- GS-2: India and its neighborhood- relations.
- GS-2: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests
The Surge (Rise of Taliban)
Context: The rapid territorial gains made by the Taliban over the last two months.
How is the ground situation changing in Afghanistan?
- US had announced that it is going to exit completely from Afghanistan by Sep 11, 2021 after a prolonged two decade war (started in the aftermath of 9/11 attacks) in Afghanistan against Taliban & other terror groups.
- Offensive Strategy: The Taliban started their latest offensive on May 1 as it was certain that US troops won’t be supporting Afghan National forces any more.
- Expansion of Taliban Control: With 90% of U.S. withdrawal complete, the Taliban have taken control of 195 of Afghanistan’s 407 districts, and are contesting 129 others
- Recent Gains in Northern areas: Most of their recent victories are in the northern provinces which had resisted Taliban rule in the 1990s. In several northern districts, Afghan troops have either surrendered or retreated
- Possibility of collapse of government at Kabul: If the north, home to Afghanistan’s elite power brokers and leaders, is lost, the risk of a total collapse of the government in Kabul would increase.
What can we expect in next couple of months?
- Afghanistan government still controls most of the provincial capitals and cities but are practically surrounded by the Taliban.
- Given the pace of the Taliban’s advancement in the countryside, it is possible they could launch an offensive to take the population centres once the foreign troops are out
Will Taliban engage in negotiations for peaceful transition of country post US Exit?
- The Taliban’s strategy is still not clear.
- Their political office in Doha, which started peace talks with Afghan government representatives in September 2020, continues to say they are committed to the dialogue.
- But on the battlefield in Afghanistan, they continue a relentless campaign aimed at capturing more territories.
Why is there criticism about US plan of pulling out its troops?
- Irresponsible behaviour of US: The country faces an imminent civil war, chaos & takeover by conservative Taliban primarily due to total abdication of leadership and responsibility by the U.S., which invaded Afghanistan 20 years ago.
- US wanted exit not peace in country: When direct talks between the U.S. and the Taliban began, the U.S.’s focus was not on finding a peaceful settlement to the crisis that it partly created, but on exiting the war.
- US ignored concern of Afghan Govt.: Therefore, instead of putting pressure on the Taliban to extract concessions, the U.S. struck a deal with them, completely ignoring the concerns of Kabul.
- Now, the Taliban are much more powerful on the ground and even if the peace process is revived after American pullout, they would negotiate from a position of strength.
Can other powers steer the situation from going out of control?
- US insensitive action should not stop Kabul and regional powers China, Russia, Iran, Pakistan and India from seeking a political settlement.
- A violent takeover of the country by the Taliban, like in 1996, would not serve anybody’s interests.
- The Taliban would also not find international legitimacy if they capture Kabul through bloodshed.
- Hence, efforts should be made for a peaceful negotiated settlement so as to ensure the stability of the broader region.
- Now that the invading troops are exiting Afghanistan, the warring parties’ focus should shift towards settlement and building lasting structures of power. Else, Afghanistan would fall into another cycle of violence.
Connecting the dots:
- March 2020: Donald Trump’s Doha Agreement