(internal rebel ethnic group members) throughout the 1970s and 1980s transformed emerged as Taliban who although now equipped with modern arms, ammunition and technologies of war remained rooted culturally and ethnically to fundamentalist religious doctrine.
A deadly combination of fundamentalist religious outlook and modern techniques of war made Talibans a force that even the United States of America could not defy.
As a result, a deadly combination of fundamentalist religious outlook and modern techniques of war presented themselves as a force that even the United States of America could not defy. Taliban’s presence in power in Afghanistan in the mid-1990s was a period of barbaric approach to all modern forms of governance and towards architectural eminence in the country. This culminated with the support towards terrorist organisation Al-Qaeda in the 2001 terrorist attack.
The US retaliation with a declared ‘War on Terrorism’ and continuous presence of US military force under the NATO banner for almost two decades slowly and gradually forced the Taliban to recede in the background. As the United States of America announced the complete withdrawal of her force from Afghan soil in 2021, the Taliban raised their hydra-hood and completely captured the citadel of power in the country in a sudden coup like the attack in July-August 2021.
The role of the US was to erode any possibility of international terrorism getting support from the soil of Afghanistan.
In this background, questions are being raised about the role of the US in the past two decades in dealing with the Taliban problem. The role of the US was to erode any possibility of international terrorism getting support from the soil of Afghanistan. Therefore the problem of ending the Taliban groups in Afghanistan was not on the agenda.
The puppet regime in Afghanistan under the support of the United States of America was sure to end with the withdrawal of American troops. It was an internal setup and those in power in the Afghan corridor were also had no problem with the change of guard. This was amply demonstrated in the manner of the surrender of Afghan troops and the Afghan government.
The meeting between Taliban and US in February 2020 followed by meeting between Taliban, US, Russia, China and Pakistan in June 2020 was a step by step event to the coup of the Taliban. So the role of the US was to ensure tackling international terrorism and not internal power balance. Pakistan which is closely in touch with the Afghanistan event is the most important beneficiary. In close connivance with China, Pakistan which supports and houses international terrorist groups remains outside the gaze of the US due to China’s support.
Pakistan remains the silent spectator and silent advantageous country in this quagmire.
Pakistan remains the silent spectator and silent advantageous country in this quagmire. Having a Taliban regime in close cooperation with the civilian government part will ensure a friendly passage to Central Asia in trade and services.
For China, any episode of indirect or direct humiliation on the part of the US is her gain and so too is the situation in Afghanistan. China is constructing a message design spread in which the US is being put into the critical gaze of world public opinion. For Russia, the episode of Afghanistan is yet an opportunity to reflect the spread of her area of influence in world politics. With the US going for a role of silent spectatorship, Russia can very well emerge as the new kingmaker and trendsetter of political discourse in this part of the world. India although claiming to have a mature and bold foreign policy getting worldwide appreciation seems to be isolated on the eventalisation process of Afghanistan where it was not counted as a stakeholder.
India, presently remaining busy in airlifting persons of Indian origin and also those who want to leave Afghanistan has taken a wait and watch policy towards the entire episode. India matured foreign policy seem to be in question. The life and property of Afghan citizens particularly their human rights have been largely put in question. Prima facie it seemed that it was a return to the age-old regime of Taliban oppression and barbaric approach. Taliban fooled all world populace by restrained behaviour and reflecting a modern approach to coming to power. Even the very recent explosion at Kabul airport was also done by IS terrorist group and not the Taliban.
The human rights of Afghan women, seem to be in question following the latest fatwa by Taliban groups is in tandem with their Shariat law and custom.
The human rights of women, seem to be in question following the latest fatwa by Taliban groups is in tandem with their Shariat law and custom. However, except this, not many criminal acts against any group or person have still been located. Moreover, the initiation of a governing council of 12 members including Taliban and former civilian President Hamid Karzai and other civilian government faces reflect that a peaceful power transition is in store in Afghanistan.
Employing the demystification approach it can be said that the message code of event in Afghanistan reflects three things –
- Actuality of US presence in Afghanistan was not nation-building or training of Afghan people to democratic ethos but to create a milieu that does not support international terrorism or at least terrorism towards the United States of America. Having received enough indication from all stakeholders involved in promoting Terrorism, the US now feels relaxed about the unfolding of events.
- China and Russia seem to have a good amount of strategic communication involving Pakistan and this could be a new QUAD(China, Pakistan, Russia, Afghanistan) to resist the Quad in Indo-Pacific comprising India, Japan, Australia and the US.
- Taliban seem to be following a message-design of modern governance and transition to power involving dialogue and discussion forum with all stakeholders including those who were in power and also by showing enough respect for the international human rights convention principle by not targeting any foreign national and also by not retaliating with target killings en mass.
To suffice it can be said that the eventalisation in Afghanistan reflects the growing importance of small and otherwise insignificant states like Afghanistan in the broader functioning of international politics. It also signifies a lack of interest of the US in getting entangled in battles far off from its territory and focussing more on strengthening its own economy.
India is left alone but this is also a reflection of atmnanirbharata or self-reliance in foreign policy whereby India today has to play a leading role in creating a vocabulary of peaceful coexistence and making both Taliban and major powers abide by it. This role of India, presently as a rotational chair of the UNSC should be of seminal importance in regional politics of Asia in particular and in global politics in general in days to come in which international political communication should not be in the language of war but in the language of peaceful coexistence.
(Pratip Chattopadhyay is Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science at University of Kalyani.)
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