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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 4/20/21

Misplaced Optimism in Biden's 9/11 Plan for Afghanistan

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Modern Kabul - panoramio.
Modern Kabul - panoramio.
(Image by Wikipedia (commons.wikimedia.org), Author: Masoud Akbari)
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Like his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, Democrat President Joe Biden does not want American troops to fight "other's" wars. Like the foray into Vietnam in the seventies, the Af-Pak expedition has cost America very dearly - 3000 American (soldiers) lives and upwards of $3 trillion in war expenses.

But Biden's September 11, 2021 timeline for recall of American troops from war ravaged Afghanistan appears rather odd, more so since 9/11 has gone down in history as the date that showcased the Al Qaeda blitzkrieg against the sole super power. The new 9/11 may take Afghanistan tantalizingly close to the Taliban version of Caliphate. A Talibanised nation may love to be the host for big terror operations against the Americans and their worldwide interests.

The Taliban already control most of the countryside, and their takeover of Kabul will heighten threat to the entire region, India including. Because, when the superior western Armies are gone, nothing will be able to stop the mediaeval forces, which the Taliban is.

This prognosis is based on the reality check. The combined strength of US and NATO forces were only able checkmate Taliban's march to capture Kabul but could not destroy the Islamists' fire power. The Afghan armed forces, though well-armed, are incapable of tacking on the might of the Taliban.

Both before and after 9/11, Pakistan adopted a duplicitous approach towards terrorism. It resolutely followed a policy of securing strategic depth in Afghanistan. That is why its double speak - no influence over Taliban and the claim of credit for bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table is neither here nor there.

Pakistan did not invest in Afghanistan's reconstruction like India did with an investment of $10 billion. Instead, it nurtured and shielded the Haqqani network of terrorists as a valuable Afghan asset. This group has come to be known as a 'veritable arm' of the Pakistan Army's Inter-services Intelligence, ISI.

The new post-9/11 dispensation with the Taliban in driver's seat will magnify ethnic divisions and conflicts within the country; this may lead to a civil war like situation in a Talibanised nation. This scenario will present an opportunity to Pakistan's iron friend, China, to emerge from shadows and become a direct player. It will broad base its campaign to mop up Afghan natural resources and in the process hook Afghanistan to its debt trap. In recent months, Russia has stepped up its campaign to demonstrate its relevance to Afghanistan to the glee of Pakistan and China. Clearly, this Russian comeback glosses over the bitter memories of Red Army in Kabul in the 1980s. All this advantage Pakistan, undoubtedly.

Of late, President Biden and his Russian counterpart, Putin, are organising peace meets on Afghanistan. Unlike Moscow, Washington has invited New Delhi to share the table on Afghan roadmap. It acknowledges Indian stakes in Afghanistan; it does not appear to be an effort at appeasing India, as some sections aver in New Delhi. In fact, this is part of a calibrated American plan to enlist India in its much larger campaign against China in the Indo-Pacific.

Taliban and foreign terrorists launch attacks on Afghanistan from safe havens in the tribal belt of Pakistan close to the Durand line that divides the two countries. Neither the US or any other country - China and Russia including, has tried to put pressure on Pakistan to ensure good behavior by its Afghan terror proxies. The US was (and is) perfectly suited to this role but it opted not to anger Pakistan, which is no more than a 'middleman' with the Taliban.

There is a flip-side to the unfolding Afghan scene. Even when efforts for Afghan peace process began in Qatar a year ago, the Taliban have shown no letup in their bloody campaign inside Afghanistan. These brutal attacks apparently a warning against delay or postponement of withdrawal of American troops. What the Taliban will do next depend very much on how the Americans put their act, and demonstrate the lessons they had learnt between the two 9/11s.

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Rama Rao Malladi is New Delhi based senior journalist and distinguished commentator on South Asian and Central Asian issues. He is a regular contributor to several publications in and outside India. His articles are featured in News Blaze.Rama (more...)
 

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