June 12, 2024



  • The announcement by President Joe Biden that the US will withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, has sent tremors through the region’s fault-lines.

Why United States is pulling out

  • The withdrawal is inconsonance with President Trump’s America First rhetoric. According to Trump, United States has been wasting its “blood and treasure” on distant conflicts, instead of rebuilding itself. In the 17th year since its inception in 2001, the Afghanistan conflict is the US’s longest running war & has had huge economic as well as human costs. Despite prolonged investment of financial and human resources, the political solution is nowhere in sight and this has resulted in growing scepticism within the United States administration over the futility of military involvement.

Consequences of withdrawal:

  • Impact on the peace process: A strong U.S. military presence in Afghanistan is needed to bolster diplomatic peace efforts. U.S. officials are currently engaged in talks with the Taliban. However, the withdrawal at this time will reduce the incentive for the Taliban to strike a deal.
  • Fall of the democratic government & Resurgence of Taliban: There are a large number of fence sitters in the factitious polity of Afghanistan that don’t cross over to Taliban’s side because the National Unity Government is seen to have the backing of United States force. Hence, symbolic presence was seen to be necessary, as observed in the US’s Af-Pak policy in 2017. With the U.S. presence gone, the Taliban – with support from Pakistan & limited assistance from Russia and Iran – might seize all the remaining cities in the country that it currently does not control.
  • Breeding ground for terrorism: A precipitous U.S. exit would allow Afghanistan to emerge as epicentre of global terror, as during the 1990s & would only embolden other transnational terror organizations like Islamic State Khorasan (the Islamic State’s local province), Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (al-Qaeda’s local affiliate) and Haqqani Network to operate freely inside Afghanistan.
  • Poor capacity of Afghan forces: With the withdrawal of forces, the missions now underway, including training Afghan forces, advising them in the field, and waging an air campaign, against the Taliban and other militant groups, will face challenges. It will reduce the willingness of chronically under strength Afghan forces to fight.
  • Regional instability: The withdrawal might further cement regional instability between nuclear powers India and Pakistan. An Islamist regime in Afghanistan would make Pakistan a central player in the country.
  • Refugee crisis: The civil unrest might lead to a mass exodus of Afghans trying to flee the country could trigger another refugee crisis

Consequences for India:

  • A destabilized and Talibanized Afghanistan might lead to upsurge of violence in Jammu and Kashmir & can be used as a staging post for launching attacks on the rest of India, as had been the case in late 1990s (IC 814 hijacking).
  • There is also an imminent security threat to India’s investments & developed infrastructure in Afghanistan.
  • Since India is increasing its physical presence in the region through connectivity projects like Chabahar, INSTC etc., an adverse national government will halt the connectivity efforts, increase the refugee crisis and will have a major impact on India’s energy security and regional ties in the Middle East.
  • United States isolationism through non-interventionist foreign policy could open gates to Chinese military intervention in Afghanistan.
  • India must start preparing for the inevitable geopolitical turbulence, including the resurgence of the Islamic State and the potential return of the Taliban to power in Kabul.

Way Forward:

  • Over 17 years of United States presence in Afghanistan,India was not able to use the opportunity to achieve strategic objectives. India has been hesitant on using the instruments of hard power – weapon systems & platforms – due to fear of being interpreted as adversarial by neighbours. India must step beyond conventional and conservative diplomacy to give monetary and material assistance to the Afghans more proactively.
  • India needs to use the goodwill it has earnedand the links it has established to cement the anti-Taliban forces, without interfering in Afghanistan’s internal affairs.
  • Domestically, India needs to increase its military presencein the border areas, develop cooperation among intelligence and military organization and modernize the armed forces.
  • India has to check radicalizationin the country through awareness camps through social media and community engagement.
  • A more nuanced Pakistan policy has to be adoptedin order to fight a better positioned Pakistan in the region.

Dialing Mains:

Question: As the last American troops begin to leave Afghanistan it could have implications for India. Discuss. (8 Marks, 120 words ). 

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