With the complete withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan scheduled to happen by September 11, India needs to seriously ponder the consequences, particularly that of the Taliban coming to rule that country. This, of course, will happen only if they defeat the democratically elected Afghan Government’s forces militarily. The question arises whether they can do so and, if they can, what would that mean for this country.
Militarily, the Afghan National Army, the ground-war arm of the Afghan National Security and Defence Forces (ANSDF), has, despite serious problems of desertions and unwillingness to enlist, become a battle-hardened force capable of confronting the Taliban and other terrorist organisations. Its commando units and special forces have been especially impressive. Further, 80 to 90 per cent of the air support, which has played a critical part in the ANA’s operations against the Taliban, is now provided by the fledgling Afghan Air Force (AAF).
The Taliban have doubtless established their sway over much of countryside and some cities, besides inflicting a number of severe defeats on Government troops. But at least some of the defeats at the beginning of 2020 were due to operational constraints — such as going on the defensive — the Trump administration imposed on them in the interest of its peace negotiations with the Taliban.
It had also arm-twisted the Afghan Government into conceding the Taliban’s demand of releasing 5,000 of its fighters from Afghan jails as a pre-condition for talks. Many of these fighters have taken up arms again despite the Taliban’s promise to the contrary.
Simply put, India must consider what it can do to prevent the Taliban from coming to power. The Taliban, fundamentalist Islamists who hate India pathologically, have close ties with terror outfits like the Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad and Hizbul Mujahideen.