Afghan Endgame

THE United States President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced that all American troops would be withdrawn from Afghanistan by September 11 this year, thus bringing to end America's longest war, spanning  two decades. The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation which has aided US war effort is also pulling out its troops from Afghanistan.
The US decision to withdraw comes in the wake  of a  deal with Taliban in Doha on February 29, 2020. Under the  pact, the U.S. agreed to withdraw all its soldiers from Afghanistan in 14 months. Now, the deadline to do so has been extended by a few months more.
Biden has asked the countries neighbouring Afghanistan, "especially Pakistan", to play supportive roles. He also sought cooperation from  Russia, China, India and Turkey but conspicuously omitted mention of Iran. Around 2,400 US soldiers have lost their lives in the war, along with tens of thousands of Afghan troops, Taliban militants and Afghan civilians.
However, as underlined by Biden himself, eventually the peace and stability in Afghanistan will have to be the responsibility of the regional powers. And it is unlikely to happen if the regional powers pursue their disparate interests in the war-torn country.  The US will also need to make some subtle adjustment in its Afghanistan policy to make it work in the long term. In its current form, the policy almost entirely neglects the regional geo-politics, prevailing issues and the contending interests of the neighbouring countries  like India and Pakistan which also keep the conflict going in Kabul. So rather than an exclusively Afghanistan-centric policy, US also needs a broader regional approach to work for an integrated solution to the conflicts and the competing interests that in  turn fuel the war.
The conflict in Afghanistan is now so much enmeshed with the regional rivalries and the issues that it appears improbable that there would be long term stability in Kabul unless steps are taken to get the regional countries co-operate to end the forty year long bloodshed in the country. The deeply challenging project of a peaceful Afghanistan, therefore, demands a broader regional cooperation, more so, between India  and Pakistan. It is only to be hoped that New Delhi and Islamabad realizing the momentous changes sweeping through region will co-operate to not only steer the region through the fraught transition of a post-US Afghanistan but also take concrete steps to address their lingering differences which alone will be the guarantee for a sustainably peaceful South Asia and the broader region. It is here that a renewed engagement between the two neighbours offers some promise. Here's hoping that it lasts.

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