Home arrow Archives arrow Open Forum arrow Open Forum-2011 arrow US Pull Out From Afghan:SPELLS BAD NEWS FOR INDIA, by Rajeev Sharma, 29 June, 2011
News and Features
INFA Digest
Parliament Spotlight
Journalism Awards
US Pull Out From Afghan:SPELLS BAD NEWS FOR INDIA, by Rajeev Sharma, 29 June, 2011 Print E-mail

Open Forum

New Delhi, 29 June 2011

US Pull Out From Afghan


By Rajeev Sharma


President Barack Obama’s announcement that the United States will withdraw 10,000 U.S. soldiers from Afghanistan by the end of this year and complete withdrawal of all its 1,00,000 soldiers in that country in a phased manner by 2014 is bad tidings for India and good news for Pakistan and the jihadists.

The June 22 announcement is an implementation of Obama’s promises that he made while campaigning for the presidential elections in 2008. This is understandable from the American point of view – both economically and strategically. The US has sunk a trillion dollar in the past one decade in Afghanistan and can ill afford this economic black hole at a time when the country is still grappling with recession. 

From the strategic point of view, the Obama administration appears to be convinced that post-Osama bin Laden, the al Qaida is on “a path of defeat”, is no longer a potent adversary and that “the tide of war is receding”.  True, the US has lost 1500 soldiers in the past decade in Afghanistan and Obama is right when he said in his address early Thursday (India time): “We will not try to make Afghanistan a perfect place. We will not police its streets or patrol its mountains indefinitely. That is the responsibility of the Afghan government.” Obama’s assessment of a degraded al Qaida post-Osama is presumptive at best and delusionary at worst.

There are acute differences within Team Obama as is evident from the stiff opposition to the move by none other than his top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David H. Petraeus, who has been named director of the Central Intelligence Agency. General Petraeus did not endorse the decision. However, US Defence Secretary Robert M. Gates has also argued publicly against a too-hasty withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, but issued a statement on June 22 that he supported Obama’s decision.

Clearly, Obama’s announcement has come as no surprise. But one expects better strategy from the world’s sole superpower. Abandoning Afghanistan now or in 2014 is not in the interest of Washington. It is reminiscent of a similar American policy soon after the Afghan war ended the Soviet Union completed withdrawal of all its troops from Afghanistan two decades ago. The Americans had to re-enter the land-locked nation in October 2001, weeks after the 9/11 terror strikes on the American mainland.

What is the guarantee that the Americans won’t be dragged back into Afghanistan a couple of years after their withdrawal? In fact, straws in the wind suggest that the third American innings in Afghanistan will be far bloodier, messier, and costlier. Obama’s move is a sign of American decline. Europe has already distanced itself from the Afghan cauldron and the increasingly mighty China has cleverly kept itself out of politics of terror in Afghanistan. Instead it has focused on huge investments in mining and other sectors. This means that China will be enlarging its footprints in India’s backyard along with its “all-weather ally” Pakistan at a time when the US would be out of Afghanistan. Beijing’s increased presence and influence in Afghanistan would be detrimental to Indian strategic interests.

From the Indian point of view, the US withdrawal from Afghanistan will be a shot in the arm for remnants of the al Qaida, Taliban and a cluster of terror outfits actively associated with them. The US is looking at Afghanistan from its own prism, mainly driven by economic compulsions. The message for the al Qaida-Taliban remnants – and these are still quite sizable and potent – is that they can breathe easy now.

Undoubtedly, they will regroup, recharge and retrain. It is good for Pakistan because Islamabad will once again get a chance to make Afghanistan its “fifth province”. Ascendance of Pakistani influence in Afghanistan and empowerment of jihadist forces there will mean a deadly cocktail for India. The Pakistan-Afghanistan border has never ceased to be a revolving door for Taliban, al Qaida terrorists. And, the American withdrawal from Afghanistan will convert this revolving door into a highway.

Pakistan’s Afghanistan strategy will be on expected lines. The Obama administration will do well to revisit the core findings of its own quarterly assessment on Pakistan and Afghanistan carried out in late March 2011. Islamabad has vehemently denied the report, presented to the US Congress. The report said Pakistan neither had any cogent plan to stem the tide of insurgency nor was it really interested in doing so.

Intriguingly enough, the declassified portions of the report were not at all scathing in its criticism of the Pakistan Army. But going by Pakistan’s ferocious reaction, first from the army and then from the civilian leadership, raises the possibility of some hard-nosed criticism in the portions which are tagged as `classified` and not made public. These relate to Pakistan army’s actions vis-à-vis Taliban and the al Qaida, particularly in targeting their top leadership and their sanctuary.


From the American perspective, it has chalked out its Afghanistan withdrawal timetable after opening a direct channel of talks with the Taliban, indicating that a major announcement on political reconciliation in Afghanistan can be expected in the near future. The American confidence is predicated on its reconciliation talks with elements of the Taliban, a poorly kept secret that was officially confirmed on June 19 by Afghan President Hamid Karzai at a formal press conference in Kabul.


The Americans’ optimism about the reconciliation talks, which seems to be the cornerstone for their exit strategy, stems from this internal dialogue and is bolstered by regional support with Pakistan and even Iran on board. The very fact that the US is now having direct talks with the Taliban indicates that enough ground work, going on for well over a year, has been done and now only the final nitty-gritty remains to be clinched.


As far as New Delhi is concerned, it has legitimate concerns with Taliban gaining a foot hold in Afghan government because terrorism in India was at its peak when Taliban-ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, the period during which Pakistan used Afghanistan as its fifth province. However, India won’t mind saying “aye” to the Afghan reconciliation process as long as its interests in Afghanistan are protected.


The topmost point on the Indian wish list would be that its four Consulates in Afghanistan, which Pakistan wants to be closed, continue to function. It is not for nothing that New Delhi has so far spent $1.3 billion on a large number of infrastructure projects in diverse fields and many more projects aimed at ameliorating the lot of the common man in Afghanistan are in the works. ---INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

< Previous   Next >
  Mambo powered by Best-IT