Indeed it is a historic time for the Hindukush region. The Afghan Army takes control of the security within Afghanistan relieving the international forces to a supporting role. Thinking about this; is Karzai left with fighting with some real shadows?
There is reason to celebrate the emerging of a new Afghanistan,post troop withdrawal, but to me I see a tragedy within, much like the fate of South Vietnam when the US troops left. Will Karzai be able to hold on in the face of the Taliban becoming a recognisable political entity considering that they can not be wiped out of the planet? Already, brokered talks by US and the Norway to bring the warring parties together will make the Karzai government and the Afghan security forces either nervous or comfortable depending on the continued US presence in the region. They, the US, do need to get the Taliban on to their side if they have to have a slice of the pie or a wedge between the multitude of power centres.
Something did go wrong, In the first place the US came to the region chasing Al Qaida, which is apparently enemy No 1. The Taliban and Al Qaida can not be differentiated and could seem two versions of the same model. The same can not be said of the US and Afghan Army, With the troop withdrawal there is bound to be a vacuum however small.
If there has to be peace in Afghanistan and one believes in its possibility, then the US is the best bid for it for several reasons. I like to connect some dots and include some more players in this melee for it will be unwise to think of them as non actors.
Pakistan has lost its chance of any domination over Afghanistan being wedged in by the US and despite all the anti-US holler the ruling elite has to appease both the US and the Pakistani end of the Taliban. So it makes little sense for the Taliban to refuse an offer to come to the table in Qatar. Unfortunately funding and support from various sources only teach the hanlding of an AK 47, not a diplomatic finesse in asking for their demands. Nawaz Sharif and the Pakistani politicians suffer the Taliban out of fear, but in return they do educate them to become political entities. I feel this does in a way signal the last days of Pakistani Taliban influence in the future of Afghanistan. The elements from Afghanistan within Pakistan like the Hekmetyar group will lose their voice if they haven’t lost it as yet. This may sound wishful thinking, but they are not direct actors to the situation in Afghanistan but remain conduits of funding. Therefore it will lead to the question of who is the Taliban and their recognisable leader. In propping up Karzai there is a structure and recognisable leadership and success of the situation will depend on how the leadership develops within the Afghan state.
In connecting the dots, the US capability of launching drones from their fleets lessens the dependence on Pakistan. The troop withdrawal or the elections in Pakistan with the US acknowledging Nawaz Sharif even before it, may or may not have been considerations.
Pakistan has proclaimed a new doctrine to counter India’s cold start defence policies. This is like a signal to India not to take advantage of the changing situation/vacuum in the region. Add to this the Chinese intrusion into Ladhak. I can not isolate this from the grand strategy around this region or the event of troop withdrawal.
In the complex situation that has prevailed some actions could be coincidental, but many seem planned, which can be seen now as an hindsight.
India is a major actor in the geopolitics of the region. Karzai represents an India-favourable position. India has been engaged in developmental activities for quite sometime. It also operates a base in the Northern region. There is some goodwill between the Afghan people and India. The question is will it be able to capitalise on the goodwill and be in favour with any government in Afghanistan, even a Taliban one?
Karzai has a tough job ahead. Whatever it be the US influence in the region has put in place a form of governance.The next elections are round the corner and its success will give a taste of the future to come.
The Taliban for their part may eventually come around through elections … someday. They have to get away from the fundamentalist card. It is not about Burqa’s really, but about being in power.
There are many ways to come to power. Peaceful ones too.