The new government in Afghanistan, called by many the Taliban Government, is settling into power. After twenty years of war, a sweeping campaign across the country, that was catalyzed by the collapse of the Afghan National Security Forces and the sudden exit of NATO, there is now a Taliban Government in Kabul. The exit of US and Allied forces under Operation Freedom’s Sentinel has been less than glorious; the President of Afghanistan fled with a cache of money and there is now a functioning government in Kabul that everyone is still calling the Taliban government, rather than the Afghan Government.
The new government is cash strapped as its funds remain in the control of the United States, and it appears that there are problems with the release of funds due to the sanctions imposed on the new government.
The new government needs time to settle and govern, but with the lack of funds and imposition of sanctions, it seems that the US does not want the country to survive. It must also be noted that Afghanistan cannot be left isolated. It cannot be allowed to slide. Whether we agree or not, the Taliban have a nationwide system with its physical control, leadership, and vision. If it collapses, Afghanistan will face something worse than Syria or Iraq. It will attract more violent groups and terrorist organizations to seek refuge. Taliban will be reduced to a few pockets around greater Paktia, Kandahar, and a few locations in the North.
There is also the issue of a lack of inclusivity in the new cabinet that is not seen as compliant with promises made during earlier negotiations between the US government representative and the Taliban. Inclusivity, to many, is a loosely defined term that implies the representation of women and ethnic minorities in the new government. The new government does include Tajiks, Hazaras, and Uzbeks. Women are likely to be inducted soon, the new government says. However, it appears that it is still not inclusive enough for the United States to release funds. The need to include ex-President Hamid Karzai and others is seen to be properly inclusive.
It appears that the US has ‘checked out’ of Afghanistan after a twenty-year war. War and morality don’t go hand in hand, not even for the leader of the modern world. Selective morality is the new norm, as an ‘unofficial deal was struck with the Taliban (erstwhile terrorists) and their allies (sanctioned terrorists), but the same lot is now not seen as clean enough to release funds to. As Afghanistan teeters on the brink of starvation, it is being blackmailed for music, women’s sports, and the need to include ex-Presidents and their cronies in the new government. While women must have a voice in the government, it may be kind of unrealistic to expect Afghanistan to balance the issue of gender and human rights so early on in their regime. Once institution-building and policy frameworks are in place, social issues can then be tackled. And until and unless social issues are taken care of, EU and Western nations will be reluctant to establish economic relations with Afghanistan.
The region must band together and feed Afghanistan, help it stand on its feet, and support the establishment of a new government. Right now, time, engagement, and assistance are vital to helping Afghanistan. What the nature of that government is to be laid out by the Afghans themselves but Pakistan, China, Russia, and Iran must help in making that happen. Regional countries do have a collective responsibility to work towards peace in Afghanistan. Humanitarian aid, trade, and opening avenues for fund generation are a priority. Nonetheless, Pakistan, along with other key players in the region, must not be held responsible for or allow famine in Afghanistan. An Afghan government in exile is in the offing, with bases in Tajikistan, supported by India. They are looking for Dr. AA to lead it if he is allowed to lead Kabul. This could be a powerful tool used against Pakistan.
Furthermore, the ongoing narrative suggests discouraging China’s entry into Afghanistan through the threat of ETIM. The perceived threat is again emphasized against violent non-state actors like Haqqani network, AQ, Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, etc., against the Indian mainland. They have the required manpower that will create problems for the Taliban. Elements of remaining ISIK inside the country that were NDS-controlled will be the first wave.
Lastly, there has to be rationality for India to be engaged in Afghanistan. It has lacked vision and dependability. India’s role in Afghanistan has been suspicious all along. All it worked for was to create difficulties for Pakistan from Afghan soil. Power has a shelf life and India has little to be proud of. It has lost most of its investments and sources. After the US exit, its most obvious shortfall is the yawning gap between its intentions and capability for any synchronized over the horizon permanency. It needs oil from CARs but can it be trusted to follow international norms if given an opportunity? India might have to wait out this period.