WASHINGTON: After the withdrawal of the US and NATO troops from Afghanistan by September 11, India will have tremendous concern on the resurgence of the Taliban and the war-torn country being used as a safe haven for terrorists, according to experts here.
US President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced that all American troops would be withdrawn from Afghanistan by September 11 this year to end the country’s longest war. Following suit, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) said it will also pull out its troops from Afghanistan.
Biden said his administration will ask other countries in the region to do more to support Afghanistan, especially Pakistan, as well as Russia, China, India, and Turkey. “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.
But, US experts said regional countries, especially India will view the complete withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan with tremendous concern and the role of the Taliban militants after the pull out of the Western forces from the war-torn country.
“Regional countries, especially India, will have tremendous concerns about the US pullout from Afghanistan and the likelihood of a Taliban resurgence in the country,” Lisa Curtis, who was Deputy Assistant to the President and NSC Senior Director for South and Central Asia from 2017-2021 under the previous Donald Trump administration, told PTI.
“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 said.
An eminent foreign policy and national security expert with over 20 years of service in the US government, Curtis now is a senior fellow and director of the Indo-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security think-tank.
“Indian officials also remember the close cooperation between the Taliban and militants who in December 1999 hijacked an Indian airliner. India may seek to use its role in regional efforts to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan, like the recent UN effort, to press its goal of ensuring Afghan territory cannot be used by anti-India militants,” Curtis said.
“India will worry about Taliban controlled territory being a safe haven for terrorists again,” former Pakistan Ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, who is now Director for South and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute think-tank, told PTI.
The real 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, Haqqani said.
“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 in response to a question.
India has voiced grave concern over the volatile situation in Afghanistan. “Violence and bloodshed are daily realities and the conflict itself has shown little sign of abatement, whatever may be the promises,” External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said at the Ministerial Conference of Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process on Afghanistan in Dushanbe on March 30.
“For a 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,” he said at the conference hosted by Tajikistan.
He also said that India welcomes any move towards a genuine political settlement and a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, Biden’s decision to wind down America’s longest war drew ample criticism Wednesday from prominent military
figures and hawkish Republicans. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, for example, said Biden was canceling “an insurance policy” that “would prevent another 9/11.”
The Washington Post in a lead editorial asserted that the plans of President Biden to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan will lead to disaster in the region. “Mr Biden has chosen the easy way out of Afghanistan, but the consequences are likely to be ugly,” the leading newspaper commented.
The New York Times said that stopping terrorism groups over the long term could be harder, an opinion also echoed by the The Wall Street Journal.
“The symbolic but arbitrary date shows the decision is driven less by facts on the ground than a political desire that is also a strategic gamble. History suggests US interests will suffer,” The Wall Street Journal said in an editorial.
“The president’s exit means he will have to take responsibility for what happens next. We hope it doesn’t betray the great sacrifices so many have made,” it said.
The US and the Taliban signed a landmark deal in Doha on February 29, 2020 to bring lasting peace in war-torn Afghanistan and allow US troops to return home from America’s longest war.
Since the US-led invasion that ousted the Taliban after the 9/11 attacks, about 2,400 US soldiers have been killed.