The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)stands as the most ideal forum to bring all South Asians together, and work to prevent Afghanistan from descending into chaos and disorder. Collective action will be more effective to secure commitments that Afghanistan will never ever allow its territory to attack others
The 9/11 terrorist attacks on America came at a time when the United States enjoyed unlimited power. In October 2001, the US launched military attacks in Afghanistan "to disrupt the use of Afghanistan as a terrorist base of operations and to attack the military capability of the Taliban regime". Enduring freedom was the name given to this operation.
The 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks marked the end of the war on terrorism. US President Joe Biden in a speech said it is up to the "Afghan leaders to come together, fight for themselves, fight for their nation." On September 7, Taliban hoisted their flag over the presidential palace and unveiled their interim government: all male, no women, and overwhelmingly Pushtuns.
The Taliban will have to take quick, visible and credible steps to convince the international community about their adherence to international obligations, including respecting human rights for women and minorities.
International recognition will be significant even for humanitarian supplies and aid.
The Afghanistan experience shows no armed approach to nation-building.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that using force to "remake a country is beyond our means and capacity".
Methods "to promote stability and human warfare" are needed.
Political scientist Minxin Pei identified requirements for the success of regime change that include strong national identity, a high degree of ethnic homogeneity and relative socio-economic equality. None of this existed in Afghanistan.
As the U.S. President prepares to convene a Leaders' Summit for Democracy on December 9 and 10, to "galvanise commitments and initiatives across three principal themes: defending against authoritarianism, fighting corruption and promoting respect for human rights", America will have to show the power of example as the President has reiterated time and again, "We will lead not merely by the example of our power, but by the power of our example."
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi says the US must refrain from "creating more problems and dumping the burden on regional countries".
Though it is not yet clear if China will "step into the void" created by the US withdrawal, the Taliban are reported to have offered a red carpet for China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
China seems determined to pursue cooperation with the Taliban.
The Taliban would need U.S. goodwill, support and cooperation for peace, stabilisation and reconstruction in Afghanistan. Their meeting with the CIA director and asking the US to retain its embassy in Kabul provide some signs of the evolving scenario. It is no secret that the Taliban survived essentially in Pakistani sanctuaries.
Reports indicate signs of al Qaeda fighters returning to Afghanistan.
Given the past, the West should not abandon Afghanistan like it did in 1989. The international
community should work together to ensure that terrorist groups are not allowed to flourish on Afghan soil.
The return of the Taliban to Kabul is a wakeup call for the most geo-strategically significant South Asian region.
Geopolitical trends put India and Pakistan in opposite directions.
Afghanistan's location and rare mineral deposits
at the crossroads of Central, South and Southwest Asia makes it geopolitically attractive for all powers. Afghanistan has been the termed as "the graveyard of empires".
South Asia's unity in diversity is its strength. With obscurantist fundamentalists in Kabul, rising ultranationalism and elected authoritarianism in the region, traditional ethnic identities may stage a comeback and fuel rivalries in diverse societies compounded by repeated interstate wars and intrastate conflicts. Afghanistan descending into civil war is a worst-case scenario for neighbours, the region and the world.
For India, the Taliban's return is a strategic setback.
The takeover threatens to raise India-Pakistan tensions.
The Economist writes: "India must face the prospect of a new generation of Muslim Kashmiris inspired by the Taliban's fanaticism."
Before the geopolitical situation goes extraordinarily dangerous with the possibility of engulfing the entire region, countries in the region have to come together to save South Asia.
The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)stands as the most ideal forum to bring all South Asians together, and work to prevent Afghanistan from descending into chaos and disorder.
Collective action will be more effective to secure commitments that Afghanistan will never ever allow its territory to attack others.
It seems withdrawal from Afghanistan was a tactical shift to focus on the larger objectives. A shift in geopolitics in the Indo-Pacific is distinctly visible in the form of a new trilateral security partnership – AUK- US, between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States. This arrangement is to help Australia build a nuclear-propelled submarine. President Biden calls it "investing in our greatest source of strength – our alliances", moving from "relentless war" with "relentless diplomacy"
–covering a wide range of diplomatic and technological collaboration, from cybersecurity to artificial intelligence.
Washington is hosting leaders of the QUAD – Australia, India and Japan on September 24 in person for the first time, seeking to boost cooperation, focus on 'China's growing assertiveness, Afghanistan, climate change and supply chain resiliency'.
9/11 showed that the source of threats to the international community in the 21st century originates not from powerful states but from weak and vulnerable states. As Nepal sits strategically between two emerging global powers – China and India, which are the focus of the global power shift, Nepal's peace and stability is not only vital for its neighbours but for the world at large.
Bhattarai is a former ambassador
A version of this article appears in the print on September 24 2021, of The Himalayan Times.