Strategic impact of fleeing Afghans | By Prof Dr Muhammad Khan

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Strategic impact of fleeing Afghans

WHILE thousands of Afghans have already fled the country after taking over of Taliban, United Nations has anticipated that by the end of year 2021, “half a million Afghans could flee the country.”

Surprisingly despite deadly blasts near Kabul airport which killed more than 180 people thousands of Afghans are still stranded in and around Kabul airport for going anywhere out of their homeland. United States have so far evacuated over 115000 Afghans and Britain over 15000 people out of Afghanistan through their flight operations.

The BBC estimates that there have been more than 300,000 Afghans nationals affiliated with United States military operations and other administrative assignments of US in various parts of Afghanistan in last two decades; 2001-2021.

Indeed, this number could be more than triple the BBC estimates. Since in last two decades, US military and civilian contractors were guided, assisted and devotedly supported by millions of Afghans, otherwise, it could not have been possible for the foreign forces to stay in a hostile country like Afghanistan.

From United States, all such people were promised the US visa, in case of any regime change, which happened so abruptly that even US has not predicted such a time-line. On their part, Taliban has announced amnesty for all Afghan nationals even those who helped the US military in last twenty-years.

Whereas the Taliban taking-over of Afghanistan has been made possible through their prolonged-struggle and ceaseless fight against foreign occupation the phenomenon of fleeing Afghans has raised many questions about the long-term consequences.

Apparently, the fleeing process of Afghan nationals looked as accidental and chaotic, but in reality it is well planned with enduring implications for the future of Afghanistan.

Yes, the time calculation of Taliban taking-over has made the process as messy and jumbled. In order to understand the future consequences of the fleeing Afghans, there is a need to understand that, US is not leaving Afghanistan happily and at will.

Rather US has been forced-out by the agonizing pressure of Taliban in Afghanistan and disagreeable protracted military operations amongst its own masses.

Indeed, these people are fleeing under hysteria of Taliban take-over therefore there is a concealed sense of fright, panic and uncertainty among them despite the general amnesty, announced by Taliban.

There are three possible consequences and strategic impacts of the fleeing Afghans. Firstly, there will be an immediate effect on the routine administrative functioning of the Government.

Majority of the fleeing Afghans consists of those people who were experts of various fields were acting as linchpins of their respective institutions, organizations and departments. Sudden departure from their respective work places and fleeing away will impede the routine governmental functioning under Taliban rule.

In the absence of experts of various fields, the efficiency of Taliban Government will be severely hampered. In a way, it is a deliberate attempt of failing the Taliban Government and exposing them to masses and international community.

Secondly, it is great move towards brain drain in Afghanistan. Over 80% of those fleeing the country consists of literate class, involved in the systematic functioning of various departments and institutions.

In a way, they were the assets of their organizations; key personnel for entire Afghan masses and state functioning.

Most of those who fled the country include; doctors, engineers, pilots, educationists, technical and skilled manpower, the nucleolus staff indeed. They may a find a job abroad in various countries of their placements; however their replacement will be a big issue for the future Afghan Government. These people were trained and reached over the current level of expertize after lot experiences.

Now they were to train their juniors and new intakes for an orderly support of the system in various fields of the country. Their evacuation, as the American calls it will be a huge brain drain for the Afghanistan.

Thirdly, the most perilous aspect of the fleeing Afghans is their future and strategic usage against Taliban or any future Afghan set-up.

This is abundantly clear from the dedication of United States and NATO countries that they had to bring in additional troops to evacuate these fleeing people who are still Afghan nationals. Most of them were given US visas in the last one year; after US-Taliban Agreement of February 29, 2020.

Besides, many of them were moved out by US and NATO plans even without having visas; based on their physical recognition and affiliation cards. It is added that, U.S and NATO officials were found more concerned about the evacuation of these fleeing Afghans than their own men in uniform and contractors.

This entire exercise cannot be in vain, U.S would always like to guard its strategic interest in the region and these people will act as instruments in any future scenario.

Henry Kissinger, the former US Secretary of State has declared the hasty US military pull-out as an American “failure in the tragic turn of events in Afghanistan”.

He advocates that the truth that, US military lost strategic focus in Afghanistan despite a protracted military deployment for two decades. Indeed, US had conceived multiple strategic objectives at the time of its invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

The fleeing Afghans may be the last ditch effort of US strategic planners to safeguards U.S strategic interests which otherwise could not be attained while being the sole occupying power for twenty long years.

— The writer is Professor of Politics and IR at International Islamic University, Islamabad.

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