Why The Taliban Rise Is An Extra-Ordinary Development In South Asia?

by Syed Suhail Yaqoob

The withdrawal of Russia from Afghanistan in the 1990s created serious security implications in Kashmir.

In this 2015 photograph, a Taliban group is moving around the Kabul periphery

The world is in shock and surprise over the rise of the Taliban. This was partly due to the swift capture of power and partly due to the memories of the nineties. The more shocking thing was that the army, trained by the USA and NATO, collapsed like the pack of cards. Many analysts are still unable to comprehend how after spending around two trillion US dollars, an army could be defeated like this, without a fight.

Many had hoped that there will be bloodshed, women rights will be curtailed and there will be a destabilisation of the region. However, nothing of this sort has happened. People, according to the reports by Russian media outlets, are again busy with their work. According to the same report, Afghanistan is now more stable than it was under the previous government.

Taliban have promised the world no blood-shed, women rights will be protected and given more free spaces. The reports that have come out of Afghanistan points to these promised things. Women anchors were seen on television interviewing Taliban seniors and girls were seeing back to the schools.

Some analysts believe that it may just be propaganda by the Taliban to consolidate power. The world as of now can only guess what is in store for the future as they are the same Taliban whom USA and NATO powers believed to have been defeated once for all.

A Protracted War

As of now, the reality has dawned upon many nations especially the USA and its allies that a war cannot go for unlimited time. This is especially valid for guerrilla warfare where the conventional army is bound to loose in the long run. History has shown that guerrilla warfare has proved disastrous for conventional armed forces. Taliban has a history of this sort of warfare where hit and run tactics were especially used against the USA and its allies.

This particular group concentrated on the Afghan National Army, in this case, to make sure that after the USA leaves the army doesn’t have any morale to fight Taliban forces. And they succeeded to the point that they ran all over the country without any resistance from Afghan National Army. The Afghan National Army simply evaporated and showed no resistance to forces.

The Taliban did not win only due to the guerrilla tactics but also to the faulty policies of the USA and its allies. They simply mistook the history of the region. Afghans have over the long course vehemently opposed any outsider. Be it British, Russians and now the USA. These countries tried to establish institutions like open society, western models of democracy and western modelling of rule of law. Many had warned these countries about the potential losses in Afghanistan. History has repeated itself and will continue to repeat it overtime again. After a long war of 20 years, the world has to again deal with the same Taliban.

Taliban In Zurmat (Paktia), where they took over the US-supplied vehicles and war infrastructure from the Afghan forces who surrendered after a protracted siege ending early July 2021. Photo: Twitter

Regional Instability?

Many are worried that the withdrawal of the USA and its allies will lead to instability in the region. Maybe they have in mind the withdrawal of Russia from the region and its fallout. However, the political situation has developed entirely. Taliban have managed to present a soft picture. This may have to deal with the politics of the region especially China, Russia and Pakistan.

China is a growing and now almost a recognised superpower of the world. Few now consider the USA as a superpower given its history of meddling in affairs of the other countries. The USA went into war in the Middle East and destabilised the whole region. This was particularly frequent in Muslim countries taking an excuse of so ‘War on terror’. The net result is that the USA has failed in almost all countries and China has taken now the role of a superpower.

Target China

However, the speech of the President of China on its independence day made it clear that China’s run to a superpower is now clear than ever. China would be more than happier with the withdrawal of the USA and its allies from Afghanistan. This has to do with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and Belt and Road initiative (BRI).  These two important initiatives are lifelines of China.

The USA with its allies in the region had two important goals, which were aimed at the containment of China: one to destabilise the BRI and another to bring potential problems in the development of CPEC. Now the road is open for China to establish contact with the Taliban and establish a belt with connects Kabul with China. The foreign ministry has made its plans clear in the recent statements.

No wonder the Taliban has also made some favourable remarks on Chinese investment in the country. The official spokesperson of the Taliban has in a recent interview with a Chinese Television asked for the investment of China in the country. Moreover, the Taliban has specifically retorted that its land shall not be used against any country. The China oppression of the Xinjiang region was always eyed by the USA and its allies to target China.

A painting by Lady Butler showing the return of Dr William Brydon, the only survivor from 16500-strong British army in 1842.

However, with the coming of the Taliban, the area will become more stable as the Taliban will refuse to give shelter to the insurgents from the place. The Taliban have been specific about this point. All in all the withdrawal of the USA has made China the big dog of Asia. With the Taliban under its control especially Pakistan, China can make its reach even to Saudi Arabia.

The Rise

The rise of the Taliban has also serious implications for the geo-political aspects of Pakistan. It is an open truth that Pakistan has always harboured them through money and weapons. The USA has also been at the forefront of winning over the Taliban before the cold war that raged between the USA and Russia.  It was the USA’s money that flooded the Kabul streets and which ultimately defeated Russians. The approach taken by Pakistan this time has been more rational than emotional. It has almost prevented the spill-over of the refugees over its own country. This was especially achieved through fencing carried out by Pakistan along the Afghan- Pakistan border.

Moreover, Pakistan presently wants to achieve economic well being and the arrival of refugees might have hindered this goal. The country as of now is trying to become an economic hub that will attract investments throughout the country. Pakistan knows that after 9/11 the refugees from Afghanistan burdened the entire economy. Also, the politicians of Pakistan have been more cautious with their statements on the issue. This is to make sure that the country should not be seen as the main player of the defeat of the USA in Afghanistan. Few observers will believe that Pakistan has not helped the Taliban to come to power.

Regional Security

For Pakistan, there was one more national security issue, favourable relations with the Afghan government and India. India has invested almost US 2 billion dollars in infrastructure and also constructed a grand parliament building. Pakistan has always overtime alleged that India is supporting Blouch resistance from the Afghan side. The relations between the Taliban and India have always remained tense. The return of the Taliban, and the subsequent closure of the embassy signals that all is not well between the group and India. The bilateral trade has come to a grinding halt.

Russian Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov meets with Afghan and Taliban representatives in Moscow ahead of a conference for the centennial anniversary.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghanistan’s incumbent President., Ashraf Ghani

It is very difficult to figure out what new Afghanistan holds for international relations. Whether India will recognise the Taliban or not will have serious security implications in Kashmir. A few days back a senior military officer in Kashmir signalled that days ahead might not be so good. Many more security analysts have pointed out that Pakistan might use this opportunity to foment crisis in the valley.

Dr Suhail Yaqoob

History bears testimony that the situation in Afghanistan has direct bearings on Kashmir valley.  The former army chief, Shankar Roychowhdary, in an interview to The Economic Times suggested that government needs to step up its outreach in Jammu and Kashmir as the Taliban takeover is likely to trigger a renewed offensive by Pakistan. The withdrawal of Russia from Afghanistan in the 1990s created serious security implications in the valley.

A New World Order?

The withdrawal of the USA and its allies from Afghanistan in all probability will lead to new world order. The world must brace for new grouping especially in the east. The group will consist of China, Russia, Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. India will be probably left out due to its closeness with the USA. China doesn’t like the USA and Russia is still harbouring its cold war rivalry with the USA.

Moreover, Pakistan and India have harboured rivalry since partition. If the government doesn’t take the necessary steps to plug in the holes; India may feel left out.

(The author is pursuing PhD at Aligarh Muslim University in Economics with a focus on gender. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Kashmir Life.)


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