History Besieges the Threshold of Kabul: A Red Specter from the 90’s Hangs Over 2021
Successive onslaughts over the past two weeks appear to have finally brought the Taliban militant group at the sill of Kabul. As the US backs out of a futile war, and a tattered nation is once again set to lose all, the geopolitical future of Asia hangs in the balance.
The world awaits with bated breath as Afghanistan crumbles before an imminent reign of terror. On-ground visuals already indicate that the ghost of a wreckage from the early 2000s is stirring awake from a restless slumber. Many are to blame for the current depredation befalling the Afghan civilization, but who has catalyzed this latest shrill of tragedy? Is it the US, which jettisoned out of the region instantly once there was nothing left to exploit? Or Pakistan, which cannot help but play second fiddle to the USA’s iniquitous brand of foreign policy? Or maybe it is Ashraf Ghani’s weak and inept government, accused of siphoning funds off of the armed forces.
In Retrospective: The First Howl Of Taliban
Emerging from the ashes of a brutal civil war in the mid-90’s, Taliban initially appeared to have the unflinching support of US in a staggering cold war geopolitical milieu. Things got heated when it acquired control of most of Afghanistan, imposing stoic Sharia law in a move reeking of cultural warfare where the only one vanquished was the spirit of Afghanistan. One need not go very far to uncover vestiges of reportage on the brutal suppression of human rights wrought by Taliban in Afghanistan. Women were, and soon will be, the worst sufferers of this man-made calamity. Education was debarred, academia disbanded, tomes rich in Afghan history and culturalism clamped shut indefinitely, and women dismissed from all walks of life in a scenario straight out of a dystopian novella.
Afghanistan did not become the proverbial symbol of regression for nothing. The ruin was rained down upon it in sleets of orthodoxy. What was once a modern nation emerging out of the chrysalis of colonialism, hurtling unfazed towards a new dawn, a thriving society with its own set of problems, was suddenly reduced to an autocracy straight out of the tales of horror that are whispered in the dead of the night. The world watched on as one after the other vulturine forces kept gnawing at it. Another note of grim horror is being sung in Afghanistan as I write this, and once again, the world stands mute faced.
USA: A Cowardly Retreat
Picture Credits: TheHill
Taliban’s flight of fancy was cut short by USA’s rage over 9/11. The Global War On Terror that protested one of the deadliest attacks on US soil in its independent history, nearly routed out the Taliban. It survived in shrifts wherever the US saw its existence profitable to its puppet regime in the country. Irony demands divulsion: US fed into a deadly terror network, fielded a futile war for 2 decades when the imbeciles it had parturitioned paid in filial betrayal, and then turned its back on a nation clawing its way back to 21st century at a moment’s notice.
“The fact of the matter is (that) Afghan forces have been unable to defend the country-”, The Economic Times quoted Anthony Blinken, the US Secretary Of State. His words cast light on how the blame game has already commenced: USA vehemently claims that it has done whatever it can for Afghanistan and that the approaching avalanche of misery is its internal matter, stemming out of its own regimental mistakes and ‘backwardness’. This is blatant hypocrisy: Where was this Western lament for Afghan autonomy many moons ago when the Great Game was afoot? It was lost somewhere in the greed to outwit the Soviet. What we are witnessing are the gangrenous remnants of the Superpower Era.
BBC reports that the total cost of USA’s pyrrhic defence in Afghanistan came to almost $822 billion. All for nothing. The western-trained Afghan army has failed its countrymen, US has backed off poker-faced even as the whole world shames and questions it clout, and doom clouds from 1996 gather over Kabul. Some wars end cold and abandoned, but their consequences are leviathan even when compared to tangible bloodshed. The fall of Afghanistan into the Taliban hands is exemplary of this.
Afghan Leadership: Marionetting Away To Doom
With the US dropping its reins, the Ashraf Ghani led government has truly faltered. With an already incapacitated focal point of control and heavy dependence on US to sustain itself (the extent of which wasn’t unveiled until POTUS Biden set a deadline for withdrawal), the Afghan government was any day hard pressed for survival. Yesterday’s siege and Taliban’s arrival, like the apocalypse of the yore, sealed the fate of all institutionalism that Afghanistan had managed to scrape together in recent decades. Latest reports indicate that Ghani has escaped to Tajikistan, leaving his motherland at the mercy of ravenous wolves. As his resignation letter arrives at the high tables of diplomacy in Qatar, his people shrivel over with fear and submission.
In tune with Blinken’s remarks, Indian Express too reported on a festering, corruption afflicted system that estranged the Afghan army from the ruling government in the weeks leading up to Kabul’s siege. It appears that all pleas for equipment and ammunition were ill-met, gradually compelling the forces to either genuflect before the rising Taliban power and/or quit in a show of disaffection with Ghani and Co. Where was the aforementioned US funding on the Afghan army siphoned off to? The world may never know.
Pakistan: Iago In The Shadows
“I can openly say to Afghans that this war isn't between the Taliban and Afghan government. It is Pakistan’s war against the Afghan nation. The Taliban are their resource and work as (their) servant.” Herati warlord Ismail Khan was quoted by several media outlets before he fell.
There is much to be dissected here: from the Pakistani leadership’s at times open, and other times backhanded, support to the Taliban to its misplaced desire of being at the helm of Islam and politics in the Middle East . They have shown no shame in openly welcoming it as a ‘new and civilized’ Taliban.
While the US and the UK take a major share of the blame for what is unfolding right now, Pakistan’s cunning and shrewd diplomatic outreach to the Taliban seemingly gets overshadowed. What was it that compelled Imran Khan to commemorate Osama Bin Laden as a ‘martyr’ if not a need to extend a hand of allyship to Taliban?
Indeed, Pakistan has as much of a role in Afghan collapse today, as it did in the 90s. When it comes to maneuvering regional geopolitics, Pakistan appears to heed the words of GoT’s Petyr Baelish, ‘Chaos isn’t a pit. Chaos is a ladder.’ But what it forgets is the caveat that follows, ‘Many who try to climb it fail and never get to try again. The fall breaks them.’
And this collapse may yet be true for Pakistan’s sickening brand of diplomacy.
Asia: Ill-Prepared To Afford Animosity?
The Asia-Pacific geopolitical zone is beset with a hurricane that would sweep it away into the throes of the future. As players move quickly to make the best out of the grim situation, all efforts should play into positioning oneself to the prime advantage so as to land into a favorable future despite the burgeoning uncertainty.
A political analyst remarked that article 370 was revoked in August of 2019 in prescience of a possible Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in the next couple of years, plunging the contested region into further instability. If this has any truth to it, then surely the focus must not be solely withdrawn: external lobbying and allyship is the need of the hour as a China-Pakistan-Taliban nexus appears to be on the cards. Disgusted as the world might be, global diplomacy runs on realpolitik, and hence India is expected to reach out to Taliban in a carefully charted out plan of action. As has been predicted time and again in the past months, it would not come as a surprise, were New Delhi to host a Taliban delegation in the near future.
New Delhi must also practice vigilance against China’s next steps. By July end the Foreign Minister of China, Mr. Wang Yi, had already met Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the co-founder of Taliban. It seems that Chinese inroads into bilateral ties with the militant group have been far more rapid than India could even dream of in the current geo-political milieu where it seems to have been left out of budding nexuses. Cutting down on this rising Chinese hegemony in Asia is the need of the hour.
The Taliban doesn’t mind acquiring a broken country because it thrives on chaos and decadence. So long as the Afghans are broken, beaten, battered, and bruised by the blows that history has dealt them, the Taliban shall rule the roost. All domestic and international efforts underway to uplift the Afghan society in the past two decades have collapsed. Only the dust of yesterday, and the blood and tears of millions of Afghan civilians, are on the hands of the global community. One can do naught, but watch on as history unfolds.
By Samya Verma
Samya Verma is a third year student of (not) history at Hindu College. She swears by caustic sarcasm, political satire, and dark humour. With no plans for the future, she is currently soliciting advice on how to avoid unemployment; feel free to chip in at firstname.lastname@example.org