There is a conflict brewing, that is brutal, violent, unforgiving and above all against the very ethics of humanity. This time they are stronger, better equipped, with calculated aims and focused leadership. They are the angels of fear and chaos. Running amuck, destroying all the signatures of a developed world.
With a regressive belief that the sin is modernisation and development. Barbaric to the extent that doesn’t even give a chance to a discussion or a debate or even a religious discourse of the right meaning of JIHAD. They have been indoctrinated to a degree of darkness that makes any other perception or belief blasphemy.
The Americans are known to leave all international foreign policy objectives in a state of flux. Incomplete, disorganised, unable to sustain and in inevitable disaster. Afghanistan is a devil's muddle. The TALEBAN (that’s how it is originally pronounced) or the students are confused religious bigots, who have hardly studied Islam or have just interpreted Islam to suit their ideology.
The rhetoric of Islam as the only approved religion of god, the analogy of them being the protectors, cast them against the world and the infidel. This is loudly heard in every sermon and preached in every mosque. The indoctrination starts young. Science is the DEVIL, Logic the TOOL of the devil and the WEST is hell.
The void that has been created by the US withdrawal is being filled rapidly by these war mongers. Capturing town after town, city after city, executing, pillaging, raping and implementing stringent rules, where disobedience means the Bullet in your skull. Destroying schools, prohibiting women from a life, extorting money and propagating a life tax.
These mad men are supported openly by the Pakistani Inter Services Agency and I fear by the Chinese businessmen overtly, with the Chinese government being the protagonists and yet choosing to stay in the background. An Afghanistan conducive to being available without opposition to Chinese trade in rare earth, petroleum and vital minerals is a win-win situation for all the three players.
For Pakistan it’s a multiple whammy, gives it strategic depth, brings in the money from weaponisation and drugs, helps it in its sub conventional fight against India (readymade kitty of warriors to be pumped into Kashmir) and most of all, gives the Pakistani military a reason to stay relevant. For the Chinese it’s all about money and keeping the US out of South Asia. They couldn’t care two hoots about the well being of Afghanistan. The trouble in the Xin Jiang province and religious terrorism is secondary to the money to be made.
Let's give a different perspective to two main issues. Why would the Taliban want to form a government? It surprises me that the Taliban would want to legalise and stabilise their philosophy of existence by axing their main strengths, that is fear, chaos, being unattributable, unaccountable and unpredictable, to form a government.
A government would have to have probity, international affiliations and relations, an organised military, a constitution, a judiciary, will be responsible for the GDP and growth, will have to come under international laws. They would have to fall in sync with elements of the very progress and science they are fighting.
No longer would they have a free run in their drug fields and markets. That’s where their money comes from. The ability to access the black market armouries and buy weapons from underground dealers would come under scrutiny. Any draconian law like public executions and women being stoned would merit international sanctions.
They would have to follow an executive system of provision of jobs, encouraging industry, having an education system that is devoid of hate. They would need aid and the money for ensuring security. Peace doesn’t come cheap in Afghanistan. The war lords, the refugee leaders and the western world will constantly aim at routing and the destruction of the Taliban.
To run a government they would need leaders that are educated and futuristic thinkers. They would have at a certain stage to put anarchy on a back burner. International travel would have to be opened. Fear lasts only as long as the propagators of fear do not have an organised direction. Once they are organised, they become predictable and hence vulnerable. The Taliban understands this, the influencers and the benefactors that are the Pakis’ and the Chinese know this.
So why then would they want them to take over and form a government. As a short time measure till the Chinese exploit and loot the national wealth this is a probability. Otherwise it’s a Damocles sword hanging over the Taliban. The moot question is what will they do with the thousand of indisciplined warriors wielding a gun with a taste for loot, blood and the only life they know. After all, the serpent always ends up stinging the handlers.
The second question is, are the infrastructure projects as investments by India safe? Investments by India on roads, dams and green field projects in agriculture, irrigation etc in Afghanistan cost millions of dollars. India's diplomatic stakes in Afghanistan include 20 years and $3 billion worth of Indian investment.
The 2011 India-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Agreement recommitted Indian assistance to help rebuild Afghanistan’s infrastructure and institutions, education and technical assistance for capacity-building in many areas, encourage investment in Afghanistan and provide duty-free access to the Indian market.
Bilateral trade is now worth approximately $1 billion. The Salma dam, the ZARANJ-DELARAM HIGHWAY, the parliament building, the STOR palace, health, education, transport are investments that have materialised, with the people of Afghanistan acknowledging India as a great and committed friend.
India is also in the business of ensuring that the Afghanistan government stays empowered. India has a traditional cultural and historical relationship with the Afghans. Indian government interests are only to ensure security of the Afghan people, accountability of their tribes and not letting the ISI exploit the fault lines.
Any government would know that infrastructure costs money, takes time to build, provides employment and facilitates population control (through provision, control and denial). What better way than to let someone else build it and maintain it for you. Take the Israelis and their border management programme.
The border with Syria is looked after by the UNDOF (United Nations Disengagement Observer Force. The borders with Lebanon by UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon). The borders with Egypt and Syria are not a problem at all due to mutual agreements. The cost of guarding their borders is paid for by the United Nations, it’s a completely happy situation for them.
So any government with the brains and the foresight, would let investors come and develop the nation. They get the gains without the effort. They can cut off the scheme on fragile grounds of security etc any time they want, denying the investor the access. What the Taliban does under the influence of Pakistan, who want the Indians out at any cost and the money influence of the Chinese who do not want the competition and want to be the drivers of Afghan change is to be seen.
In my perception the Taliban know that India was one of the closest government allies. Indians were the first to ostracise the Taliban. They have constantly at every forum pronounced the toxicity of the Taliban form of governance. The Taliban also know that the ISI is seeking their involvement in Kashmir.
How the Taliban play this facet after forming a government is to be seen. The ISI however wouldn’t want the Taliban to establish a system of accountable governance. That will disable the ISI influence. Make the Taliban aware and careful with dallying into international forays for fear of conventional retribution.
The Taliban are dictated by too many players. The Indian investments will always be under threat. The clever part is that most of the investments by India are in sectors of Human Resource management and life needs. The Taliban need them all to run a country. Without which there will be an uprising of the people once fear diminishes because of the vitality of the need for basic human living conditions.
Water, electricity, and transport are India’s power projectors. What has to be seen is whether the Taliban has the diplomatic sense to understand the situation and the predicament they are in. The Chinese won’t want to touch Indian projects for vitiating the China Indian relationship which is already on tenterhooks.
The Pakistanis don’t have the money or the capability to run and sustain these projects. The Taliban if it comes to power, has to segregate likes and dislikes from the needs of the country. India diplomacy therefore has a vital role to play.
We can argue the point, but what we need to see is how the international community responds to Kabul being threatened. What we have to do this time is get the plot right. Ensure that Indian diplomacy is visible, contextual and empathetic to the Afghan people. We need to pump in the money, the military hardware and be part of the allied forces.
The ISI and the role of the Pakistani army needs to be exposed. The dual play by China neutralised. The Afghan government protected and the Taliban ousted without giving them a chance to lay the foundation of a rabid government. The warlords need to get their act together. The Afghan pride was reinstated. The Islamic nations need to take ownership, accept responsibility and give back the Afghan his identity.
About the author
The author is a military analyst and commentator on national security and stategic issues issues.