America’s new bet
The US pressured the Afghan government to release thousands of Taliban prisoners to show the Doha talks in favor of the Taliban, which the Ghani government was unprepared for.
The US pressured the Afghan government to release thousands of Taliban prisoners to show the Doha talks in favor of the Taliban, which the Ghani government was unprepared for. Clearly, America was engaged in bargaining with the Taliban from within.
The US has closed its embassy in Kabul and moved it to Doha, the capital of Qatar. All US troops have left Afghanistan. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has described it as a new chapter in America’s relationship with Afghanistan, calling the end of the military campaign and the beginning of a new diplomatic mission.
Indeed, the US goal of ending terror in Afghanistan may not have been accomplished, but its global interests and objectives have certainly changed. There has been a perception about America that it is a nation whose policies are not decided by the political parties or the President, but what is decided in the interest of America, no matter who is in power. The return of Taliban to power in Afghanistan is not unexpected, but it is being considered such a strategy of diplomacy, which can give America a decisive edge on many fronts including Middle East, South Asia, China, Russia.
It seems that the US and the Taliban have not only secured their interests by forming a mutual alliance, but have also prepared a strategy for mutual cooperation in the future. It started during Trump’s tenure when talks between the US and the Taliban started. So it would be no exaggeration to say that the Taliban capture of Afghanistan is part of the same plan that Biden has executed.
It is also no less interesting that the Ashraf Ghani government of Afghanistan was constantly apprehensive about the talks between the US and the Taliban and they also opposed the talks. But the US, ignoring the opposition of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, also accepted the conditions of the Taliban in which it was said to keep Ashraf Ghani away from the talks. Even when Trump called the talks a success, Ashraf Ghani criticized it, calling it a recognition of the Taliban’s power by the US.
In fact, Ghani had foreseen the growing partnership between the US and the Taliban long ago. He had also invited the Taliban for unconditional peace talks in February 2018 with an offer to recognize the Taliban as a legitimate political party. But even then the Taliban did not agree to talks with the Afghan government. Peace talks between the US and the Taliban began in Qatar on October 12, 2018, and from here the prospects of the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan became strong. Meanwhile, the Trump administration played another gamble to strengthen its position in Afghanistan by appointing Afghan-origin Jalil Khalilzad as its negotiator, who reached Pakistan in October 2019 under the leadership of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, co-founder and chief peace negotiator of the Taliban. After meeting with the Taliban delegation, the future course of action was decided.
America’s policy towards the Taliban needs to be viewed from a multidimensional perspective. The US blamed Al Qaeda for the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon. After this, the US invaded Afghanistan on charges of supporting al-Qaeda and ousted the Taliban from power and paved the way for the formation of a new government there. But conditions never turned out to be favorable for the US, which has ruled Afghanistan for two decades and spent billions of dollars. This made America realize that it is impossible to establish a sovereign, co-ordinating and legal government in this tribal-run country. The history of Afghanistan is also a witness to this.
Talks between the US and the Taliban began in Doha in March last year. Before the talks began, the Taliban said it would only hold direct talks with the US and not with the Kabul government, which it never recognized. The US effectively acceded to this demand, keeping the Afghan government out of the negotiation process and began direct talks with the insurgents. To show the Doha talks in favor of the Taliban, the US pressured the Afghan government to release thousands of Taliban prisoners, which the Ghani government was not prepared for. Clearly, America was engaged in bargaining with the Taliban from within.
Now the US is being criticized all round for the withdrawal of the Taliban in Afghanistan. But the US administration is constantly defending the Taliban. Recently the Security Council refrained from labeling the Taliban as a terrorist organization. Tried to save the image of Taliban by blaming Islamic State for the terrorist attack on Kabul airport. The head of the US intelligence agency CIA, William Burns, has indicated a growing Taliban-US partnership by holding a secret meeting with Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Kabul.
Today America’s biggest concern is about China’s expansionist policies. Now America can work on a strategy to shock the dragon with the help of Taliban. Whereas China has indicated to include Afghanistan in the economic corridor. China also wants to build a military base near the Wakhan Corridor in the mountainous region of Afghanistan. Now due to the Taliban-US alliance, China’s economic and strategic problems may increase. America’s traditional rival Russia is also apprehensive about the Taliban. He wants to keep Islamic State out of the region by maintaining strong ties with the Taliban. His concern is about Chechnya.
Russia is well aware of the fact that IS sympathizers exist in the region operating in South and Central Asian countries. America has been looking for an opportunity to control Iran, a country bordering Afghanistan. Relations between the Taliban and Iran have remained uneasy. The US, Saudi Arabia and Israel are in panic for different reasons over Iran’s alleged secret nuclear program – Amad. Iran is grappling with global sanctions and has found it difficult to access foreign exchange reserves accumulated abroad. The Afghan city of Herat, bordering Iran, plays a vital role as a source of cash, with US dollars being traded at favorable rates and the Islamic Republic would not want to lose access to one of its closest and major sources of cash. Now by putting pressure on the Sunni fundamentalist group Taliban, America can not only insecure Iran’s border with Afghanistan, but can also cause economic damage to it.
Biden has gained an edge on several diplomatic fronts by opening the way for the Taliban to power in Afghanistan. The influence of Islamic State is being seen in the provinces of Helmand, Jabul, Farah, Logar and Nangarhar in Afghanistan. The conflict between Islamic State and Taliban fighters may increase in the coming times. This will increase the pressure on the Taliban. It is very important for the Taliban to continue to get strategic and economic support from America and this will also be their priority. America’s eyes range from the Middle East to Iran, Russia and China, and in such a situation, the Taliban and Doha can become a medium to fulfill its goals.