By: Sankar Ray
Many diplomats who now keep watch on strategic shifts in Afghanistan and around are deeply worried over the CIA forecast that the Afghan Government will in all probability collapse within six months after the US troops withdrawal. Apparently, the syndrome is manifest .as in less than 48 hours after Friday 14 districts fell in the north-eastern Badakhshan province. The list of fallen districts is on the rise. The Taliban control is to date extended to about a third of all 421 districts and district centres of the country. The fleeing of thousands of Afghan soldiers to Tajikistan when Taliban forces have captured more territory across Afghanistan’s rural areas, lends some credence to the CIA viewpoint.
Tajik border guards, complied with the principles of humanity and good neighbourliness to allow Afghan soldiers to cross the border and enter Tajikistan territory. According to Tajik border guards as on 5 July morning, 1,037 Afghan troops had fled across its border overnight. The Taliban penetration is deep in the north, north-eastern in particular bordering Tajikistan.
There is no denying that the Taliban would launch widespread attacks after US forces left was to be expected, but the scale and speed of the ANSF collapse was not. As the figures show, the loss is already considerable: over a quarter of Afghanistan’s district centres have been captured by the Taliban in recent weeks, adding to those they already controlled. This is, of course, a snapshot.
Much of the recently captured territory is in Badakhshan, where 16 of the northeastern province’s 27 districts have fallen to the Taliban in three days, Afghan officials said on July 4.
However, the new assessment of the overall U.S. intelligence community, which hasn’t been previously reported, is under scrutiny too by seasoned American diplomats who cite the utterly misleading CIA assessment on Saddam Hussein’s weapons programme in Iraq in 2004 when the Democrats scathingly criticized the George W Bush Administration for exaggerating the threat posed by Iraq in order to justify an unnecessary war
Skeptics want the accuracy of the assessment to be questioned in absence of concrete data and the existence of many moving variables. Indeed, the US intelligence has little access to facts on the ground regarding the Taliban. While the capacity, capability and strategy of the Taliban are a mystery to any outsider looking in, the local warlords are unpredictable in opposition to the Taliban. Alongside is the uprising of local populations against the Taliban and the formation of militias across the country.
Signs of preparations for combating the Taliban are manifest. The retreat of 300-plus Afghan soldiers to Tajikistan notwithstanding, hundreds of former “mujahideen” fighters and civilians in Afghanistan have taken up arms under compulsion. “If they impose war on us, oppress us, and encroach on women and people’s property, even our seven-year-old children will be armed and will stand against them. We have to protect our country … now there is no choice as the foreign forces abandon us,” told Farid Mohammed, a young student who joined a local anti-Taliban leader from Parwan to an international news agency. In fine, the Taliban leadership is pushing Afghanistan into a civil war.
Reports of India’s opening a channel of communication with the Taliban brass have already faced criticism. “It’s a significant shift because New Delhi is going from a nonexistent relationship to the beginning of some kind of a communication channel,” stated Michael Kugelman, deputy director and senior associate for South Asia at the Washington-based Wilson Center Apparently after decades of a tough stance against the Taliban, India may think of establishing a communication channel after the US military exit, because, with the Americans leaving Afghanistan, it will be up to the regional stakeholders to ensure that the country doesn’t become a safe haven for militants once again. Being a major stakeholder in Afghanistan, New Delhi’s endeavour to expand its diplomatic and economic influence is justified, when it is the largest regional donor to Afghanistan – approximately $2 billion (€1.65 billion) in reconstruction aid. In November 2020, India announced around 150 additional projects worth $80 million there.
Maybe, New Delhi is keeping the option of a non-hostile relationship towards the Taliban leaders in case it is once again under Taliban rule. Western diplomats look at this as a game-changer since India’ had long been seen as the regional player that really didn’t have those links with the Taliban. Every other country in the region has had some form of a relationship with them’, Kugelman added.,
China is set to open new innings in Afghanistan. Beyond Afghanistan, stability in the region is crucial to China’s interests. Beijing too is afraid of a spillover effect, destabilisation in bordering states, an influx of refugees and terrorists, and cross-border conflicts. Furthermore, Central Asia a region where terrorist activities might re-emerge anytime so long as ISIS is kicking.
Kirgizstan and Tajikistan sharing borders with China are weak countries, with inter-ethnic conflicts and under threat from jihadist organisations, while Uzbekistan has ethnic disputes between Uzbeks and Tajiks, aside from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan among the jihadi groups there. (IPA Service)