• Tuesday, September 27, 2022

INDIA

Removal of US, NATO troops from Afghanistan may cause ‘tremendous worry for India’

Joe Biden (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Sarwar Alam

INDIA could face the possible consequences of a resurgent Taliban after US and NATO troops leave Afghanistan by September, experts have cautioned, as they noted the likelihood of the war-torn country being used as a safe abode by terrorists.

US president Joe Biden said on Wednesday (14) that all American troops would withdraw from Afghanistan by September 11.

Following the US announcement, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) added its troops would also leave Afghanistan.

The withdrawal of US troops would be done in a phased manner starting from May 1.

India and Pakistan, which borders Afghanistan, will be among other countries in the region which will be asked to do more to support Afghanistan, the US said.

“They all have a significant stake in the stable future for Afghanistan,” Biden said.

“We will not conduct a hasty rush to the exit. We’ll do it responsibly, deliberately, and safely. And we will do it in full coordination with our allies and partners, who now have more forces in Afghanistan than we do,” he said.

However, US experts said India would see the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan with concern.

“Regional countries, especially India, will have tremendous concerns about the US pullout from Afghanistan and the likelihood of a Taliban resurgence in the country,” said Lisa Curtis, who was deputy assistant to the president and NSC senior director for south and central Asia from 2017-2021 under the previous administration of US president Donald Trump.

“When the Taliban controlled Afghanistan in the late 1990s, they welcomed militants and terrorists of all stripes to train, recruit, and fundraise from Afghanistan. Many of those militants, including the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), trained for operations in India, such as the 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament,” Curtis added.

Therefore, India might take part in regional efforts to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan to ensure that the country is not used as a safe haven by anti-India militants, Curtis said.

At a ministerial conference on Afghanistan in Dushanbe on March 30, India’s external affairs minister S Jaishankar said, “For durable peace in Afghanistan, what we need is a genuine ‘double peace’, that is, peace within Afghanistan and peace around Afghanistan. It requires harmonising the interests of all, both within and around that country.”

Former Pakistan Ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, is now a director for south and central Asia at the Hudson Institute think-tank.

According to him, the question now is whether after withdrawing its troops, the US will continue to help the government in Kabul and will the Afghan people be able to keep the Taliban at bay.

“India and Pakistan do not have the luxury of distance that the US has and will remain involved in Afghanistan. Pakistan is too deeply tied to the Taliban to stop supporting them now though it should be concerned about the adverse impact Taliban ideology would further have on Pakistan,” Haqqani said.

Meanwhile, US secretary of state Antony Blinken flew to Kabul today (15) to show support following Biden’s announcement yesterday.

Blinken went to the US embassy in Kabul, where he met American soldiers, and to the presidential palace, where he met Afghan president Ashraf Ghani. He also met other senior Afghan officials.

“The reason I’m here, so quickly after the president’s speech last night, is to demonstrate literally, by our presence, that we have an enduring an ongoing commitment to Afghanistan,” Blinken said at the US embassy in Kabul.

He also said to Ghani: “The partnership is changing, but the partnership is enduring.”

In a separate meeting with Abdullah Abdullah, who is leading the Afghan government side of the peace process, Blinken said it was the start of “a new chapter that we’re writing together”.

The Pentagon has around 2,500 troops in Afghanistan from a high of over 100,000. Thousands more serve as part of a 9,600-strong NATO force, which will withdraw at the same time.

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