This interview with an American journalist, Lara Logan, who has been reporting on Afghanistan for nearly 2 decades now and has been on the ground, is worth watching.
It is nearly an hour long but I would request people to take some timeout and watch it in full. It is indispensable if you want to get a sense of what has happened in Afghanistan.
There are a few important takeaways from this, as I see it.
First and the most important, the US was actively working towards the creation of the outcome that we see today. That it wanted to leave Afghanistan was already made known by the US a few years back. But the interesting and befuddling aspect is that the US was negotiating its exit plan with the Taliban while keeping the Afghan Govt. out of it. India was also kept out of it while China, Russia and Pakistan were part of it.
It looks pretty certain therefore that the US establishment had already decided that once it leaves, it will hand over the power in Afghanistan to Taliban and leave the Ashraf Ghani Govt. in the cold. So things have likely gone as per the script.
The second important takeaway is how much compromised the US Govt. policy, especially its foreign policy is. I have no idea if Trump was a compromised leader but he was certainly confrontational and ruffled quite a few feathers including that of China. On the other hand, Biden has been much more accommodating towards China. Biden, as stated in the interview, is just an expendable figurehead and a fall guy who gets to take all the blame and shame. It was also evident by the way Biden was selected as the Presidential candidate and then how he won the Presidential election, despite his old age and clearly evident lack of competence for the job, that there were powerful forces working behind the scenes who were deeply interested in Biden getting the top job.
One thing that had me scratching my head while watching an otherwise brilliant interview was when Lara described how influential the Pakistani lobby is in Washington and the Pentagon and how it was mainly responsible in making the US do the things it did in Afghanistan. I find it a little hard to believe for two reasons.
1. Pakistan’s main problem in Afghanistan was India and not the US. Clearly, if Pak was so influential with the US, why did it not lobby and get India out of Afghanistan or atleast diminish its influence. One might say, getting the US out of Afghanistan was the only way to get India out as well but it looks a very long winded way to get your thing.
2. Is it really possible that the Pakistani lobby is so powerful that it could dictate US foreign policy in Afghanistan ? Wouldn’t that be extraordinary ? Why not look for what is more obvious ?
What about the elephant in the room, China ? As Lara agrees, China would be the single most happy country with exit of the US. The rise of China has come about through a strong backing by the US and the interests of the US corporates and the CCP are likely to be aligned together since decades. Nothing can beat the US corporate lobby in Washington. Can it ? Pakistan is a Chinese lackey. It would do so as directed by China. Therefore, while Pakistan may have played its role in handling the Taliban, its role is unlikely to be more than that of a facilitator. The real player pulling the strings could be China and maybe Russia.
China has now a free hand in Central Asia and Afghanistan. It has unrivalled amount of money to through around and buy allegiances everywhere for its BRI project. Besides Pakistan, China had a 400 billion $ deal with Iran recently. And now the Taliban also seems very welcoming towards China.
The question for us Indians is – what has India been doing in all of this ? And did India have a plan all along or does it have any right now ? The US has certainly shown itself to be a very unreliable ally. That is an important lesson I hope New Delhi does not forget.