The world leaves Afghanistan in lurch
AFGHANISTAN is in a state of stupor. The public basic services are not being delivered. The financial sector is paralyzed. The economy is in free fall.
The hunger and destitution is galloping and enveloping the most vulnerable Afghans. In brief, the state is collapsing and human disaster looms large.
Many opine that emerging situation is poised to kill more number of Afghans than killed with bullets and bombs in the last two decades. The threat is ore real than imagined as a statement of Afghan Taliban also subscribes to a deepening crisis in Afghanistan.
He urged Washington to heed a call by the UN chief to unlock funds, frozen in the United States, as the humanitarian crisis deepens.
Last Thursday, UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, called on the US to take the lead and prevent “the nightmare unfolding in Afghanistan” by releasing the capital. The irony is that the brewing crisis is not the consequence of calamity of any kind but man-made by the US and its allies.
It is directed to make resounding victory of Afghan Taliban over them pale which confounded their all estimates to keep influence in Afghanistan and make them fail to run the country as its rightful ruler or, in return, comply with their self-specified demand of an inclusive and representative government which respects rights of all Afghans and provides for equal rights of women. Under this garb, they would acquire the leverage to serve their strategic interests in the region.
The means employed are: Freezing all Afghan assets, blocking all types of aid except emergency aid in dribs and drabs for so-called humanitarian purposes, hands off policy to keep basic public services and financial services stranded and denying de jure recognition of Afghan Taliban government internationally to keep them off balanced in order to inhibit their efforts to establish law, order and stability in the country effectively.
This vividly reminds a stark reality of the realpolitik that politics possesses no kind heart rather, a cruel heart. This knows no compassion or morality and even in face of an impending human catastrophe, it remains unmoved. Only own interests reign supreme.
The arguments that are advanced to erect and keep the grid-lock around Afghanistan include that they warned Afghan Taliban repeatedly, not to gain power at Kabul through military means rather than political settlement.
Such a course would make them an international pariah starved of requisite resources to run the country. Moreover, as per their yardstick, Afghan Taliban are not doing enough to ensure provision of human rights to all Afghans including the women.
This is not what, wrapped in altruism that lied underneath. It is their exclusive interests as given above that guide their policy and conduct. It is one side of the story. Other side is the part of regional countries. It was expected that the vacuum created by the abrupt troop’s withdrawal of the US and its allies, would be filled by regional countries with China and Russia in lead. After some glimpses, its hope is fading fast.
Except Pakistan, no other country has made any efficacious contribution politically and financially to salvage Afghanistan.
No troika meeting, no troika plus gathering and no mutual interaction in between could generate international headlines.
Similarly, being paltry, financial assistance was of also a tiny impact. Out of a sense of hubris, in a condescending tone, the US even thanked Pakistan for hosting an extraordinary session of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers to discuss situation in Afghanistan while also reserving praise/acclaim for itself that it was a prime example of our collective determination and action to help those most in need.
It amounts to rubbing salt on the wounds nevertheless, it is not easily comprehensible that despite being incentivised to do so, regional countries opted for low-key roles.
Notably for China when seen in the context of its BRI in general and its flagship project, CPEC in particular, located, adjacent to Afghanistan and quest for rare earths and minerals lying locked in mountains of Afghanistan.
Possible reasons for Chinese decision to opt out are its non-confrontational mindset, no quest for political global domination but only economic upward pursuits on formula of win-win as part of a common human history, Chinese own calculus of international rivalry if inevitable or its naivety at global chessboard being novice and its sensitivities with relation to possible nexus between Uighurs/Turkestan Islamists and Afghan Taliban.
In tandem, economic ascendency in the world also brings global political influence which is surely contested by other competing powers. At present, the US is not prepared to digest Chinese economic upward move as before because now it feels threatened that China has started eating its lunch.
It has declared China as its Number One enemy and marshalling its resources worldwide to counter it though China thinks otherwise. It has called upon the US not to construct an imaginary enemy out of China. This may be borne out by the fact that realpolitik is not based on lofty ideals of puritans.
There are only 268 years in human history when men have not fought. The causes of conflict were food, material, wealth, power and prestige.
History could change its form but not the substance. Now there are cold wars because hostilities have to remain cold owing to mutual devastating nuclear deterrence nevertheless, there are very expensive wars.
The great game is on from the US side. Probable battle grounds are along the global pathways for outward move of China worldwide. Main one is the road component of CPEC. Being adjacent to it, Afghanistan was the opportunity for China to show leadership.
This would have not only earned goodwill of the region for China but also given assurance of great incentives while being in its company. No one could have their own calendar. It is the time which determines destiny. As a result of indifference of regional countries, Afghanistan has been left alone to the advantage of the US. It is back as a major player in the region.
— The writer, a retired Lt Col, is a senior columnist based in Islamabad.