Foreign Policy Watch: India-Afghanistan

The Afghan Endgame and the US


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Taliban Peace Deal

Mains level : Restoration of democracy in Afghanistan

As the May 1 deadline for pulling out all American troops from Afghanistan nears, US President Joe Biden faces some difficult decisions.

Key tasks for the US before they exit

  • The U.S. could abide by the promise made in the U.S.-Taliban agreement signed in February 2020 to withdraw the last of the around 2,500 American Marines stationed in Afghanistan.
  • However, Mr Biden has said it would be tough given the levels of violence there.
  • The US could negotiate with the Taliban for an extension of the agreement, offering other incentives like the release of more prisoners and the delisting of sanctioned Taliban terrorists.
  • The other option is to scrap the 2020 agreement and back the Ashraf Ghani government to continue towards a negotiated settlement, even as US troops remain in Afghanistan to stabilize the security situation.

What is the US likely to do?

  • The US exit plan is still underway and that no decision on the length of stay or troop numbers have been made to this point, cleared the US Secy of Defence.
  • No U.S. troops have been targeted by Taliban militants in the past year, but violence against Afghan civilians, particularly women, journalists, students and activists has gone up manifold despite the peace agreement.
  • More than 3,000 civilians were killed in 2020.
  • The US has shown some impatience with the Ghani government as well, believing that it is dragging its feet on intra-Afghan negotiations that began last year in Doha but have stalled for the moment.

Plans for Ashraf Ghani

  • A US plan proposes that Mr Ghani step up negotiations with the Taliban for “power-sharing”, discuss principles of future governance and step aside eventually for a “more inclusive” or interim government. The
  • The tone of the letter seems to make it clear that the US is not in favour of completely scrapping the 2020 agreement.
  • Therefore, it is most likely to pursue the option of negotiating for an extension of the agreement, according to experts, as it builds other dialogue platforms.

Try this question from our AWE Initiative:

What is President Ghani’s plan?

  • Ghani has proposed his own peace plan.
  • It would involve a full ceasefire, inviting the Taliban to participate in early elections in Afghanistan, and then for Mr Ghani to hand over power to the elected government.
  • He also said no regional talks could be successful if they did not include India, which is a development partner and a stakeholder.

Where does India stand?

  • India’s position has been to back an “Afghan-owned, Afghan-led, Afghan-controlled” peace process, backing the elected government in Kabul, and it has not yet held talks with the Taliban directly.
  • As a result, its option remains to stand with the Ghani government and support the constitution that guarantees a democratic process and rights of women and minorities, over any plans the Taliban might have if they come to power.
  • At the same time, India has not foreclosed on the option of talking to the Taliban if it does join the government in Afghanistan.
  • India too has made it clear that it seeks to be an integral part of the process, as the outcomes will have a deep impact on India’s security matrix as well.

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