by Brig Arun Bajpai (Retd)

Recent announcement of American president Trump that he is reducing 7000 American troops from Afghanistan , has taken not only India by surprise but also American Pentagon and even Congress men of US who have passed a non-binding bill to restrict Trump, not to implement it. However it is more or less a surety that President Trump, who came to power in 2016 on the promise that he will bring back all American troops involved in various wars and skirmishes in foreign countries , is looking at his re-election prospects by fulfilling his promises. He is not bothered about security scenario now confronting the world. In Syria also he has announced that he is bringing back 2000 American troops involved there is support of Kurds against President Assad of Syria and ISIS.

It is true that this war against terror, Which American President Bush started immediately after 9/11 and attacked Taliban in 2001, then ruling Afghanistan, because they were sheltering Osama Bin Laden , has been open ended and has lasted for almost seventeen plus years till now . After losing 2400 American troops in Afghanistan war against Taliban and 999 billion dollars, American people are fully tired of this war. More so after 2011, when American troops could locate Osama Bin Laden, the main enemy of American people , at the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad, Where Pakistani Army and ISI were hiding him and where Americans killed him in a daring raid .Both American President Barrack Obama and now Donald Trump during their election campaigns had promised American people that they will bring back American troops from Afghanistan. Obama however could not do it in both his tenures and it looked like Trump will also not be able to live up to his promise when he said that “conditions on the ground –not arbitrary time tables will guide the American strategy from now onwards”. However with this announcement of withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan it is clear that Trump is more worried now about his re-election then the security or the ground reality. New York Times which is generally anti Trump has come out with an editorial now saying that if Trump does not bring back American troops from Afghanistan then American Congress should repeal the permission granted to then American president Bush in 2001 to wage a war in Afghanistan. So it is a truth now that American troops are on the withdrawal mode.

American intentions started getting clearer when they helped Afghan Taliban to open a consulate at Doha in Qatar and started dealing with it directly , even without Pakistan who has been the mentor of Taliban. Demand of the Taliban all along have been that all foreign troops must withdraw from Afghanistan and that they must have power sharing in Afghan Government . As per them they want 2/3 power. However it is known to all that once they get a foot hold in Governance of Afghanistan , then they will see to it that they get full power with current President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani dumped. America has more or less agreed to their demands . Taliban has agreed to American demand that Taliban will not encourage or sponsor any of the terror groups operating in Afghanistan. However it is common knowledge that Taliban will not stick to its promises once American troops withdrawal is complete.

Before we proceed further, it is important that we know what Afghan Taliban is all about. Basically Afghan Taliban are composed of Pashtun Tribe of Afghanistan who form 52% of Afghan population extending from 2500 km long Durand line, forming border between Pakistan and Afghanistan to almost up to Kabul the capital of Afghanistan. from Kabul onwards reside 48% of Afghan population composed of Tajik, Hazara and Uzbek tribes.10% of Pakistani population extending from Durand line inwards into Pakistan is also of Pashtuns who are known as Pakistani Pashtuns. Actually bulk of these Pakistani Pashtuns reside in their NWFP province now known as Pakhtoonkhwa and Tribal Areas. During Russian invasion of Afghanistan millions of Afghan Pashtun refugees crossed over to Pakistan. After Russia decided to withdraw from Afghanistan in 1979 , Pakistan formed Taliban from these Afghan Pashtuns and put them back in Afghanistan with Pakistani Armed Forces manning tanks, fighter aircraft and artillery. They over a period of time recaptured Afghanistan . Taliban ruled Afghanistan for three years and gave shelter to Osama Bin Laden who attacked America on 9/11. 

Now let us concentrate on the issue that should India be worried that Americans are withdrawing from Afghanistan and pro Pakistan ,Afghan Taliban will again rule Afghanistan giving rise to Indian fears that Once Taliban is able to consolidate itself in Afghanistan, then it will target India and sponsor jehad against India along with the jihadi organisations pampered by Pakistan. However if the detailed analysis of last 17 years of Afghan War is carried out , it comes out loud and clear that in this entire duration ,Afghan Taliban has not acted against Indian interests. all the jihadi attacks against Indian consulates and other interests in Afghanistan have been carried out, not by Afghan Taliban but By Pakistan pampered and sponsored Pashtun organisation Haqqani Network from Tribal Areas of Pakistan and Punjabi jihadi organisation Lashkar -e-Toiba. Truth is that Afghan Taliban has supported Indian efforts of Afghan Rural development programmes. India enjoys tremendous good will in rural Afghanistan due to its good work done and spending of 3 billion dollars on Afghan uplift. Afghan Taliban is not going to buy wrath of rural Afghanistan if they disturb Indian interests. In other words Indian foreign policy mandarins must think on the lines that they have a Pakistan problem and not Afghan problem.

Pakistani Pashtuns who form 10% of its population are not a homogeneous crowd. Pakistani Army has been very selective in dealing with them. While Pakistani Army is waging a full-fledged war against Tehrik-e-Pakistan -Taliban, using f -16 fighter jets and Tanks to sort it out, since this organisation wants to control Pakistan itself , it is sponsoring Haqqani Network because they attack Indian and American interests in Afghanistan. Both are Pashtun organisations. Pakistani media is full of blame that it is India which is funding and arming Tehrik -e-Pakistan Taliban while India denies it. Task for India after American withdrawal is cut out. It must quietly propagate that Pashtun part of Afghanistan and Pashtun part of Pakistan which are adjacent on both sides of Durand line must unite to form a new country Greater Pashtun- stan. This will be liked by all Pashtuns who had raised this type of demand earlier also. This will ensure that Pakistan will be fighting its own battle of survival then directing attention of Taliban towards India. Those people in India who are living in pipe dream that one day Pakistan will be our friend should forget about it once for all, specially after Pakistan selling its heart and soul to China in CPEC. While India cultivates Pashtuns, at the same time we must go all out to woo Iran. To hell with America and its sanctions on Iran. we must post haste develop our entry into Afghanistan via Chabahar port of Iran by passing Pakistan. Also in conjunction with Iran and Russia , India should also try and revive Northern Alliance of old. A lot has to be done by Indians and the time is quite less.

Brig Arun Bajpai (Retd) is a distinguished Defence and Strategic Analyst. Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of IDN. IDN does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same