In a big move, the US has decided to bring back all its troops from Afghanistan by September 11 this year, marking an end to the longest war that Washington has been involved in. True, the new timeline goes beyond the May 1 deadline that Trump administration had negotiated with Taliban last year. Nonetheless it signifies that Biden administration is committed to the pullout. As per Washington officials, the decision was made in view of the assessment that the US now faces greater threats from other regions of the world. This is most likely code for China.
In any case, the new pullout date should add further momentum to intra-Afghan talks. Biden administration has also proposed a transitional peace government for Afghanistan including Taliban and pitched for a UN-led conference to discuss a unified approach. This indicates Washington’s desire to step back and facilitate a more plurilateral approach. Taliban could use this opportunity to push for an all-out battle for control, which would be disastrous for both Afghanistan and the region.
At the very least, Taliban are going to be part of Afghanistan’s future governance structure. But a large number of Afghan youth today were born after the US military intervention in 2001 and have seen a relatively liberal Afghanistan where women actively participate in public life. It’s unlikely they will be amenable to Taliban’s puritanical outlook. Meanwhile, India has contributed tremendously to Afghanistan’s development in the last two decades. Therefore, it makes sense for New Delhi to use this goodwill and reach out to the moderate factions of Taliban. This will also help counter Pakistan’s influence over the Islamist group and its strategy of using Afghanistan as strategic depth against India. A tricky situation looms over Afghanistan. India would do well to get its ducks in a row.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.
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