News Excerpt
The United states has finally ended its 18-year-old war in Afghanistan by signing the peace deal with Taliban in Doha. The agreement is also known as Doha Agreement.

●    In the aftermath of the deadly 9/11 attack, the US launched its “War on Terror”. It invaded Afghanistan with the aim of overthrowing the Taliban.
●    The war got derailed as the US became involved simultaneously in 2003 in Iraq under the pretense of destroying Weapons of Mass destruction when its objective was regime change.
●    A key role in Afghanistan was later played by Pakistan in 2005, when it started supporting the Taliban and helped them in regroup and recover. This created an instability in Afghanistan. At the same time, it exposed US’s policy shortfalls.
●    In 2009, under the Obama administration, the US increased its vigour to have decisive victory over Afghanistan but soon they realized the futility of their objectives.
●    In 2011, the US decided to withdraw its forces by 2014 and leave Afghan Security forces in charge of all combat operations.  In 2014, the US decided to withdraw the bulk of its soldiers but at the same time few thousands were left to advise, train and assist the Afghan security forces under Operation Resolute Support.
●    In 2017, the present administration changed the whole idea of American presence in Afghanistan from “nation building” to “killing terrorist”.
●    The administrations concluded that the US has two roles in Afghanistan one is Military (Training and counter terrorism) and other was Political (peace settlement with Taliban)
●    Since 2018, Taliban and the US officials were negotiating a peace deal.

Key Highlights of the Deal
⮚    The deal set out a definite timeline of 14 months for the agreement to be materialized.
⮚    There will be Comprehensive Ceasefire agreement between the Afghan government and Taliban.
⮚    Timeline for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan will be carried out, provided the Taliban adhere to their security guarantees and ceasefire. So, If the Taliban follows through on its commitments, all U.S. and other foreign troops will leave Afghanistan within fourteen months.
⮚    Taliban will not allow any group or individual against the security of the United States and its allies.
⮚    The deal will also call for an intra-Afghan dialogue which will discuss the date and modalities of a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire, including agreement over the future political roadmap of Afghanistan. The Taliban believes if it can reach an agreement with a foreign enemy, we must be able to resolve intra-Afghan disagreements through talks.
⮚    Afghan government will also release 5000 Taliban fighters.  

Possible Outcomes
⇨    The process could be complicated by a weak central government, afflicted by ethnic, sectarian, and tribal differences.
⇨    Another Vietnam:  
o    Many experts have pointed that the deal resembles the US-North Vietnam of 1972(Paris Peace Accord) which led to withdrawal of the US forces from Vietnam.
o    However, as the US withdrew North Vietnam pushed South Vietnam and finally occupied it, all this happened despite the US assurances to South Vietnam.  
o    Critics pointed that the US withdrawal led to a better Vietnam today then earlier but one must not forget that there exists a huge difference between Ho Chi Minh and the Taliban.
⇨    Return of Anarchy:
o    There are huge chances that with the Taliban coming into power, the law will take the back seat while the Sharia will drive the country.
o    There has been a sugar coating from Taliban in an NYT editorial that there will be Humans rights and Women rights, the only albeit is that they are allowed within Islam.
o    The Taliban will hardly share power with the Afghan Government. Thus, it is quite possible that even after the peace deal, the country will be back to civil war again.
⇨    Surge in Terrorism:
o    There are high chances that instead of seeing decline in the incidents of violence there might be significant jump in terror incidents.
o    More than twenty terrorist groups operating inside the country, according to Afghan officials. Many of the groups are aligned with the Taliban or al-Qaeda, and the resurgence of the Islamic State is a concern.
o    Furthermore, there’s very limited capacity for the Taliban to control violence themselves, even if they wanted to.
⇨    Status of Women:
o    The position of women in Afghanistan is today is precisely the result of the U.S. and coalition involvement, and never could have emerged to this degree without the courageous stands by Afghan women activists.
o    It’s utterly absurd to believe the Afghan government and Taliban will ever find an outcome for Afghan women consistent with global values.
o    Simply, to leave the fate of Afghan women to the intra-Afghan dialogue is a massive abdication of American and international responsibility to support universal human rights

Indian concerns
❑    India had long stated stand on Afghan Peace Process that it should be “Afghan Owned-Afghan Led and Afghan-Controlled” in nature. The Afghan government delegation participated in the agreement and there is a promise of Intra Afghan dialogue. So, India has accepted the Doha Agreement.
❑    However, with Taliban coming to power it would be a Lose-lose-lose situation as:
o    Security concerns: The deal makes obligatory on the part of Taliban to make sure that their land is not used to attack the US and its allies. But given the “Alpha male” era of current international politics it is unclear whether India, which is not a U.S. ally, is included in this clause, and whether Pakistan-backed groups that threaten India, would still operate in Afghanistan.
o    Gains for Pakistan: The deal also promises to take Taliban leaders off the UN Security Council’s sanctions list, which could considerably bring down the number of terrorists harboured by Pakistan. This might benefit Pakistan during the June 2020 FATF Plenary.
o    Intra-Afghan Dialogue:  There are huge chances that a Taliban led government might overshadow or thwart the “Intra-Afghan” dialogue. This will impact India's support for the election process for leadership in Afghanistan.
o    Taliban gains:  The deal gives more to Taliban and the terms of the real peace deal is yet to be negotiated between the Taliban and the Afghan side, facilitated by the U.S. and thus the deal seems to be a one-sided deal.

Can India Leave Afghan to Pak?
▪    There have been some concerns in India that it must not leave Afghanistan to Pakistan and if there is a peace keeping force being setup then India should send its force i.e. “put boots on the ground”.
▪    This was earlier opined in the Iraq war but was rejected by government and was turned out to be a good decision.
▪    India’s competition with Pakistan in Afghanistan is justified on several grounds:
o    Great Strategic importance so India can’t leave vacuum in that region.
o    There has always been a foreign power which stabilized Afghanistan.
o    Afghanistan is an important transit route to central Asia and Europe.
o    Afghanistan is resource rich.
o    India can’t cede Afghanistan to Pakistan.
▪    However, there are counter logics to the above points
o    Afghanistan is of great strategic importance, but it is not for India as there is no terror plot, plotted against India in the Af-Pak region. In the last 45 years only 1 Afghan terrorist was found in India. So, Afghan are not against India. There is no terror sanctuary working against India in Afghanistan as they can be easily droned.
o    Afghanistan has never benefited from the presence of a big power and vice-versa. It is a country with great ethnic diversity and a large number of the same ethnic groups live in the neighboring country i.e. there are more pashtuns in Pakistan than Afghanistan. So, Afghanistan doesn’t have a core population, a country of minorities. This makes centralization of power impossible in the region.
o    India doesn’t have transit right to Afghanistan as Pakistan doesn’t allow it. To make it happen India needs to either conquer Pakistan (militarily which is not plausible) or have good relations. In the latter case, there would be no need for competition with other powers in Afghanistan.  Even if India conquers PoK the topography doesn’t allow India to drive to the Wakhan corridor, it is actually a irredentism on India’s part.
o    Afghanistan is a definitely resource rich but should India fight Pakistan for resources inside Afghanistan when it can do it with much less effort within India by resolving the Naxal issues.
o    Afghanistan is a place where “Great powers come to die” in 19th Century British failed to subdue it, in 20th century Soviet tried but failed and in 21st the US failed. Pakistan's border with Afghanistan is not settled, Pashtuns in Afghanistan don't accept the “Durand line”. So, the moment a National government comes to power in Afghanistan, there would be rise of nationalism which would create trouble for Pakistan. Pakistan already deployed 5-6 divisions of its army in the Af-Pak area, this might increase in case of conflict which is always better as those divisions are not facing India.
▪    Fighting Pakistan either through covert or overt operations in Afghanistan will provide justification for ISI to continue their activities in Afghanistan and their fantasy of strategic depth.

Way Forward
✔    Peace requires patience, compromise and more importantly active participation of all stake players. Thus, talking to only Taliban is a short-sighted policy.  
✔    To resolve conflict within Afghanistan, the battlefield needs to be isolated, i.e. external support to the terrorist activities needs to be abandoned. Also, the countries need to keep their respective interests aside, to build peace in the region.
✔    The US needs to make its policy vis-a-vis Afghanistan clear.
✔    India and Central Asian Republics can help in establishing peace in the region.
✔    More militancy is witnessed in the region where the state fails to deliver. Thus, administrative reforms within Afghanistan are the need of the hour.

Chabahar and Gwadar Ports, INSTC, TAPI Pipeline,