Focus: GS-II International Relations

Why in news?

Recently, the U.S. signed a deal (at Qatar’s capital-Doha) with the Taliban that could pave the way towards a full withdrawal of foreign soldiers from Afghanistan over the next 14 months and represent a step towards ending the 18-year-war in Afghanistan.

Background of the Deal

  • Inhuman violence by Islamist terror group al-Qaeda, and taliban triggered US to enter Afghanistan
  • US was joined by an international coalition and Taliban turned into an insurgent force and continued deadly attacks, destabilising subsequent Afghan governments.

Siting the loss of men and material since 2001, US president has called for phased withdrawal from Afghanistan

Salient Features of the Deal

  • Troops Withdrawal: The US will draw down to 8,600 troops in 135 days
  • Taliban Commitment: That it will not allow any of its members, other individuals or groups, including al-Qaeda, to use the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies.
  • Sanctions Removal: UN sanctions on Taliban leaders to be removed
  • Prisoner Release: The US-Taliban pact says up to 5,000 imprisoned Taliban and up to 1,000 prisoners from “the other side” held by Taliban “will be released” by March 10.

Challenges in the Deal

  • One-Sided Deal: this deal excluded the Afghan government because the Taliban do not see the government as legitimate rulers. Also, there is no reference to the Constitution, rule of law, democracy and elections in the deal.
  • Taliban is known for strict religious shia laws, banishing women from public life, shutting down schools and unleashing systemic discrimination on religious and ethnic minorities, has not made any promises on whether it would respect civil liberties or accept the Afghan Constitution.

Issues with Intra-Afghan Dialogue:

  • President Ashraf Ghani faces a political crisis following claims of fraud in his recent re-election.
  • Fear of ethnic fissures between Taliban, Tajiks and Uzbeks
  • Thus, the lifting of the US military footprint and the return of a unilateral Taliban could set the stage for the next round of civil war that has hobbled the nation since the late 1970s.

Impact of the Deal on Other Stakeholders

  •  This deal may demonstrate progress on promises made during the election of US president Donald trump and his bid for re-election later this year.
  • Pakistan: The deal provides the strategic advantage to Pakistan, who is a long-time benefactor of the Taliban and who has meditated  the talks between US and Pakistan.
  • China: After the launch of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), China may leverage Pakistan’s influence on the Taliban, to propel its strategic projects like the Belt and Road Initiative.

Impact of this Deal on India

  • This deal alters the balance of power in favour of the Taliban, which will have strategic, security and political implications for India.
  • India has a major stake in the stability of Afghanistan. India has invested considerable resources in Afghanistan’s development.
  • India has a major stake in the continuation of the current Afghanistan government in power, which it considers a strategic asset vis-à-vis Pakistan.
  • An increased political and military role for the Taliban and the expansion of its territorial control should be of great concern to India since the Taliban is widely believed to be a protégé of Islamabad.
  • As Afghanistan is the gateway to Central Asia, the deal might dampen India’s interest in Central Asia.
  • Withdrawal of US troops could result in the breeding of the fertile ground for various anti-India terrorist outfits like Lashkar-e-Taiba or Jaish-e-Mohammed
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