In the holy month of Ramadan, president Joe Biden of the United States offered the Taliban Pashtun Muslims of Afghanistan something they were long fighting for -- an unconditional withdrawal of ‘foreign forces’ from their land.
To add insult to the injury of thousands of Americans who laid down their lives following the twin tower attacks of 2001 and subsequently for fighting the forces of Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda, the Biden administration set the painful Sept-11 as the day of completion. Later, it was revised.
The withdrawal proposal was brewing for quite some time in the US foreign policy circles. In fact, the news of having a negotiated settlement with the Talibans had leaked out during the first term of the Obama administration when Mrs. Hillary Clinton was the Secretary of State. Then the Trump administration took it forward, also to win over the White votes. Overcoming the hesitation that it might appear as a surrender to the Taliban, Trump announced the troop withdrawal before the Christmas of 2020. Now, president Biden, the political opponent of Donald Trump, put a stamp of approval on his rival’s policies and decided to execute it.
In the global geo-strategic planning of the United States, it might make sense for them to exit Afghanistan where they see threat from Al-Qaeda and Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) diminished, although their rivals like Iran, Russia, Turkey and China would be on the lookout to dig their heels deeper. Pakistan will continue to play a double-faced deceitful role. The US didn’t want to stay bogged down in the mountainous terrain fighting the Talibans forever. Joe Biden’s national security adviser said Americans would like to prepare for the fight of 2021 rather than of 2001.
Whatever Biden and his security team might say, it was an unconditional retreat already decided before the Afghan government and its security forces collapsed. The Talibans’ strategy to wait it out succeeded because they knew the watch could be on the US side but the time was on theirs.
In addition to affecting the geo-politics of the region, the US withdrawal will give the Talibans a green light to come back with a vengeance. Their animosity against the minorities like the Taziks, Hajaras, Uzbekis and the Shia Muslims would keep the civil war in Afghanistan going.
The Talibans, with upper hand in man and fire power, will not cooperate in establishing a democratic form of government sharing reasonable power with all other ethnic groups or sects. The Talibans have also never concealed their intentions. As one senior Taliban commander told The Washington Post in the Spring of 2021, “This fight is not to share power. This war is for religious purposes in order to bring an Islamic government and implement Islamic law.”
Ms Farahnaz Forotan, a former Afghani TV journalist who escaped to the United States for fear of reprisal in her own country wrote in the New York Times around the same time, "The Taliban’s notions of religion, politics and governance are based on a combination of a very orthodox interpretation of Islam, Shariah law and tribal values. The “Emirate” they established in Afghanistan in the 1990s, which they are now seeking to establish again, barred women and girls from most jobs and forbade us to continue our education at schools and colleges, turning us into prisoners in our homes."
The Talibans considered it was the sacred duty of their Islamic government to safeguard Muslim society from corruption and moral decadence that was caused by the presence of women in public space. “They want to reduce us to bearing children," said Farahnaz.
It didn’t need an international relations expert to prophesy that the return of the Talibans in Afghanistan would adversely influence the Hindu-Muslim relations in India, unless both the Hindu and the Muslim communities worked hard to distance themselves from the Taliban and their ideology. They will have to assert and proclaim their Hindustani identity and thwart attempts on the part of the extremist Islamists to hold any influence on them..
There’s a pattern of religious persecution in Afghanistan-Pakistan region. In early 2001, the Taliban almost eliminated the Bamiyan’s Buddhist population, bombed the gigantic pre-Islamic statues and destroyed their artefacts. A year ago, in the month of March, Islamist suicide bombers armed with guns attacked a Sikh Gurdwara (Har Rai Sahib) in Kabul and killed 25 attendees. Next day, the cremation procession of the Sikhs was also attacked. The Hindus who once constituted a sizable population of Afghanistan had already migrated out of the country en masse. After the Taliban’s re-occupation, all the Counsel offices and Embassy are closed.
As Afghanistan comes once again under the Taliban control, it should be incumbent on the Islamic and Muslim majority countries to put pressure and keep the Taliban in check. Muslims, non-Muslims and women are all their victims.
India and the Hindus will have genuine reasons to be extra alert as the Talibans and their allied terrorist organizations export terrorists across the border too.
Dr. Binoy Shanker Prasad hails from Darbhanga and currently resides with his family in Dundas, Ontario (Canada). A former UGC teacher fellow (at JNU) in India and Fulbright scholar in the USA, he has taught politics and authored conference papers, articles and chapters on Bihar in previously published books in the United States, India, and Canada.
Dr. Prasad administers a Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/OverseasBihari and has sponsored “Aware Citizenship Campaign” at a micro-level in his home-town.