What will be America’s new strategy for Afghanistan?
If you don’t like how the tables are set, simply turn over the tables. It is an old saying which appropriately defines the current US-Afghan conundrum and its relation with the new great game. Going into the specifics of the ongoing scenario would be a cliché as the details have been mentioned in almost every newspaper and article. But the problem no one is discussing is that is the United States this naive to get itself humiliated in such a way?
The interesting part of the story is that the US wants itself to be scolded and mocked internationally because no one really knows what the game is. In this way, it could kill many birds with one stone.
Why did the US lose the war?
It would be immature to consider the United States has lost the war owing to its haphazard withdrawal though it took 20 years for it. However the real essence of the problem is not Afghanistan, it never had been actually. The US military machine and political pundits erstwhile had a view to maintaining their stronghold and presence in Afghanistan because it would give Americans leverage on all sides of the Afghan border e.g in South Asia and Iran and also for containing China and Russia.
Afghanistan acted as a central point of this pivot to Asia policy of the US but it was the new generation of strategists that turned the tables. The strategists of the new great game came up with an idea that why to ensure the US presence to contain China and Russia when anarchy can do the work just like it did in Yemen and Syria.
That is where the real problem occurs. For a long, scholars like Henry Kissinger (in “World order”) and Francis Fukuyama (in his “End of history”) have tried to label the US world order as permanent and unbreakable. Unfortunately, these speculations met with turbulence when China became an economic might, threatening the old American world order.
The sleeping giant, as Napoleon had predicted centuries before, shook the world to its foundations by using the tools of the capitalist world itself. The final nail in the coffin of the United States hegemony was the belt and road initiative (BRI) which has now become a direct threat to the American-controlled neoliberal world order.
Is the US threatened by Chinese projects?
The United States and its allies like India have always been uncomfortable with the idea of BRI as it will not only ensure Chinese economic prosperity but also its political influence which can isolate and limit the United States to its own continent. The presence of the US military and war machine in Afghanistan was one way or the other benefiting China to continue the most important flagship project of the BRI known as China Pakistan economic corridor (CPEC).
In other words, the US decided to pull out its forces because its presence was in no way limiting the Chinese and Russian influence in the region so it had to adopt another strategy to leave a security vacuum and to make this region full of anarchy and chaos in which CPEC or any other transit trade initiative would fail. In such a region where everyone would be fighting against everyone, the US could then effectively manipulate and block the Russian and Chinese ambitions to join the warm waters of the Indian Ocean.
This can be easily understood by the recent surge of ISIS and Daesh attacks in Afghanistan who are now trying to sabotage the newly established Taliban regime. By supporting such nonstate actors the US has historically been changing regimes but this time the aim is to annihilate the whole region so that the Chinese World order and Russian resurgence could be prevented.
Effects on Pakistan
In this new great game, the effects on Pakistan can be lethal and beyond imagination if not timely and sanely addressed. The United States has created an illusion that it has been defeated and exhausted in Afghanistan which is true to some extent. But the propagation of this idea may one way or the other services the United States’ interests in the region. And some of our scholars and politicians felt in the trap of this American illusion.
The unstoppable Chinese juggernaut can only be stopped by creating confusion and chaos in South Asia and the US now knows it very well. The attacks on Chinese nationals in Pakistan through various means as in the Dasu incident amply justifies the importance of CPEC for China in making this world multipolar in a true sense. This stands as the biggest challenge to the US.
Hence, the crux of the matter is not to fall into the American trap! Another thing that is worth mentioning is that the onus is now on the Taliban regime, whether they stick to Pakistan or not. If they do, Afghanistan can be safely be pulled out from the collateral damage of the new great game and if they do not comply with the Pakistani establishment then destruction and civil war await in the whole region.
The writer is the Political Advisor to Chairman Senate Commerce Committee and FBR Reform committee. He is also the founder of POLITICA-think tank and a student of Masters in Political Science and international affairs at the University of Punjab.