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Afghanistan: where Great Powers Meet

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By: Irshad Ahmad Bhat, Zahid Sultan Magray

Following the 9/11 attacks on US soil, the United States, with its allied powers, attacked and invaded Afghanistan under the infamous tag ‘War on Terror’ with the stated aim of dismantling Osma bin Laden’s Al Qaeda. It was also aimed at dethroning Taliban regime to promote ‘democratic’ Afghanistan and ultimately to deny Afghanistan as a base to recruit, train and operate terror networks in future. After having spent trillions of dollars, causing deaths of tens and thousands of civilians, violence remains unabated across the region and Ashraf Gani led Kabul regime remains fragile to violence even till date. Taliban attacks on Afghan regime and NATO security forces are rampant.

Ironically, US with its touted policy of ‘no talks with terror’ is falling apart as it held several rounds of talks with Taliban in Doha,Qatar and is possibly willing to accommodate Taliban within Afghan power structure . The USA’s declared policy of Afghan led and Afghan owned peace process is missing; Kabul regime was not included in Doha talks along with the postponement of Presidential election in the country.

US special representative for Afghanistan, Zalmy Khalilzad’s endeavours of reconciliation are travelling extensively from Pakistan to Russia, China, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, USA, Afghanistan, Iran and other regional powers in an effort to find any acceptable solution to Afghanistan issue.

Diplomatically, Taliban is in a win -win situation as it is gaining recognition internationally due to Pakistan, Russia, China ,Iran efforts to get Taliban to negotiable table. Geopolitically, Pakistanis is finding itself again in the global limelight while China, Russia and Iran are viewing Taliban as an alternative to counter Islamic state in the region. Frequent diplomatic visit to Taliban office in Doha along with direct talks with USA and its acceptance of troops withdrawal added value to Taliban stocks .

With 2020 Presidential Election approaching, US administration is desperate to withdraw from Afghanistan as part of election promise and Taliban Commitment to delink its ties with Al Qaeda and to deny space to ISIS. But there are quite a few unanswered questions which are still a riddle; Taliban is not a monolithic entity, there are splinter groups with contesting interests and one cannot say whether they will fall in line with Taliban. Will accommodating Taliban in power structure end violence and promote democracy, nobody can say for sure and what will be the future of Kabul regime? This is a riddle that will be resolved only with time.

Some international security experts view Russia-China-Pakistan nexus as an attempt to control Afghanistan through Pak proxy Taliban which may be the case but once Taliban Consolidates itself, such powers are bound to lose their influence as history reveals so. India, which has invested heavily in war torn Afghanistan had huge stake but why was it not involved in Doha talks? How would India rebalance its Afghan policy vis-à-vis China -Pakistan equation? All in all- Afghanistan does offer a classic case of international power politics.

It is to be understood that US didn’t lose the war but it lost interests in the region and left it shattered, razed to dust!

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