This coincided with his decision to order a complete withdrawal of US forces from Syria, and Trump has said repeatedly that he wants to end the US deployment in Afghanistan.
Relevance: GS Paper II (International Relations)
Why has this issue cropped up?
President Donald Trump declared victory against the ISIS in December 2018 and decided to withdraw all US forces from Syria. He also announced that the US would withdraw half the troops from Afghanistan.
Impact of the above decision
Both decisions contravene carefully formulated strategies to defeat the Islamic State, al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban. In Afghanistan, in particular, Trump has unwittingly handed over the initiative to the Taliban.
Present situation in Afghanistan
- The Afghan National Army (ANA), supported by the US-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), is not losing but the resurgent Taliban now controls about one-third of the country.
- While the ANA controls most of the large towns, the writ of the Taliban runs in huge areas of the countryside.
- The Taliban continues to haunt government forces.
- Sporadic strikes by terrorists belonging to ISIS to stoke sectarian conflict by attacking the Shias continue unabated.
- Governance is weak, crime is rampant and corruption and tax evasion are widespread.
- The presidential election that was scheduled for April 2019 has been postponed to July 2019.
- The withdrawal of troops ordered by President Trump further emboldened the Taliban and weakened the Afghan government.
The Moscow format
A Russian initiative, called the Moscow format, succeeded in bringing together the Taliban and Afghan representatives but the Afghans were from the High Peace Council, a “national but non-government institution.
Afghanistan and India
- Given its geographical location on the strategic crossroads to the Central Asian Republics (CARs) and West Asia, a peaceful and stable Afghanistan is a vital national interest for India.
- India has not been invited to join ISAF; nor is there any support for military intervention in India’s policy community. However, India is now being urged by the Trump administration to do more to help resolve the conflict.
- India has invested over $3 billion in reconstruction projects in Afghanistan, donated four Mi-25 attack helicopters, provided training to Afghan military personnel, civilian pilots and administrators and has been regularly providing humanitarian aid and medical supplies.
- The Indian embassy in Kabul and Indian consulates as well as road construction protection parties of ITBP have been attacked by the Taliban and have suffered a large number of casualties.
- Till very recently, the Indian position for conflict resolution was that there should be no negotiations with the Taliban as it is a terrorist organisation. Yet, India sent two former diplomats as unofficial observers to the Moscow conference with the Taliban.
- India appears to have now accepted that negotiations for conflict resolution cannot take place without talking to the Taliban leadership.
- The worst case scenario for India would be the Taliban’s return to power in Kabul. If that happens, Pakistan’s ISI would be sure to divert many of the hard core Taliban fighters to Kashmir.
India’s national interest lies in formulating a comprehensive strategy, jointly with the Afghan government, that ensures that a Taliban takeover can be prevented.