Last week the US decided to pull out 7000 troops from Afghanistan. The decision surprised the US public and Afghans alike. For, it came in the middle of the US negotiations with the Taliban and it was expected that any decision to withdraw will only follow the outcome of the dialogue. The move followed immediately after the Trump administration similarly decided to pull troops out of Syria. The turn of events has generated its share of backlash in the US with Defence Secretary Jim Mattis resigning in protest. There is some alarm in South Asia too where US withdrawal from Afghanistan is expected to plunge the region in fresh uncertainty. The US presence in Kabul, although initially a cause of profound destabilization, had over the years acted as an anchor for stability in the region. And it is this order that can unravel once the US packs and leaves without resolving the mess that Afghanistan is now.
It is, however, good that the US and Taliban are talking. This is a positive development and we can only hope that the two parties reach some understanding. However, considering the complexities involved, nobody expects a dramatic breakthrough in near future. The existing situation in the war-torn country looks set to continue for a long time before getting any better. But an ongoing effort for the resolution will, in any case, be better than a war of attrition. More so, when Taliban insurgency is only one part of the larger and layered security nightmare that is Af-Pak region.
The scenario for the immediate future looks bleak. The region looks set for a profound geo-political transformation following US exit. This situation has unsettling dimensions and unless the countries of the region especially India and Pakistan, get together and jointly address the problems in Afghanistan post US withdrawal, the new forces and factors which are likely to be unleashed could detrimentally impact the region. And if the situation continues like this, there is every possibility that US exit would disturb the arrangements that had stabilized the region for the past seventeen years and push it back over the edge.
But unfortunately, when these changes are upon us the regional powers can’t seem to care less.
Instead, there is a bid by them to secure their individual interests in Afghanistan, a strategy that can only guarantee further destabilization. The dialogue with the Taliban is a step in the right direction but the larger uncertain regional situation demands a broader regional dialogue, more so, between India and Pakistan. It is only hoped that New Delhi and Islamabad realizing the momentous changes sweeping through the region will cooperate to not only steer the region through this fraught transition but also take concrete steps to mend their lingering differences which alone will be the guarantee for a sustainable peaceful South Asia.
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