Even as we enter the eve of 10th day of Muharram, colloquially known as Ashura, the day that commemorates martyrdom of Imam Hussain (RA) in the battle of Karbala, another battle took place closer to Kashmir’s neighborhood in Afghanistan, where Taliban forces captured Kabul within matter of days without facing any resistance whatsoever, after U.S. President ordered withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.
The swiftness and speed at which Taliban forces took over entire Afghanistan not only shocked the world, but it also embarrassed United States, whose President Joe Biden had promised an orderly with drawl of American forces and smooth transition of power to Taliban, none of which happened. What we instead witnessed was panicked residents of Kabul city thronging to airport of the capital and clinging on to wheels of US aircraft taking off the Afghan capital and the ghastly sight of two people falling off the plane to their horrible death, all captured on mobile videos. So, what does all this mean for Afghanistan, for our region, for Kashmir and for the world.
Before answering all these questions, it is important to look at the genesis of the current political mess in 2000, when Taliban, an armed student militia of young Pashtun men, who were taught books of Deoband ideology in madrasas of Pakistan by Pakistan’s ISI and army in Pakistan’s Pashtun inhabited areas, were sent to badly divided Afghanistan reeling from a decade of civil war and infighting between various ethnic militant gangs vying to capture crumbled Kabul, decade after Soviets had left. Taliban were trained and sent to capture Afghanistan to bring it under de facto control of Pakistan.
Taliban militia that took power of Afghanistan, immediately went on to implement religious norms of Shariah that included asking men to keep long beards and women to wear burqa all the time. They even notoriously demolished centuries old statues of Bamiyan Buddhas despite world wide appeal not to do so. But it was their act of giving refuge to Saudi radical Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan that led to their quick fall.
Unbeknownst to Taliban, Osama Bin Laden and his Al Qaida organization was planning to attack twin towers in New York city on 11th September, 2001, which they brazenly carried out much to the horror of the entire world. President Bush of the United States immediately bombed Afghanistan to flush out militants of Al Qaida and remove Taliban and establish NATO led international base in Afghanistan to make sure that it doesn’t become a safe heaven for any other anti-U.S. or anti-West terrorist organizations.
In subsequent two decades, Afghanistan went through rapid modernization and development and gained massive progress in improving education and status of women, health services, infrastructure development and integration with the world mainstream. An entire new generation of Afghan young men and women trained in modern secular and progressive education and values had grown up and an entire new aspirational middle class had also emerged in a modern Kabul city.
The quickness of the decision to withdraw first NATO forces from other European and North American countries and later by the United States after US President ordered quick with drawl of American forces plunged entire Afghanistan into chaos and instability.
On the fact of it, the fall of Kabul may look like a victory of Pakistan and China supported tacitly by Russia and Iran, but given the history of Afghanistan and temperament of Afghan people, who have always resisted foreign intervention, Taliban, which is seen as a proxy of Pakistan, may find it hard to hold on to the fort of Kabul against the nationalist aspirations of the people of Afghanistan.
It will have immediate impact on religiously radical non state actors of neighboring Pakistan, who may get emboldened to repeat the same in Pakistan, where many terrorist organizations are waiting to similarly establish Shariah in Pakistan. It will give further flip to rivalry between Deoband ideology supporting and Barelvi ideology supporting terrorist organizations to implement their supremacy in Pakistan making things tougher for Pakistan’s civilian government as well as army and spy agencies.
The greatest impact of this fiasco Is bound to happen on the legacy, reputation and credibility of U.S. President Joe Biden, who is being increasingly criticized both within United States as well as rest of the world for messy handling of the with drawl, poor planning and massive intelligence failure. Taliban’s capture of Kabul has reignited political prospects for his arch rival former U.S. President Donald Trump, who has also aggressively attacked poor handling of with drawl by Democratic party president Biden.
While India may not be directly impacted by the coming to power of Taliban, many commentators predict that it may have ripple impact on Kashmir valley, which is not very far from Afghanistan. Kashmir has in the past been ruled briefly by Afghanistan in what is described as one of Kashmir’s darkest and bloodiest phases of history. Pakistan may use its influence on Taliban to send idle Pashtun Taliban militants to Kashmir valley to create insecurity and instability in Kashmir valley. Even in 1990s, many idle militants from Afghan jihad were diverted to Kashmir valley by Pakistan and Taliban forces.
Will it happen again?
It is very difficult to foresee how things may develop in Afghanistan in next few weeks. It is however important to add that Kashmir of today is not the same as Kashmir of 1990s. The people of Kashmir valley have since than seen a lot of death, destruction and political instability including abrogation of Article 370 and 35A of the Constitution of India.
People of Kashmir are now tired and weary of the traumatic events of last three decades and therefore any attempt to destabilize Kashmir valley once again by sending Taliban forces to Kashmir valley may not work out as before. People of Kashmir want a sustainable peace, security and stability so they will not be amenable to any attempts by Taliban or Pakistan to lure them into the deadly vortex of last three decades once again.