PhD (IR) Candidate at National Defence University, Islamabad, Pakistan. Research Fellow at the University of Maryland, USA
The course of history is not guided by, what Francis Fukuyama called, an evolutionary process; rather it is shaped by the Hobbesian anarchy. Induced by the history, global orders under anarchy, are therefore, created, sustained, and imposed by humans.
United States, during Cold War, in its cosmic struggle against communism, inadvertently strengthened Islamism. It was like -ism vs. -ism, playing one extreme against the other. Remarkably though, both were radical responses of elite trained for a world they could not establish.
This was the introduction of non-state-actors into the global order that shook the great power peace and enabled the ‘unipolar moment’ of America. Now, triumphant America, heralded a new world order, guided by the assertions of Fukuyama’s ‘End of History’ thesis that claimed, ‘democracy as the only positive way to pursue dignity and rights’. Thereby, democracy promotion was used as soft power approach to increase sphere of democratic rule and US influence in the world.
Before discussing the Afghan peace, one need to understand the balance of power ‘in’ and ‘out’ of Afghanistan. From 1870s to the 1970s, great powers strengthened the Pashtun rule over a buffer state, however, Soviet intervention and resultant Jihad broke the spine of the Afghan state leaving it vulnerable to the global and regional competitors with their Afghan proxies. Afghan rulers’ dependence on external powers weakened their domestic power base and the world witnessed Pakistan supported Pashtun Taliban’s victories against Russia, India, and Iran backed Persian speaking Northern Alliance – comprising Tajiks, Hazaras, and Uzbeks.
The international struggle of outside powers in Afghanistan will reduce the ongoing peace process to mere optical illusion. As, hedging is the operating mode in Afghan theatre where all domestic, regional, and international actors want their share of Afghanistan
Turn of century, proved calamitous for America. Post 9/11 wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and 2008 economic recession coupled with the predatory rise of China and Russia, described as ‘Post-American world by Fareed Zakaria, crippled its ability to manage Eurasian affairs. The decline of messianic era of ideological monopolarity prefigured the rise of global anarchy, which had been dispelled by the unrivalled US power. Afghan situation was not different either, after deposing Taliban, US efforts for democracy accentuated identity politics with new found foreign backers, coincided with global retreat of democracy.
Similarly, in the case of China and Russia, globalization and economic prosperity has added less to Western-inspired liberal democracy and more to the military modernization. Additionally, global rise of populism has marked the retreat of US-led liberal order, rendering more credence to the nationalist ‘strong man rule’ model, that too, being practiced in China and Russia.
These developments validate that orders are always fragile and can only be sustained by power. In an anarchic system, where aspirants constantly operate, confident China and assertive Russia have curtailed the US options in Afghanistan, ceasing the indispensability of the US in Eurasian affairs in particular.
The ongoing Afghan peace process is a frank recognition of US limitations. It has failed to impose her will in Afghanistan and drifted all the way from ‘how to end the war’ to ‘will it ever end’ contemplation. Afghanistan theatre best reflects the great power competition with regional allies and delegated role to the non-state-actors. US and its Middle Eastern allies’ efforts to drive Middle Eastern violence to Russo-Iranian backyards will further complicate the Afghan predicament. Teaming up of Russia, Iran, Pakistan, and China for common cause against IS, recent attacks on revolutionary guards in Iran and CPEC related projects in Pakistan are revealing. These developments justify that the present-day terrorism in the region is no more ideologically motivated, rather ‘out sourcing’ of state policy in a globalized world.
The international struggle of outside powers in Afghanistan will reduce the ongoing peace process to mere optical illusion. As, hedging is the operating mode in Afghan theatre where all domestic, regional, and international actors want their share of Afghanistan. While US bears the burden of security, Russia, China, Pakistan, India, and Iran enjoy the free ride. They want self-serving stability that can protect their interests in Afghanistan and around. Indo-Pak rivalry with US and China factor is poised to debilitate the peace process. US, on the other hand, has three options to consider: one, ‘hold the line’ and continue counter-terrorism efforts – that will serve the purpose of her competitors more than its own; two, declare victory and walk away from the black hole Afghanistan – will be interpreted equivalent to conceding defeat; third, win Taliban away from countries competing with US in Afghan fray and global arena – potentially better for face saving.
In broader political spectrum, keeping Russian and Chinese global posturing into the calculus, US options appear defensive and mirror the global transition of power which is always disruptive and turbulent. In either case, be it protracted transition or post-American order: Afghanistan will be an arena of intense power and security competition; not by choice but, by the virtue of her original sin – geography ..again!
Source : https://dailytimes.com.pk/381165/global-order-and-afghan-peace/?fbclid=IwAR0_D9avhPOqpbrBrg2W7SSUy9EIPF-q0QKzSaG9LlBUBDPSwV-IDFulJuM