The final chapter still has to be written. As we come to the dénouement there are still strands in the complex web of subplots that may not yet be apparent. However, it’s now clear that most journalists and DC think tanks have been clueless about the game actually being played out. While many of the ‘expert’ prognosticators have been hyperventilating about an impending protracted civil war and painting the gory picture of blood strewn streets, the Taliban have been quietly negotiating with traditional power brokers the transfer of power in city after city.
When wishful thinking takes over ground realities, then it’s possible to imagine India playing a major role in the post US exit scenario because ‘it’s invested $3bn in Afghanistan’. The fact it’s done so with the soon to be jettisoned Ghani kleptocracy is ignored from such spurious analyses.
The question shouldn’t be “who lost Afghanistan?” but why did we go there 20 years ago without a clear goal or exit strategy, stay so long, spent so much, and cost so many lives?
— Robert Reich (@RBReich) August 14, 2021
Or the laughably absurd hope that an army of, essentially conscripts with no loyalty to a deeply fractious and corrupt Kabul regime, would stand up a fight against those with whom there’s often with ties of kinship if not a common interest for minimizing bloodshed.
Average Afghan does not want violence
The fact that average Afghani soldier and his Taliban counterpart could be savvy enough to want to see as little violence as possible doesn’t even cross the mind of ‘experts’ who view the situation through a prism of coloring one side as fanatic zealots and other as warriors for liberal order.
And then there’s the reality that the Taliban are not in the pockets of anyone but are first and foremost fiercely independent nationalists. Over and above every other consideration, they want the elimination of intrusive foreign presence and interference from their land. This applies just as much to Pakistan too.
Also Read Gen. Tariq Khan’s piece: Pakistan’s Continuing Challenge: Afghan Gordian knot
However, at the same time as their patience and resilience – traits that have through the ages been the mark of wisdom – demonstrate that their pragmatism to know that their people’s best interests are served through fraternal relations with immediate neighbours’ rather than those from faraway lands; whose goals have been primarily to exploit Afghanistan’s strategic location to cause mischief against other regional centers of gravity -such as Pakistan and China.
For all his academic/Socratic pretensions, Professor Ghani and coterie of crooks seemed incapable of grasping that very elementary fact and have collaborated in trying to disturb the peace of their neighborhood. How much more foolish can one be than to try to set fire to a neighbor’s house.
As much as malign external forces outwardly decry, secretly many hope for a bloodbath of protracted civil war. But most Afghans know that few things would serve them better: a singular dominant force that brings about a transfer of power through behind the scenes negotiations. Unfortunately, the US, India & other external players have been left out of these intricate negotiations because they have little inclination in trying to bring about convergence between a patchwork of diverse power groups and sometimes conflicting interests to ensure lasting peace.
Javed Hassan is Chairman Economic Advisory Group (EAG). He’s an investment banker by training and has worked in senior executive positions both in the profit and non-profit sector internationally. He is a regular columnist with Arab News. Twitter: @javedhassan