U.S., NATO troops pulling out of Afghanistan will raise concerns for India, say experts

Published - April 15, 2021 09:38 am IST - Washington

In the aftermath of the U.S. and the NATO withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan, India will have tremendous concern on the resurgence of the Taliban and its territory being used as a safe haven for terrorist, experts said.

U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced that all American troops would be withdrawn from Afghanistan by September 11 this year, thus bringing to end the country’s longest war, spanning across two decades. Following suit, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation will also pull out its troops from the war-torn country.

“Regional countries, especially India, will have tremendous concerns about the U.S. pullout from Afghanistan and the likelihood of a Taliban resurgence in the country,” Lisa Curtis, who was Deputy Assistant to the President and NSC Senior Director for South and Central Asia from 2017-2021 under the previous Donald Trump administration told PTI .

“When the Taliban controlled Afghanistan in the late 1990s, they welcomed militants and terrorists of all stripes to train, recruit, and fundraise from Afghanistan. Many of those militants, including the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, trained for operations in India, such as the 2001 attack on the Indian parliament,” Mr. Curtis said.

An eminent foreign policy and national security expert with over 20 years of service in the U.S. government, Mr. Curtis now is a senior fellow and director of the Indo-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) think-tank.

“Indian officials also remember the close cooperation between the Taliban and militants who in December 1999 hijacked an Indian airliner. India may seek to use its role in regional efforts to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan, like the recent UN effort, to press its goal of ensuring Afghan territory cannot be used by anti-India militants,” Mr. Curtis said.

“India will worry about Taliban controlled territory being a safe haven for terrorists again,” former Pakistan Ambassador to the U.S., Husain Haqqani, who is now Director for South and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute think-tank told PTI .

The real question now is whether after withdrawing its troops, the U.S. will continue to help the Kabul government and will the Afghan people be able to keep the Taliban at bay, Mr. Haqqani said.

The Taliban have shown no interest in peace and the Doha process only reinforced their belief that U.S. eagerness to leave Afghanistan outweighed its concerns about that country's future.

“India and Pakistan do not have the luxury of distance that the U.S. has and will remain involved in Afghanistan. Pakistan is too deeply tied to the Taliban to stop supporting them now though it should be concerned about the adverse impact Taliban ideology would further have on Pakistan,” Mr. Haqqani said in response to a question.

The Washington Post in a lead editorial asserted that the plans of Mr. Biden to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan will lead to disaster in the region.

“Mr. Biden has chosen the easy way out of Afghanistan, but the consequences are likely to be ugly,” The Washington Post said.

The New York Times said that stopping terrorism groups over the long term could be harder, an opinion also echoed by the The Wall Street Journal .

“The symbolic but arbitrary date shows the decision is driven less by facts on the ground than a political desire that is also a strategic gamble. History suggests U.S. interests will suffer,” The Wall Street Journal said in an editorial.

“The President’s exit means he will have to take responsibility for what happens next. We hope it doesn’t betray the great sacrifices so many have made,” the daily said.

The U.S. and the Taliban signed a landmark deal in Doha on February 29, 2020 to bring lasting peace in war-torn Afghanistan and allow U.S. troops to return home from America's longest war.

Under the U.S.-Taliban pact signed in Doha, the U.S. agreed to withdraw all its soldiers from Afghanistan in 14 months.

Since the U.S.-led invasion that ousted the Taliban after the September 11, 2001 attacks, America has spent more than $1 trillion in fighting and rebuilding in Afghanistan.

About 2,400 U.S. soldiers have been killed, along with tens of thousands of Afghan troops, Taliban insurgents and Afghan civilians.

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