The World Today for September 06, 2021

NEED TO KNOW

AFGHANISTAN

Sweaty Palms

Indian envoys recently spoke to Taliban officials who now run Afghanistan after the American withdrawal from the Central Asian country last month.

“Discussions focused on safety, security and (the) return of Indian nationals stranded in Afghanistan,” the Indian Ministry of External Affairs wrote in a statement to Firstpost, an Indian news website. “The travel of Afghan nationals, especially minorities, who wish to visit India also came up. Ambassador [Deepak] Mittal raised India’s concern that Afghanistan…should not be used for anti-Indian activities and terrorism in any manner. The Taliban representative assured the ambassador that these issues would be positively addressed.”

On one hand, the statement is diplomatic boilerplate. On the other, it references some thorny subjects that are sure to occupy leaders around the world for months if not years to come as a new reality takes hold in Afghanistan. Either way, it shows how India as well as the other two great powers in the region, Pakistan and China, are struggling to figure out how to adapt.

Writing in the Hill, Washington Institute for Near East Policy fellow Simon Henderson, a former BBC correspondent, noted that Pakistan will take center stage in discussions about the future of the country. It has little choice. Recently, as CNN documented, Afghans fleeing the Taliban and their violent, ultra-orthodox Islamic rule overwhelmed the Pakistani border. And Pakistan already hosts millions of Afghans.

Pakistan fears other developments, too. Pakistani generals are suspicious of their strategic rival, India, and its attempts to establish friendly relations with Afghanistan, the Wall Street Journal reported, for example. But the situation is more complicated than that.

While ostensibly an American ally, as the New York Times wrote, Pakistan notoriously hosted Taliban leaders for years as they fought American, NATO and Afghan government forces. Now Pakistani officials dread the thought of the Afghan Taliban providing support to the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, a terrorist group that has killed tens of thousands of Pakistanis in its campaign to inaugurate a more Islamic state in Pakistan, the Brookings Institution explained.

China also faces blowback. Chinese officials crowed as US forces chaotically quit Afghanistan. But they too fear Afghanistan becoming a rogue state that supports Muslim militants throughout the world, especially in the northwestern Chinese region of Xinjiang where the government has cracked down on the Muslim minority Uyghur population, the Atlantic magazine argued.

Politicians around the world wanted the Western effort in Afghanistan to fail. Now some of them wonder if that is what they wanted after all.

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