Arrogance and Manipulative Leverage

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Sikandar Noorani

It seems that days of suffering are not yet over for Afghanistan! The looming economic crisis in the post-withdrawal scenario has emerged as a challenge no lesser than the menace of violent extremism. Since the US and its NATO allies practically abandoned Afghanistan, the interim government formed by the Taliban is striving hard to run the state’s affairs sans requisite resources and proper governance infrastructure.
Taliban’s peaceful takeover of Kabul amid a meaningfully quick meltdown of the Ghani regime sufficiently proved the multi-dimensional flaws in US strategy. After closely managing all affairs for 20 years, the US left the war-ridden country without any sustainable governmental infrastructure. US adventurism has deeply shaken the confidence of Afghan masses in the state to such an extent that people were seen losing lives by falling from flying planes in their quest to leave the country.
Blaming the Taliban for the present chaotic state of Afghanistan is nothing more than giving an undeserving free chit to the US, NATO and past ruling elite. There is a long list of troubles posing serious challenges to the Taliban-led interim setup. The US has itself admitted the presence of terrorist groups like IS-K and AQ. The active existence of TTP, with its multiple splinter groups in Afghanistan, is undeniable. The matter of regional security becomes more complex with the not-so-visible presence of ETIM elements on Afghan soil. Russian President Putin’s recent disclosure about an inflow of battle-hardened fighters in Afghanistan from Iraq and Syria is too grim to ignore for all regional stakeholders.
Having only these obvious realities in sight, a sigh of relief from Afghanistan seems a far cry for all its neighbours. Attacks inside Shia mosques on two consecutive Friday prayer gatherings in Kunduz and Kandahar, claimed by IS-K, have given indications about the unfolding of further complications. Afghanistan has not witnessed a break from terrorism after the Taliban’s takeover as multiple blasts occurred intermittently in and around Kabul in addition to the recent mosque attacks.
So, the US and Ghani regime left a dysfunctional Afghanistan with no financial resources, diluted public institutions and frozen funds (nine billion dollars). With every state office left incapacitated in Afghanistan, now the US and its like-minded countries are criticizing the Taliban for the present catastrophe. The US often adopts such arrogant and strange ways on the external front, which can never be justified under universally acknowledged principles that are followed by a majority of the global community.
The present state of Afghanistan and Iraq are the most recent examples of American arrogant pursual of goals on the external front. After making a peace deal with the Taliban for withdrawal in Doha last year, the US continuously kept denying any sort of recognition of the IEA. Contradictory to the verbal stance, the act of inking the deal by the US itself was a kind of practical recognition of the Taliban. As revealed by Zalmay Khalilzad, after the Doha deal, the US remained in constant communication with the Taliban to settle matters related to future governance and withdrawal.
Embarrassment for the US actually began in the final phase of withdrawal after the mysterious meltdown of the Afghan army and the meaningful disappearance of the Ghani regime on August 15. The US executed the withdrawal and evacuation operations while remaining in communication with the Taliban. Despite exaggerated rhetoric on human rights and women liberties, the US officials concluded comprehensive talks with the Taliban in Doha on critical issues of sanctions, frozen funds, recognition of interim setup and above all counter-terrorism operations. EU, Germany and the US have pledged financial assistance for Afghanistan on humanitarian grounds at the recently held G-20 summit.
The US and its influenced Western countries need introspection of flawed policies about Afghanistan. The American policy of non-recognition of Taliban interim setup carries the least weight after evaporation of governmental infrastructure in the post-August 15 scenario. The American offer of cooperation to Taliban against IS-K itself exposes a major disconnect in policies and actions. How can the US cooperate with the Afghan interim setup in anti-terror operations without recognising its legitimacy? The emergence of the Taliban and the present deterioration in Afghanistan are the by-product of US flawed policies stretched over the past two decades.
Denial of such strong ground realities by the US is a major hindrance to the success of the Afghan peace process. Non-recognition of the interim government and freezing of Afghan funds is in a way equivalent to tying the hands of the Taliban against the terrorist groups like IS-K and TTP. Why is the US expecting the Taliban to achieve what could not be achieved in the last twenty years by the world’s most well-resourced armies led by a superpower?
Pakistan’s PM, foreign office and NSA are continuously urging the international community to engage with the Taliban to avert the repetition of past mistakes. Scapegoating Pakistan for US failures and abandoning Afghanistan on very weak concerns related to human rights issues is not justified. Manipulative leveraging by the US will benefit the terrorist groups and destabilize the entire region. Any disturbance in Afghanistan will have a prompt direct impact on Pakistan’s security.
During an interview with VOA, the Taliban’s Deputy Information Minister Zabihullah Mujahid disclosed Chinese intent to invest billions in Afghan copper mines subject to the guarantee of security. A stable and peaceful Afghanistan will slip into Beijing’s fold through sustained Chinese-led projects and open venues of connectivity to CARs. Expecting any stabilising act from the US and its close ally India will be an unwise strategic mistake. The US is in no mood to abandon the pursuit of China-containment policy. In the past, Afghanistan and its neighbours, especially Pakistan, have faced serious consequences of US arrogance and manipulative leverage. As frequently suggested by Pakistan, only a well-coordinated regional approach can help Afghanistan gain much-needed stability.