A special meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Afghanistan convened under India’s presidency last Friday, did not produce a new international consensus on arresting the tragedy triggered by Taliban’s military offensive with the full support of the Pakistan army. On Afghanistan, there is no unanimity among the five permanent members, which is critical for any consequential decisions by the world body. An ambitious China seeking to extend its regional footprint, and an opportunistic Russia that tags behind Beijing seem to support Pakistan’s game plan to reinstall the Taliban in Kabul. Given its special ties to the Pakistan army, London tends to be wobbly on the Taliban. The US, which spent much blood and treasure in rebuilding Afghanistan after ousting the Taliban from power in 2001, has ceded much ground by deciding to withdraw all its troops in Afghanistan by the end of this month. In Europe (represented by France which has a permanent seat in the UNSC) too there is a decline in political support for a continued Western military intervention in Afghanistan.
Although the UNSC discussion may not have moved the political needle on Afghanistan, it has laid bare the depth of the crisis there and the duplicity of the Taliban and Pakistan that talk peace and pursue war at the same time. Addressing the UNSC, the head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, Deborah Lyons, pointed to the “dangerous turning point,” in the nation. “Ahead lies”, she added, “either a genuine peace negotiation or a tragically intertwined set of crises: An increasingly brutal conflict combined with an acute humanitarian situation and multiplying human rights abuses.” That the Taliban could not have mounted the massive military operations on its own was the burden of the presentation by the Afghan envoy to the United Nations, Ghulam M Isaczai. He told the Council that more than 10,000 foreign fighters are in the country, including from a number of UN designated terror organisations, participating in the Taliban’s military offensive. He also pointed to long-standing Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan and Rawalpindi’s massive logistical support for the Taliban’s current military offensive in Afghanistan.
Although the world was optimistic about the peace talks in Doha ending the prolonged conflict in Afghanistan, the Taliban and Pakistan have merely used them to delay negotiations on devising a new political order in Afghanistan while stepping up their violent campaign to overthrow the legitimate government in Kabul. India must continue to stand with the people of Afghanistan, whose dreams for a peaceful future are being shattered. Delhi must continue to mobilise international opinion in all global forums as well as work with its close partners to mount pressure on Pakistan and the Taliban to stop fighting and start talking peace with Kabul.
This editorial first appeared in the print edition on August 9, 2021 under the title ‘Standing with Kabul’.