Seventeen years after the US war on terror began with invasion of Afghanistan there is little indication that Washington is anywhere near achieving its goal. Instead, the initiative in Afghanistan is fast slipping out of the US control with Taliban now controlling more than forty percent of the country. This underscores the beleaguered US situation in the country. One thing which becomes immensely important under the circumstances is for the US and Pakistan to work together. And that too at a time when the US is on the way out of Afghanistan. In fact, Washington has already started drawing down by pulling out 7000 of its remaining 14000 soldiers in the country.
The war is also losing support among the American people. The ongoing economic slump is also drawing US inward with wars like Afghanistan seen as unnecessary. This is putting pressure on the president Donald Trump to extricate US from an unwinnable situation. However, he is looking for a dignified exit and trying to work out a win-win agreement with Taliban. A preliminary agreement has set out the terms for the US withdrawal. The main agreement is US pullout in exchange for Taliban promises to deny al-Qaeda and the Islamic State a foothold on Afghan soil,
These circumstances presage a consequent disarray which if not addressed with urgent policy re-adjustments could potentially destablize not only Afghanistan but also the region. And for starters, US and Pakistan have to learn to be good, trusting allies. Islamabad has been playing its role by facilitating US-Taliban dialogue. But what is even more important is for the regional powers to get together. Much more so, India and Pakistan which seem to have lot more at stake in the stability of Afghanistan. As is being apprehended in India, a potential Taliban takeover in Kabul will curtail New Delhi’s influence in the country. It is also seen to further destabilize Kashmir.
But while noises to this effect are emanating from New Delhi, no one is underlining the need for a regional initiative to pre-empt the chances of a potential violent spillover of the post-US Afghanistan. No one is making a case for India and Pakistan to get together and cooperate on finding solution to the regions problems. But considering the great potential for a renewed political turmoil and uncertainty which is unlikely to be amenable to only a security response, there is an urgent need for the two countries to talk and talk uninterruptedly. The fast changing geo-politics of the region not only requires the neighbours to meaningfully engage but also take concrete steps to address their long running issues.
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