The fact is that Indian political and bureaucratic elites should not forget a simple fact that that they have influence in Afghanistan as long as the US concedes, Pakistan does not oppose it vehemently, Indian government continues to provide huge aid as per its standards and Indian government keeps pro-establishment policies.
A big list indeed! The simple argument that India is better placed both in economics and in politics as compared to Afghanistan does not mean that India can stabilize it by its so called soft power.
The argument of relative and absolute contributions matters for all forces operating in Afghanistan, including for India and Pakistan. While the fact is that as per Indian standards the aid to Afghanistan may appear impressive to Indians, but it appears miniscule as compared to what the US and other countries provide. But at the same time Afghanistan government is not thankful at all to Americans for their money and for sacrifice of their men and women.
There is hardly any question of ordinary Afghan being more thankful to the US. What the majority of Afghan elites in the government see is the negativity of American operations and not their contribution. Once American troops leave Afghanistan they would hardly be ever remembered positively in that country.
The continued American presence does not guarantee much safety to ordinary civilians; Afghans, Americans and others. It is more likely that the Pentagon would end its ‘active’ combat operation by the end of this year instead of continuing it till the end of the next year. The only hindrance to such wished ending could be Afghan Presidential elections where the US may like to see its favorable candidate winning the contest.
But then the Pentagon is smart enough to arrange a relatively peaceful election without taking much interest otherwise. This is almost certain to happen if Kabul does not agree to the Pentagon’s demands for post-drawdown arrangements. But sure, the US would have permanent mark on Afghans in the sense that if the reports of huge mineral deposits in Afghanistan are true then it would be the biggest foreign player in tapping that wealth.
No future government in Afghanistan would have wish, leave alone guts to challenge Taliban’s grip over ordinary Afghan’s social lives, even if it is possible for them to do so. The fact is that once Americans are out, the re-dominance of Taliban is almost certain and they may try their hands again on politics.
In the coming Afghan elections, the US may be able to impose its wish over the choice of the President but not always and not in Parliamentary elections despite of it being a huge stakeholder in Afghan economy and security. No serious person should believe that the Taliban would accept the Afghan Constitution drafted under the Western influence.
They would change it entirely to the one that existed till November 2001 taking into account some changes with time, after capturing power in Kabul. And that day could be only few years away from now.
With the formal and almost permanent arrival of Taliban on Afghan lives all ‘liberal’ people, particularly liberal females and feminists should fear or at least suspect the return of feisty iron hand. They would have to either learn to keep their mouths shut or ambitions lowered down or else should be ready to face persecution.
The better option for all of them should be to immigrate out of the country, if possible, and friendly governments should provide some relief to them by providing appropriate visas. It is also a distinct possibility that as a consequence of brokering a deal with the Taliban, the US may be able to maintain some liberty in the posh localities of some big Afghan cities as per their standards.
In the passing remarks, it should be noted that Mr. Karzai may appear modest as per Afghan standards but he is not that liberal and accommodating either.
So where did the US went wrong? The then US President George Walker Bush had no option but to declare a war on terror in Afghanistan in the aftermath of September 11 attacks in the US. Mr. Obama would have done so under the similar circumstances.
ut where Mr. Bush went wrong was in his attempt to build a nation: almost a wish to convert fastidious Muslims of Afghanistan into a more liberal valued people to affect global Islam and bring revolutions to end despotism and authoritarianism in Islamic societies. An ambitious task, he left for his successor.
Mr. Bush allowed spending too much money and sacrificing too many American lives for a thing that could not exist. It is true that tens of thousands of Afghans have also lost their lives but the fact is that Bush administration overworked on Afghanistan and believed too much on the universality of Westernism.
It does not mean that Afghanistan could never change. It can, but not now. The change has to come by itself and it would be second last country after the Saudi Arabia to conform to liberalism possible in Islam. But then Saudi Arabia has a lot of oil and therefore can subsidize hard-line Islamic values of its people.While on paper Afghanistan too may have good deposits of minerals but harnessing them would require great American assistance. And that is the biggest leverage the US would have over Afghanistan over long term.
But still the US should help out all present and future Afghan governments in making security possible as long as they seek its help. All stakeholders need to reconsider their Afghan policy: the US, maximum.