After the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in the aftermath of 9/11, Afghanistan got into utter turmoil. It triggered acute security risk and refugee crisis with an influx on the Pak-Afghan border, and due to the bombardment, infrastructure was devastated including houses, commercial centers and educational institutes (madrassas). After overthrowing the Taliban regime, Hamid Karzai’s government was installed in Afghanistan through the so-called Presidential election (2004). After the Karzai government, Ashraf Ghani was made the President of Afghanistan. Ghani who remained merely a puppet of the U.S. was never accepted by the locals as their representative government. That is why there has been resistance from the local populace even though multiple assassination attempts on Karzai and Ashraf Ghani were carried out.
Ashraf Ghani was listed among the most corrupt leaders of the world by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project. Whatever money the Afghan government took from the U.S. in the name of rehabilitation, reconstruction and preservation of democracy, except diminutive amount, went into aristocrats’ personal vaults. The major chunk of the money went to the U.S. contractors who were there in the name of providing security, reconstruction, strengthening democracy and eliminating chances of the Taliban’s return.
The U.S. war in Afghanistan did cost about $2.313 trillion but it badly failed to achieve the desired objectives in Afghanistan which were to stabilize Afghanistan and establish a democratic government. All state institutions remained under-performed even the Afghanistan military could not withstand the Taliban after the U.S. withdrawal and the Taliban took over in 2021.
An unstable Afghanistan poses a serious threat to regional peace and stability
As the Taliban government has not been recognized by the international community, therefore, it is improbable for them to engage in international trade or have any foreign direct investment. Following are the imminent challenges that may emanate from Afghanistan but affect all the neighboring states.
- Such a situation is likely to trigger a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. People, including women and children, may face famine.
- A refugee crisis is in the offing, who will try to enter neighboring states illegally.
- Due to the freezing of Afghanistan’s assets by the Washington DC, state machinery (bureaucracy) will not get paid their salaries to run the affairs of the government.
- Opium production and drug smuggling coupled with illegal weapons will ensue from the economic crisis.
- Taliban will be seeking alternative ways to expand their influence in the contiguous region by extending support to terrorist outfits including the Islamic State, Tahreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and various terrorist organizations for expanding their ideology and influence.
Shannon Tiezzi in her piece published inThe Diplomat claims that China is back to business as usual with the Taliban government. She also referred to China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s surprise visit to Afghanistan “as a clear sign that China is ready to engage with the Taliban as normal government”. If Afghanistan remains adhered to Doha Agreement, which was signed between the Afghanistan government and the U.S., then eventually they can be granted a conditional de facto recognition. This also will entail an opportunity for the Taliban to join Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
My point is that if China does not engage with the Taliban, then the previously mention series of crises, once again will sweep away regional peace and stability. China’s attempt to avert a humanitarian crisis will be able to keep the social fabric intact, ward off drug production, and prevent the emergence of terrorist outfits. This indeed is a service to regional peace and security. If the U.S. spent over $2 trillion and left Afghanistan in chaos, then why does the U.S. expect the regional actors should also abandon Afghanistan in the lurch.
Taliban is a political reality of Afghanistan and the U.S. also secured a peace agreement with the Taliban through their special representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad. But the U.S. misread the strength of the Taliban who was able to seize power without much resistance from Afghanistan’s U.S.-trained and equipped military.
This is the right time to engage with the Taliban as they are a political entity
If the Taliban guarantee and respect international norms, do not establish any ties or harbor terrorist groups, maintain peace and do not allow their soil to be used by the terrorist groups, then they should be engaged as a normal state.
With the approach that the U.S. has adopted to keep Afghanistan out of the international state system, United Nations and other diplomatic forums, the Taliban are likely to get tough with the U.S. and its allies. It should be realized that a stable Afghanistan guarantees regional peace.
Dr. Musarat Amin is an Associate Professor and DS(Directing Staff) at the Department of National Security and Strategic Studies, Air War College Institute Karachi, Pakistan. She can be reached at email@example.com. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.