Descent Into Chaos

THE Taliban has captured three more provincial capitals in their latest advance in Afghanistan. The militia has seized five provincial capitals since Friday in a lightning offensive. The latest gains have further strengthened the Taliban’s grip on the country. And it appears but a matter of time before the Islamist movement once again captures Kabul. Sensing the grimness of the situation, the US has asked its citizens to leave the war-scarred country.

America which was quick to topple the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in 2001 following the 9/11 attacks now appears helpless as the country descends into chaos. Having lost the war, the US is loath to get bogged down in what has been an unending effort to stabilize the country.

Afghanistan is thus witnessing a back to mid-nineties moment when the Taliban for the first time rose to power after defeating the squabbling mujahideen who, in turn, had driven out Soviet Union. There is a sense of de javu. A Taliban victory would drastically alter the regional geo-politics. It could also make Afghanistan a battleground for the neighbouring countries out to secure their respective security interests.

What is the solution to this dangerous state of affairs? The US will need to re-adjust its Afghanistan policy to make it work. In its current shape, the policy almost entirely neglects the regional geo-politics, prevailing issues and the contending interests of the neighbouring countries which essentially keep the conflict going in the war-torn country. So rather than an Afghanistan-centric policy, US needs a broader regional approach to work for an integrated solution to the conflicts and the competing interests that in turn fuel the war in Kabul. But it hasn’t done so. The US president Joe Biden like his predecessor Donald Trump has gone against the objective assessments of the situation and chosen to let the country plunge into a full-blown civil war. This is certain to aggravate not only the conflict in Afghanistan but also the regional rivalries, especially the one between India and Pakistan.

Despite knowing the region well, Biden’s approach hardly takes on board the regional complexity, with each neighbouring country looking to protect their respective interests rather than working together for a solution. The only way that this destabilizing situation can effectively be tackled is for the regional powers including India and Pakistan to cooperate and find a comprehensive solution. And for such a solution to materialize it has to first address the core concerns of the neighbouring countries and take care of their interests.

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