Evolving Security Situation in Afghanistan: RSTV- Big Picture

Rajya Sabha TV programs like ‘The Big Picture’, ‘In Depth’ and ‘India’s World’ are informative programs that are important for UPSC preparation. In this article, you can read about the discussions held in the ‘Big Picture’ episode on “Evolving Security Situation in Afghanistan” for the IAS Exam.

Evolving Security Situation in Afghanistan:- Download PDF Here

Anchor: Frank Rausan Pereira

Guests: 

  1. Vivek Katju, Former Ambassador  
  2. Shakti Sinha, Foreign Affairs Expert
  3. Maj. Gen. Shashi Asthana (Retd.), Strategic Affairs Expert

What’s in the news?

  • Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani discussed the evolving security situation in the region and other areas of mutual and bilateral interests. 
  • The Afghan President thanked India for the timely supply of food and medical assistance to meet Afghan requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • India reiterated its commitment to the people of Afghanistan in their quest for a peaceful, prosperous and inclusive Afghanistan.
  • Recently, Afghan forces retook a prison in the country’s east, after a gun battle with the ISIL fighters who had attacked the facility, killing nearly 29 people. 

The contemporary situation in Afghanistan

  • The main issue in Afghanistan is the confrontation between Afghan authorities and the Taliban. The Taliban is insisting on the imposition of strict Sharia law. 
  • Violence is being perpetrated by ISIS and the Taliban.
  • The beginning of peace talks is stuck on the issue of prisoner release. Unless talks or intra-Afghanistan dialogue begins, the security situation will continue to remain challenging.
  • Americans have decided to withdraw and this bipartisan position of the US will not change even if there is a change in the presidency in the US.
  • Without support from the US Government, the security forces of Afghanistan are not equipped to counter the aggression of the Taliban. 
  • While the high profile attacks have gone up, the actual levels of violence as per the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) have reduced considerably in 2020. 
  • UNAMA report says that casualties amongst children are primarily caused by Afghan security forces.

The focus of the Islamic State is shifting to Afghanistan

  • The Islamic State has shifted its focus from West Asia to Afghanistan, which they call the ‘Khorasan affiliate’. Their main objective is to expand operations in eastern Afghanistan.
  • The various terror groups such as Haqqani network, LeT, Taliban, and Tehrik-i-Taliban of Pakistan are interlinked with one another. They have coordinated training activities and logistics. 

Why is the US keen on withdrawing from Afghanistan?

  • The US wants to focus on countering global terrorism and not insurgency in Afghanistan in particular. Therefore countering the terror operations of Al Qaeda is a bigger priority for the US rather than countering the Taliban’s radical activities. 

Dynamics after the withdrawal of the US from Afghanistan

  • The main objectives of the Taliban have been: 
    • Withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan 
    • The imposition of a conservative  “Islamic system” under the sharia law
  • Currently, as these aims are being achieved, Taliban leaders have promised negotiations with Afghan authorities for:
    • Mutual power-sharing
    • A stable future political structure
    • Governance and rules for public life
  • The 2020 peace deal signed between the Taliban and the U.S by which the US ensured a fourteen-month phased withdrawal of military forces, pressures the Taliban to prevent Afghanistan from being used as a platform for terrorists or continued attacks on civilians.

Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan

  • The primary motive of Pakistan is to limit Indian presence or influence in Afghanistan. However, this is a condition which no Afghan Government has been willing to accept so far. 
  • Pakistan has said that it will talk to all Afghan political groups, as it sees the Afghan Government to be just a puppet of the US. 
  • Pakistan will continue to have a stronghold in Afghanistan since it has played a crucial role in the rise of the Taliban. The Taliban is closely linked to Pakistan and is dependent on it. 
  • Pakistan wants to fix the Durand Line but Afghanistan does not agree with it because it divides the Pashtuns. Pakistani forces killed many innocent civilians at the Chaman-Spin Boldak border between the two nations.

 China’s rising influence in Afghanistan

  • China convened a quadrilateral dialogue with the Foreign Ministers of Afghanistan, Nepal, and Pakistan. China wants Nepal, Pakistan, and Afghanistan to follow the China-centric development model by:
    • Endorsing the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) infrastructure projects.
    • China also proposed extending the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to Afghanistan.
    • China wants to exploit the rich natural resources in Afghanistan. 
    • Trilateral cooperation between Pakistan, China, and Iran.

The role of Iran in Afghanistan 

  • Iran has been trying to push itself tactically in Afghanistan in the last few years. 
  • When the Taliban was in power in Afghanistan, it was regarded as anti-Shia by Iran. 
  • However, during the US-Taliban war, Iran extended its military and tactical support to the Taliban for exacting revenge against the US. 
  • Presently, Iran is in a poor financial state. 
  • Iran has had the compulsion to depend on China due to the impact of American sanctions, its deteriorating oil production output and its rising COVID death toll. 
  • Iran has invited massive Chinese investment not only in the oil and gas sector but in other sectors as well including railways and banking. 
  • India has to gain the support of the US as it is the only major power that can help India against Chinese aggression. 
  • Cheap oil imports from Iran have been a priority for India, as other oil and gas sources are not as cheap. Despite that India has been dropped from the Chabahar rail project by Iran. 
  • The growing US-Iran confrontation has contributed to India’s distancing from Iran. India needs smart diplomacy to have access to Afghanistan via Iran. 

The best way forward for India 

  • India must involve the Taliban during its negotiations with the Government of Afghanistan and this does not amount to India endorsing its agenda. 
  • India should convince the US for obtaining concessions on Iran so that India can maintain links with Iran, which would enable its presence in Afghanistan. 

Read previous RSTV articles for the IAS exam here.

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