Afghanistan has been a war-torn nation ever since the United States withdrew its troops from the country in 2012-13. Where the NATO forces had their regular battles against Afghanistan’s military apparatus immediately after the US troops’ withdrawal, the presence of the Taliban in Afghanistan, however, has always changed the equation for the US and its allies. Even though the regime of President Ashraf Ghani promises to bring peace to Afghanistan, the country is still enveloped in disorder. Primarily, this pandemonium stems from the conflicts between the Taliban and the security forces of Afghanistan. Even though former President Barack Obama and current President Donald Trump have had Afghanistan on their to do list, they could not do much despite having an elaborate US-Afghan Strategy. This Afghanistan strategy by the US still remains lacking.
Regional states including China, India, Pakistan, Iran, and Russia are finding it a challenge to remain on the same page as far as reconciling with Afghanistan and creating a regional group or bloc is concerned. Although the United States, Pakistan, and China made some headway when these three nations met under the umbrella of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) in October 2017, the OCG failed to bring to fore any such plan, policy or procedure to address Afghanistan’s many internal and external predicaments.
The United States, however, has been trying its luck to tackle Afghanistan with support from India. However, New Delhi is looking at the bigger picture of solidifying its relations with China and expressing keen views regarding the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation
While Washington has tried to deploy intelligence and military power along with economic strength and diplomacy in Afghanistan as part of its strategy to emerge a winner in Afghanistan, this country remains a burden on Washington and on South Asia as Kabul is unable to move forward.
Despite the US terming their military mission in Afghanistan as an “unwinnable war” in 2012-13, Washington has not created a win-win political or military strategy with Kabul since then. In August 2017, the US increased the number of its troops deployed in the country and approved to grant more powers to the US armed forces in Afghanistan, this strategy has yet to bode any effect in the US-Afghanistan relations.
It is imperative for the regional players of South Asia, especially Pakistan, India, Iran, and China along with Russia to create a viable strategy in cohesion with the US policy for Afghanistan to add diplomatic progress in their collective political narrative. Often referred to as the ‘Heart of Asia’, Afghanistan’s regional neighbours have parted ways with the country because of its combustible nature in terms of extremist factions overshadowing its internal affairs.
Although Pakistan, China, and Russia have created a regional bloc with each other, the US still has to bring these three countries on the same page to resolve the Afghan predicament. President Donald Trump and his regime criticised Pakistan’s efforts towards the war on terror and Washington did suspend its security aid to Pakistan. The United States and Pakistan have always have had a rickety rocky relationship which is not going to improve anytime soon.
Russia, on the other hand, enjoys a political influence over South Asia and Central Asia. Moreover, Russia-US ties have also been under jeopardy and facing a hard time. Although the US considers Russia a strategic competitor as mentioned in the National Security Strategy 2018 document, the US has placed new sanctions over Russia. However, a new equation has stemmed from these flagging ties, in that it has bolstered Pakistan’s diplomatic ties with Russia. This is a scenario Washington would not like to accept.
Along with Pakistan and Russia, the United States sees China as a key player in the Asia-Pacific region with its far-reaching diplomatic and economic stimulus impacting South and Central Asia. However, China’s focus on completing and moving ahead with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is preventing it from putting its hand in any such regional tussle that may hamper CPEC’s progress. The United States, however, has been trying its luck to tackle Afghanistan with support from India. However, New Delhi is looking at the bigger picture of solidifying its relations with China and expressing keen views regarding the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.
The United States must harbour positive relations with China, Russia, India, Iran, and Pakistan if it envisions at bringing solidarity, peace, and reconciliation in Afghanistan. If the US does not implement a practical, workable and a sustainable strategy with all South Asian nations, it would need to deal with Afghanistan independently. Akin to how the US troops left Afghanistan in 2012-13, dejected and defeated, the same scenario will surface as Afghanistan will be an unwinnable diplomatic mission for the United States and the Afghan Strategy will be nothing but a footnote in history.
The writer is a columnist and author of You Rise Today!
Published in Daily Times, September 25th 2018.