Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Tuesday, August 4th, 2020

Relation Between US Interests and Expansion of Taliban

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Relation Between US Interests and  Expansion of Taliban

By 1989, mounting casualties, dissatisfaction among the troops and international pressure led to the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan. Further the power vacuum in Central Asia prevailed with the disintegration of Soviet Union and feuding among the ruling Mujahideen in Afghanistan. In the situation the United States of America was lured by the prospects of controlling the oil and natural gas resources of Central Asia as well as being right next to the underbelly of Russia and China. Now the US oil giants were pushed by the US government for humouring the Taliban to access the Central Asian oil and gas through pipelines that would touch the Indian Ocean through Afghanistan and Pakistan. Lures of financial gains and strategic needs combined to make the whole region very important for outside powers. The Taliban, which refers to itself as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, is a Sunni Islamic organization that operates in Afghanistan, a country in Central/South Asia. The Taliban emerged in 1994, taking advantage of the power vacuum that was left following the aftermath of the Afghan Civil War. The group was mainly composed of religious students in Pakistani madrassas (who had fought in the Soviet–Afghan War) under the leadership of Mohammed Omar. Thus, Central Asian leaders became obsessed with projected pipelines, potential routes and the geopolitics that surrounded them, which led some of them like Turkmenistan to deal even with the Taliban regime. The new US game started in the early 1990s especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Lures of regional and global powers
The energy and other resources of Central Asia attracted major regional and international powers. During the cold war days the US had been romancing religious Jihadi groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan. These were important to position US multinationals favourably, to control the considerable resources of the region and to complete the encirclement of the world’s major energy resources in the area. After the Soviet collapse, the United States sought to harness these groups to serve US geopolitical interests in energy–rich Central Asia. In between 1994-96, the CIA–ISI nexus and its arms pipeline marginalised more traditional tribal–based parties and moderated leadership in Afghanistan and catapulted the radical Islamists into the forefront of Afghan civil war. The US was not reluctant to forceful intervention, if deemed appropriate to achieve its interests.  The region, although could not compare with West Asia in terms of reserves, it was attractive to exploration and production (E&P). For instance, Turkmenistan, which borders the northwest of Afghanistan, holds the world’s third largest gas reserves and have an estimated six billion barrels of oil reserves. Enough, experts say, to meet American energy needs for the next thirty years.
In mid-1990s, in particular, America showed keen interest in the Caspian Sea region of Central Asia, which was estimated to have 200 billion barrels of untapped oil. The American oil giants–Enron and Unocal had been known for their interest in Caspian Sea region projects and were negotiating with the Taliban for permission to construct an oil pipeline through Afghanistan to Pakistan and out to the Arabian Sea. Enron had carried out a feasibility study for pipeline from Kazakhstan, through Afghanistan and Pakistan to the border of Malta for bringing this oil to the market.  In December 1997, a delegation of Taliban mullahs travelled to America and even met US State Department officials. George William Bush and Dick Cheney have both worked with oil business and have close ties with major corporations in the oil sector. Consumer countries in Europe, the US and Japan are already dependent on the Saudi-dominated Middle East Oil Producing European Countries (OPEC) suppliers for 40 per cent of the world demand for crude oil. The dependence on a single region will be dangerous for the US and her allies in the years to come. Thus, tapping in to the reserves in the Caspian Sea region was viewed as a strategic goal to meet the growing energy demand and to reduce the US dependence on oil from the Middle East. 
Bad effects of US-Taliban deal
Al-Qaeda, an international terrorist network, were granted sanctuary in Afghanistan on the condition that it did not antagonize the United States, but Osama bin Laden reneged on the agreement in 1998 when he orchestrated bombings of US embassies in East Africa. The episode was indicative of tensions that emerged between the two groups. The Taliban was fundamentally parochial while Al-Qaeda had its sights set on global jihad.  After the September 11, 2001 attacks, the U.S. under President George W. Bush made a request to the Taliban leadership to hand over Osama bin Laden, who was the prime suspect in the attacks.  The Taliban refused to hand bin Laden over, demanding evidence of his participation in the attacks. Consequently, the U.S., together with its NATO allies, launched the United States invasion of Afghanistan, code-named Operation Enduring Freedom, on October 7, 2001. By December 17 that year, the U.S. and its allies had driven the Taliban from power and begun building military bases near major cities across the country. The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was later created by the United Nations Security Council to train Afghan National Security Forces to oversee military operations in the country so as to prevent any resurgence of the Taliban group. The Taliban has launched numerous attacks on the Afghan forces, government facilities, and any organization that they believe are in alliance with the US.
The US has been on the ground and directly involved in the war for 18 years, with analysts describing the situation as a stalemate. Although al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan are now considered to be “diminished”, the war with the Taliban insurgents continues.  Ending the 18-year conflict has eluded former US presidents, and Donald Trump has said that he considers the war too costly. Similarities with the process to end the Vietnam War—America’s longest war prior to 2010—have been noted, which resulted in the Paris Peace Accords in 1973.
Challenges in present Afghanistan
Issues which are expected to arise during the negotiations include women’s rights; the 2004 Constitution of Afghanistan protects women’s freedom of speech and education, which had been suppressed under Taliban rule of Afghanistan. Khalilzad, Ghani, his rival for the presidency Abdullah Abdullah, and several other senior Afghan officials have all stated that these rights should be protected, and should not be sacrificed in a peace agreement.  The First Lady of Afghanistan, Rula Ghani, has been active in protecting women’s rights.  Continued violence on both sides remains an obstacle to a final peace agreement. While preliminary talks were going on, the Taliban continued to fight on the battlefield and launch terror attacks in the capital city, and also threatened the 2019 Afghan presidential election on September 28. According to US Air Force statistics released in February 2020, the US dropped more bombs on Afghanistan in 2019 than in any other year since 2013.  The US ambassador to Afghanistan warned that a peace agreement could risk the Taliban coming back into power, similar to the aftermath of the 1973 Paris Peace Accord.

Dr. Rajkumar Singh is Professor and Head of P.G.Department of Political Science, BNMU, West Campus, P.G. Centre, Saharsa-852201. Bihar, India. Email- rajkumarsinghpg@yahoo.com

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