Poetically imagined, Afghanistan is the heart of Asia. Afghanistan’s strategic location has made it the epi-center of rivalries among Great Powers. Much celebrated British novelist-cum-diplomat Rudyard Kipling, in his novel Kim (1901), regarded Afghanistan as the sphere of influence and Centre of Great Game.
In 1826, when King Dost Muhammad Khan of the Barakzai tribe deposed Shah Shuja and assumed the rule in Kabul, the British Raj waged war in 1839 against geographically rugged Afghanistan to enhance British influence. Dost Muhammad Khan was dethroned and an interim government led by pro-British ruler Shah Shuja was established.
In Afghanistan, the Great Powers have always reinforced the narrative of annexing peace and security with the resignation of ruling elites and certifying interim government as the only option continued till the 1990s.
Again in the 1990s, in the aftermath of the Russian withdrawal, the same formula was practiced by the US and its allies to enhance security and political influence in strategically important Afghanistan.
The US asked the then President of Afghanistan Dr. Najeebullah that the only key to resolve conflict and restore peace in the country is to resign and transfer the power to the Mujahedeen.
Read more: Afghanistan: 40 years of conflict
Apparently, an interim government was established. The Mujahedeen gave a kick-start to war amongst, the entire country was thrown to the wolves, and Afghanistan was turned into debris and broken bricks.
Pursuing the attackers of the 9/11 incident, the US-led President Bush launched the policy of ‘War on Terror’, invaded Afghanistan, and overturned the government of the Taliban, and an Afghan Interim Authority (AIA) was established in the light of Bonn conference December 2001.
In 2004, Loya Jirga (the Grand Council) approved the adoption of the 1964 Constitution of Afghanistan with few more amendments. Ex. President Hamid Karzai provided a roadmap to the development and stability of modern Afghanistan.
With the end of Karzai’s second tenure in September 2014, Ashraf Ghani was elected as the new President of Afghanistan. Being a world-renowned economist, President Ghani strategically expanded the web of economic, infrastructural, and institutional development of Afghanistan.
The energy sector, establishment of universities, construction of dams, focusing on export, and ensuring access of Afghan traders to global markets are his unparalleled achievements.
As per the World Bank report of 2020, Fiscal improvements and modest inflation supported Afghanistan’s economy to grow GDP by 3.9 percent in 2020.
What do the Taliban want?
The US President Joe Biden has announced to withdraw US forces from Afghanistan by September 9, 2021. The decision of withdrawal by the US and NATO forces categorically encouraged the wretched and scattered Taliban to resurge in the country.
The weaponry supported by the Taliban by neighboring states further encouraged Taliban insurgents to unite and quest for power in the Centre-Kabul. Almost every regional and extra-regional security is backing the Taliban to secure their security interests and avert any potential threat to their short and long-term interests in Afghanistan.
The initiation of the pretending peace process is the tip of the iceberg. Again, the sword of Damocles is hanging over entire Afghanistan. The major stakeholders including the US are intending to turn the situation towards installing an interim government in the country.
The icy clouds of the calamitous interim government are prevailing in Afghanistan. The Taliban want the complete withdrawal of the US, nullification of the Afghan government, and demanding an interim setup.
Post- withdrawal scenarios
It’s lucidly undeniable that the Great Powers do not want Afghanistan to remain stable: an unstable, destroyed and weak Afghanistan is in the interest of many regional and extra-regional security states.
The United States yearns to stop the influence of China and Russia in Afghanistan. China and Russia are geared up and reluctant to provide financial support to the Taliban and other insurgent groups in Afghanistan to rocket their interests. Precisely, a disturbed Afghanistan is all-around acceptable for regional and extra-regional states.
The United States envisages its influence to continue even after the withdrawal from Afghanistan, so Washington is looking at the Taliban to re-establish old intimacy. To consummate, the tractable and most viable way for the United States and its allies is to form an interim government in Afghanistan.
On one hand, the Taliban will be controlled, and on the other hand, the interests of regional powers will be sabotaged in Afghanistan. Interestingly, the US’s close ally Pakistan shall further enhance its influence over the Taliban.
In all these circumstances, Pakistan’s role is important. Islamabad has the greatest influence over the Taliban. Broadly speaking, Pakistan can get the Taliban to do what it wants. Therefore, the current situation is comme il faut for Pakistan.
Almost all the countries of security importance are looking towards Islamabad. Pakistan has its own long-term security interests in Afghanistan. To be very rational, for Islamabad, the government of the Taliban is desirable than anything else.
Sagaciously, any incautious and imprudent decision regarding the future of Afghanistan will furiously threaten the entire region. The prospective plan to install an interim framework of government will ruin the country further.
The author is Islamabad-based security and political analyst. He writes for different national and international newspapers on regional security, political and strategic affairs with a special focus on South Asia, Central Asia, and Indian Ocean Region. He tweets on @RahimNasari.