Two Decades After 9/11

AS the world observes the twentieth anniversary of 9/11 on Friday, the bitter irony of the Taliban again ensconced in power in Kabul won’t be lost on it. On this day in 2001, as the twin towers came down in New York, and the planning of the attack was traced to Afghanistan, the US invaded Afghanistan. Its objective was to dismantle the Taliban rule and then go after it and Al Qaeda which was believed to be behind the attack. In the first month of the invasion itself, the Taliban melted away and Al Qaeda was on the run. The Taliban, however, soon regrouped and launched guerilla warfare against the US occupation. Less than a month ago, they walked into Kabul again as victors. The president of the US-backed government Ashraf Gani fled the country. The Taliban is in power, having announced their government only yesterday. The joke doing rounds for the last few weeks is that it took the US a trillion dollars and two decades of war to replace the Taliban with the Taliban.

9/11 had a far-reaching fallout in Kashmir too.  War in Afghanistan pre-occupied Pakistan and led to a progressive decline in militancy in the Valley. This relegated the problem in Kashmir to the background reducing the urgency to address the conflict for India and Pakistan. India’s rise on the global stage too altered the complexion of the Kashmir issue, enabling the country to forcefully promote its own stand on the dispute to a largely sympathetic global community.

Now that the Taliban are back in Kabul, it is likely to have profound repercussions for the region.  There is again a sense of de javu in Kashmir. In 1989 when the USSR left Afghanistan,  Kashmir was never part of any analysis and commentary. But if any place was completely transformed in the region by the Soviet defeat, it was Kashmir.

This is not to contend that history will repeat itself in Kashmir. But there is also little reason to rule it out.  The way the situation in Afghanistan is shaping up, bears with some due exceptions an uncanny resemblance to the run up to the Soviet withdrawal. The Jammu and Kashmir administration as also the government in New Delhi have made  it clear they are seized of the matter. It is also true that it is now 2021 and not 1989. The situation could thus play out differently. But this hardly detracts from the fact and the significance of the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan as the US observes the twentieth anniversary of 9/11.  Here’s hoping that from hereon the things go well for South Asia  and the region witnesses stability and long term peace.

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