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Association of Retired Senior IPS Officers (ARSIPSO)

This is with reference to my letter No. ARSIPSO/GS-BSD-4/2023 dated. 10/08/2023 on the 4th B.S. Das Memorial Lecture, which had to be rescheduled for unavoidable reasons.

The 4th B.S.Das Memorial Lecture to be delivered by Shri Anil Kumar Sinha, IAS (Retd.), on the subject Disaster Management: Creating Safer Communities, has now been rescheduled for October 14, 2023 as per the following:

Conference Room No. 2, India International Centre, Max Mueller Marg, New Delhi, October 14, 2023 (Saturday)



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AFGHAN QUAGMIRE-By Sankar Sen

 

sankarsen_ips@yahoo.com
Senior Fellow, Institute of Social Sciences
Former Director General, National Human Rights Commission
Former Director, National Police Academy
 


The US military forces in Afghanistan have started preparing to handover the responsibility for security to Afghan soldiers and the police by the end of 2014. The drawdown has already commenced. The US President, Obama says that this will mark the responsible end of the war in Afghanistan. Unfort6unately, this is not going to be so. Though the active presence of US troops may end, the war in Afghanistan is likely to continue and it is difficult to predict at this stage the ultimate outcome. A prolonged civil war is likely and this will create in its train a host of security and strategic problems for the entire region. The earlier tough talk vis--vis the Taliban is now replaced by plans to allow it a say in Afghanistan power structure.

The US hopes that after the withdrawal of its troops the Afghan National Army would take charge of the situation and hold its own. The performance of the Afghan national Army so far had been inconsistent. It may be able to hold its own against the forces of Haqquani network and the Mullah Omar forces of Quetta Sura as long as the US Congress pays the multibillion dollars annual bills to keep the force fighting. In the year 2013 the Afghan National Security Forces operating budget was to the tune of $ 6.5 billon more than twice the Afghans governments entire federal revenue. Most of the money has to come from the United States and it would be difficult for an American President to defend the Afghan end whenever instances of killings of American advisors occur or when the Afghan President makes sharp and critical references against America. Indeed, it takes time and great deal of money to build up an efficient army.

Further, ongoing negotiations with the Talibans are going to be prolonged and complex. Some have doubted if the Talibans are at all serious about negotiations. Time is on their side and America is fixated on a early exit. After all in late 2011 the Talibans assassinated Bashiruddin Rabbani, the head of President Karzais Peace Council who was entrusted with the task of moving the talks forward. The Talibans can wait, wear down the Americans and win an outright victory. But the truth of the matter is that Talibans are also interested in the negotiations as that will provide them a source of legitimacy. Again, they do not form a monolithic group and are divided into many factions who do not always work in close coordination. And some of them are seeking agreement with the Americans. Mullah Omar and other leaders of Taliban factions living in Pakistan for a decade are feeling constrained and restless and willing to strike a deal. Taliban leaders are also in constant dread of assassination by US drone attacks. They would prefer a settlement if it does not amount to a capitulation.

Pakistan feels happy at the turn of events. For its safe exit and meaningful negotiations with the Talibans, US is very much dependent upon Pakistan. Pakistan has given up blue-sky ambitions for a Afghan puppet state under Taliban domination. There is also growing realization in Pakistan that peace in northwestern Khyber Paktoonkha province and the federally administered areas is impossible without a peaceful settlement in Afghanistan. Pakistans main interest is to ensure that any future Afghan government does not become an Indian ally. This is Pakistans close-to-worst nightmare. It seeks to prevent Afghan-Indian axis that could threaten it.

According to reports from Afghan officials, Pakistan seems less paranoid about India these days. Its greatest concern is the terrorists at home who are viewed as Pakistans greatest security threat. The Pakistan Taliban says Ahmed Rashid are in no mood for talks. They are sitting on their high horses expecting the state to surrender. But there is a danger that elements in Pakistan army wedded to jihadi proxies may be tempted when American troops are withdrawn to direct some of the groups towards India, risking further conflicts between the two neighbours. Present Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, despite well meaning pronouncements and gestures, may not be able to prevent it.

Americans negotiations with the Talibans are going to be prolonged and complex. Any further settlement in Afghanistan will have to grant the Talibans a political foothold. The foothold would not give them control of the government but the legal status would allow them electorally and expand their position later. Unfortunately, the bigger problem in Afghan scenario is the misgovernance of Karzai government. President Karzais administration has been corrupt and shambolic. The Talibans though brutal, are seen as incorruptible whereas Karzais administration is corrupt and exclusionary. The fear is that if Kabuls misgovernment persists, a brutal but honest opposition will make headway. Though Karzai will not be eligible to contest the election in 2014, he would want a successor who will secure his interests. If the elections are rigged, the way they were in 2009, it would damage the political transition of the country after the US pulls out.

China is also quietly seeking access to Afghanistans rich oil and mineral resources. Chinas National Petroleum Corporation has won rights to exploit and develop oil fields in Amudarya basin in Afghanistan which has enormous oil reserves Chine will not like the prospect of a prolonged civil war in Afghanistan which will prevent it from fully reaping the benefits of its investments.

For India, the end game in Afghanistan will pose a very serious foreign policy challenge. India disagrees with the prescription that the Talibans will become a regular political party and will not seek to overwhelm the government. Afghanistan is of great strategic significance for India. If however, a full-fledged civil war breaks out Indias strategic alliance with Afghanistan will spawn problems. There are strategists who are of the view that besides providing arms and equipments India should put its troops in the ground to prevent a hostile Taliban takeover. But dispatch of troops on the ground will raise hackles in many quarters and will require a robust national consensus which will be difficult to obtain in present coalition-based politics. There is always the danger that strategic alliance with Afghanistan may become an albatross round Indias neck.

 
   
     
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