Exiting from Afghanistan

THE WITHDRAWAL of foreign forces from Afghanistan took a leap forward as British and American troops handed over last of their bases to the Afghan authorities.

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Published: Mon 27 Oct 2014, 9:27 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 9:44 PM

With the timeline to exit from the war-torn country nearing its end, it is a good omen that peaceful transition is on the anvil. The lowering of Union Jack at Camp Bastion was followed with handed over of Camp Leatherneck, where the American forces resided, bringing to an end a decade-long episode of trial and error. With this handover, it is officially the end of combat operations in Afghanistan.

The transition luckily has come at a time when the country is more stable as far as political perspective is concerned, and the law and order situation too is much better than what it was at least a year ago. Moreover, the fact that Kabul has been successful in raising an indigenous army and geared up its intelligence brings credence to the phenomenon of assuming complete sovereignty. But the million-dollar question is are the local authorities competent enough to deter the reign of terror that is so deeply embedded in the body politick of the nation? The Taleban and the like are still in the woods, and have not been exterminated, per se. They have time and again exhibited their capability to knock on the doors of Kabul and bleed the nation at impunity. Last but not the least, the general political impression that they command and control the mindset of around 70 per cent of the population, which is Pakhtoon, underscores the irritants that are very much around.

Though President Ashraf Ghani, a Pakhtoon himself, like his predecessor Hamid Karzai — reigns supreme after winning a controversial election, the fact that Taleban are neither part of any political understanding nor they are on board as far as strategic paradox is concerned makes the exit of foreign forces a catch-22 situation. It is going to be a tough time for the Afghan nation without the foreign security cushion, which was flawed but somehow acted as a deterrent.

With Britain losing more than 450 soldiers and the Americans flying back around 2,349 body bags home, the exit leaves behind a legacy of death and destruction of its own. It remains to be seem how the Bilateral Security Agreement signed with the United States will come to fill the strategic void left behind by the departing coalition forces. But one thing is for sure, Afghanistan is out of the definition of a garrisoned country at the hands of foreign forces, and the withdrawal is a national moment of reckoning.

The onus is now on the dispensation in Kabul as well as the Western capitals, especially Washington, London and Brussels, to concentrate on the process of nation building and ensure that the strife-torn country doesn’t slip back into anarchy.

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