India: Jostling for Geopolitical Control in Afghanistan

Image: Flickr.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published by openSecurity on 27 March 2014.

There is increasing anxiety among stakeholders as US forces prepare for a drawdown in Afghanistan by the end of 2014. The international community, including the United States, is still groping in the dark when it comes to Afghanistan’s future. As such, they have somewhat ignored India, which, in fact, will be pivotal in solving the Afghan dilemma. Instead, the west and regional stakeholders have focussed on Pakistan as the major player in post-2014 Afghanistan.

Pakistan has been accused of supporting the Afghan Taliban and of providing sanctuary to them inside Pakistan in order to maintain strategic depth and influence within Afghanistan. Furthermore, Pakistan has been charged with supporting the Afghan Taliban and their affiliate, the Haqqani network, in order to counter India in Afghanistan, as well as of sending militant groups such as Laskhar-e-Taiba into Indian-administered Kashmir. Pakistan has denied these accusations. » More

The Afghan Muddle

Soldier Exiting a UH-60 Black Hawk, courtesy of DVIDSHUB /flickr

NEW DELHI – Despite some last-minute brinkmanship by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the United States and Afghanistan seem to have worked out a bilateral security agreement to govern the 8,000-10,000 (mostly American) troops that will remain in Afghanistan from next year. But Afghanistan remains a source of significant uncertainty – and high anxiety – in an already unstable region.

Although the Afghan army has performed surprisingly well this year as it has prepared to assume full responsibility for the country’s security, governments in the region remain deeply skeptical of its ability to resist a resurgent Taliban without the strong support that the US has provided. But the Americans are intent on withdrawal, and no other country is willing to assume the responsibilities that they are relinquishing.

In this context, the fear that Afghanistan will unravel once again risks becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. In fact, a closer look at various key governments’ approaches to Afghanistan reveals that only the US is maintaining a coherent stance. » More

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Leveling the Afghan Playing Field

Afghan farmer works in the field

An Afghan farmer works in the field.

NEW YORK – Afghanistan’s security and political situation remains plagued by uncertainty, stemming from the withdrawal of United States and NATO combat troops, the upcoming presidential election, and the stalled peace negotiations with the Taliban. Recognizing that continued economic insecurity will exacerbate this perilous situation, the government has announced a new package of economic incentives aimed at attracting foreign direct investment.

The package includes the provision of land to industrialists at dramatically reduced prices, tax exemptions of up to seven years for factory owners, and low-interest loans of up to ten years for farmers. Such incentives are targeted at foreign investors and the local elite, with the aim of stopping or even reversing capital flight. But the new measures ultimately amount to more of the same: a fragmented policy approach that will prove inadequate to solve Afghanistan’s fundamental economic problems. » More

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What Afghans Want From the West

Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade, 215th Corps on patrol in Sangin, Helmand

Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade, 215th Corps on patrol in Sangin, Helmand. Photo: Al Jazeera English/flickr.

The date of the withdrawal of most of Western forces from Afghanistan is approaching but the war and the state of the war in Afghanistan continue. The US consolidates its strategic military bases in Afghanistan while it is talking about pulling out. Despite this conflicting narrative, the Western disentanglement in Afghanistan gives rises to two crucial and conjointly defined questions. First, how will Western drawdown shape the future of Afghanistan? Second, how will the major post-withdrawal power vacuum in south and Central Asia makes the geopolitical map of south and Central Asia and by consequence, the global power structure?

Both the power vacuum and global power structure gravitate largely on the outcome of the war in Afghanistan and the future of ungoverned titanic mountain ranges between Afghanistan and Pakistan, a leftover of the nineteenth-century British colonialism.  History let Afghanistan in a unique geopolitical position. The turbulent developments in the last two centuries show that this country—was once described by the late Richard Nixon as the “turnstile of the fate of Asia,”—has been a transit area for the emerging powers in the region and its future has been determined by adventurous foreign interventions. This truth makes the Afghan theatre of war merely a sideshow in the larger regional and international contention that was termed by Kipling ‘the Great Game,’ in Central Asia. » More

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Is Afghanistan a Sinking Boat? Anxiety about the 2014 Withdrawal

Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade, 215th Corps on patrol in Sangin, Helmand.

Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade, 215th Corps on patrol in Sangin, Helmand. Photo: Al Jazeera English/flickr.

The withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan by 2014 has been the central foreign policy issue of both of Obama’s Presidential campaigns. American citizens seem to generally support the initiative, while both criticizing the timing and questioning the outcome for the U.S. and Afghanistan. Many ordinary Americans have asked why the U.S. should keep engaging with Afghanistan post-2014, or why the withdrawal cannot come sooner so as to avoid the unnecessary losses of American soldiers. Others argue that the United States, as a world leader, should act responsibly to prevent Afghanistan from falling into a devastating civil war, and thus criticize the withdrawal as a product of poor judgment that will lead inevitably to chaos. As an example, they cite the post-Soviet withdrawal, following which the U.S. abandoned the country and it fell under Taliban control.

Serving as political affairs officer for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) last year, I observed – like many others inside and outside the country – that for various reasons the local population did not feel very hospitable towards the international forces, to say the least. Many Afghans, either ignorantly or deliberately, do not see any difference between the ISAF and the international community, referring to all of them as Americans or American puppets. For that very reason, the incident that occurred on 1 April 2011, when the UN compound in one of the regions was attacked by demonstrators infuriated over the burning of the Qur’an. More recently there has been a steady increase in so-called green-on-blue attacks on ISAF soldiers. Instead of going into the details of each incident, we can ask more generally: Do Afghans want Americans in their country beyond 2014? » More

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