US To Pull Out Of Afghanistan Earlier Than Planned

US would be withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan before the planned date. The move comes in light of Coronavirus pandemic, which has made placing of troops in foreign nations harmful on economy as well as unsafe for the troops.

Crux of the Matter

US-Taliban Deal
On 29 February 2020, the US and Taliban signed an agreement that would see US withdraw its troops from Afghanistan. The first phase would see the number of troops decreasing from 12,000 to 8,600 by July. Complete withdrawal would be done by May 2021 under specified conditions. For the Taliban, the deal compels the group to act in the interest of peace while maintaining separation from Al-Qaeda.

However, the US is seeking earlier withdrawal of troops due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Besides affecting the economy with the burden of placing troops in distant nations, there is a threat of the soldiers contacting the virus as Pentagon has reported Covid-19 in around 50% of Afghan forces. Consequently, President Trump has planned to have the soldiers back by presidential elections. Instead of reducing numbers to 8,600 by July, the number has decreased to 8,500 already by May.


Local Situation
The agreement also compelled the exchange of around 6,000 prisoners between Afghanistan and Taliban. More importantly, a cease-fire was observed between the 2 forces on occasion of Eid. The step marked a severe reduction in civilian deaths, which has garnered worldwide appraisal.

India welcomes the understanding reached for a ceasefire in Afghanistan for three days during the Eid. We hope that this ceasefire would extend further and become permanent to address the dire humanitarian situation resulting from the coronavirus pandemic and pave the way for durable peace and stability to Afghans.

Ministry of External Affairs, India


Peace With India?
After recent social media posts claiming the Taliban’s imminent attack on Delhi for its stance on Kashmir, a Taliban spokesperson has refuted the claims, declaring Kashmir as “India’s internal affair”.

The statement published in the media about Taliban joining Jihad in Kashmir is wrong. The policy of the Islamic Emirate is clear that it does not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.

Suhail Shaheen, Spokesperson, Taliban

Nevertheless, experts have warned India to keep an eye on the Taliban as one of its supporters is Pakistan’s ISI, which claims Kashmir its own.

Afghanistan Before 2001

  • 1978: People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDA) replaces Govt in a coup allegedly backed by Soviet Union.
  • December 1978: Deal with Soviet Union to provide military assistance. Revolt ensued against Soviet interference and negation of Islamic faith by radical secularization.
  • 1979: Soviet invades Afghanistan. US retaliates by arming Mujahideen against Soviets as part of its “Cold-War”.
  • 1992: Civil war in Afghanistan.
  • 1996: Taliban, risen from Mujahideen funded by US-Pakistan-Saudi Arabia, attacks Afghanistan and gains control. Imposes orthodox Islamic rule.


US Enters Afghanistan

  • 2001: US launches an attack on Taliban after the 9/11 attacks. Temporary government set up in Afghanistan.
  • 2001-2009: Attacks on Afghanistan by resurgent Taliban.
  • 2009: President Obama shifts forces to Afghanistan.
  • 2014: Coalition of international forces withdraws, leaving a few troops to train Afghani forces.
  • 2017: Mutual aggression between US-Taliban continues
  • 2020: US-Taliban sign peace-agreement


US- A Timeline of Pull Outs

  • 2011: Obama announces withdrawal of 33,000 troops by 2012.
  • 2014: Obama announces complete withdrawal by 2016. Posits only 9,800 troops to remain beyond 2014.
  • 2019: Trump calls off peace talks amidst renewed Taliban attacks.
  • 2020: Trump orders phased removal of troops.

Curiopedia
  • In 2012, President of the United States, Barack Obama declared Afghanistan a major non-NATO ally. According to a 2012 BBC poll, the U.S. was the most favored country in Afghanistan.
  • The first recorded contact between Afghanistan and the United States occurred in the 1830s when Josiah Harlan, an American adventurer and political activist from the Philadelphia area of Pennsylvania, traveled to the Indian subcontinent with intentions of becoming the King of Afghanistan.
  • Zero Dark Thirty is a 2012 American thriller film directed by Kathryn Bigelow and written by Mark Boal. The film dramatizes the nearly decade-long international manhunt for Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden after the September 11 attacks. The film briefly showcases the American troops in Afghanistan who flew two stealth helicopters from Afghanistan into Pakistan to execute the most wanted terrorist at the time.

Gurudwara attacked in Kabul by Terrorists; 25 Killed

On 25th March 2020, 25 Sikhs were killed in a terror attack on a Gurudwara in Afghanistan’s Kabul. Islamic State (IS) has taken responsibility for the attack, however, some experts do not rule out the possibility of involvement of Pakistan’s Haqqani group which is backed by ISI.

Crux of the Matter

Persecution of Minority
The population of the minority community of Sikhs in Afghanistan has been dwindling at a fast rate, with only a couple of thousands of them remaining in Kabul.

On Wednesday, 25th March, 4 terrorists entered the Har Rai Sahib Gurudwara in Kabul at 7:45 AM Afghan time and opened fire. A Sikh local Mohan Singh who was in the Gurudwara while the attack began, said that there were gunshots followed by explosions, which he believes were hand grenades.

There were more than 100 people inside the Sikh temple, of which 25 fell victim to the terrorists and 10 were seriously injured. The Afghan Security forces reached the scene and rescued more than 80 people. After a 6-hour long standoff, the 4 terrorists were killed.

Thin Veil of the Real Attacker
Taliban issued a statement saying it had nothing to do with the attacks. Islamic State (IS) later claimed responsibility. IS stated that the attack was revenge against Indian actions in Kashmir. However, some experts have not debunked the notion that Pakistan’s ISI backed Haqqani group could be behind the attack. Leader of Haqqani Group, Sirajuddin Haqqani is also the Deputy Leader of the Taliban and both groups are allegedly funded by Pakistan’s ISI. Experts believe that behind the veil of various terror group names stands Pakistan.

Recent Geopolitical History
Agencies around the world condemned this terrorist attack. India introduced the Citizenship Amendment Act in December 2019 to give such persecuted minorities in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh a fast track towards Indian citizenship.

While the US-Taliban Peace Deal seems to be falling apart, terrorism continues in Afghanistan. Earlier this month, another minority community of Shia Muslims was targeted by a body of IS, resulting in the death of 32 people.

Curiopedia

Sikhism in Afghanistan is limited to small populations, primarily in major cities, with the largest numbers of Afghan Sikhs living in Jalalabad, Ghazni, Kabul, and to a lesser extent Kandahar. These Sikhs are Afghan nationals who speak Dari, Hindi and in their native Punjabi but also Pashto. Their total population is around 1,200 families or 8,000 members. There were over 20,000 Sikhs in Kabul in the 1980s, but after the start of the Civil War in 1992, most had fled. Seven of Kabul’s eight Gurdwaras were destroyed during the civil war. During the 1980s Soviet-Afghan War, many Afghan Sikhs fled to India, where 90% of global sikh population lives; a second, much larger wave followed following the 1992 fall of the Najibullah regime. Sikh gurdwaras (temples) throughout the country were destroyed in the Afghan Civil War of the 1990s, leaving only the Gurdwara Karte Parwan in Kabul. Under the Taliban, the Sikhs were a relatively tolerated religious minority, and allowed to practice their religion. However, the Sikh custom of cremation of the dead was prohibited by the Taliban, and cremation grounds vandalized. In addition, Sikhs were required to wear yellow patches or veils to identify themselves. They are centred today in Karte Parwan and some parts of the old city. There is no exact number of Sikhs in Kabul province. More Info

Dr. S. Jaishankar meets Afghan Envoy as US-Taliban Try to Iron Out A Peace Deal

Dr. S. Jaishankar

On February 14, a senior American official informed that the US and Taliban have agreed on a deal for a seven-day reduction of violence in Afghanistan which will apply across the country. In the backdrop of the deal, Dr. S. Jaishankar, Minister of External Affairs, has been active on the geopolitical front by meeting US envoy for Afghanistan and praising the peace deal.

Crux of the Matter

After more than a year of grueling talks between US officials and Taliban, both are seeking an end to a long war by having a full peace accord. The Taliban for a long time has been demanding the complete withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan but the officials say that any reduction in troops will depend on the militants sticking to their commitments made in the deal.

After unveiling the details of the agreement that included commitments from both the parties, the US hopes that this will lead to a full peace accord.

Unveiling the Deal
Approximately 12,000 to 13,000 US Military troops are currently present in Afghanistan who will be monitoring the reduction in violence to ensure that the Taliban upholds its commitments. A US official said, “We will be monitoring the situation and if the Taliban deliver on their commitments we have commitments, in terms of reduction of forces that are also specific.” Taliban will have to explicitly commit that it will ensure the removal of Al-Qaeda from Afghanistan and that it will fight the terrorist group Islamic State (IS). For this, the US and Afghanistan will sign an annex that will allow US to monitor territorial breaches and to share information on counterterrorism.

Geopolitical Arena
On the sidelines of the Munich conference, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has briefed Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on the deal with the Taliban. If the partial peace prevails then it is hoped that it could lead to the next stage of negotiations between the Taliban and the Kabul government. Also, India’s External Affairs Minister Dr. S Jaishankar met the US special envoy on Afghan reconciliation and the Saudi foreign minister to discuss regional and global issues.

These meetings of the EAM with delegates of the US and Afghanistan come at a crucial time when there is a deal in process between the US and the Taliban to reduce violence and withdrawal of American troops from war-torn Afghanistan. Dr. S.Jaishankar also met Defence Ministers of Australia and Singapore, Linda Reynolds and Ng Eng Hen respectively to discuss increased cooperation for working in the areas of security.

He also held meetings with the members of the Bundestag Foreign Affairs Committee to strengthen ties between Indian and the European Union.

On February 15, Dr. S.Jaishankar met US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to discuss the bilateral relationship ahead of US President Donald Trump’s visit to India on February 24 and 25. The Munich Security Conference which is the world’s leading forum for debate on international security policy was held from February 14-16, 2020.

Curiopedia

The Munich Security Conference is an annual conference on international security policy that has taken place in Munich, Bavaria since 1963. Over the past four decades the Munich Security Conference has become the most important independent forum for the exchange of views by international security policy decision-makers. Each year it brings together about 350 senior figures from more than 70 countries around the world to engage in an intensive debate on current and future security challenges. The list of attendees includes Heads of States, Governments and International Organizations, Ministers, Members of Parliament, high-ranking representatives of Armed Forces, Science, Civil society as well as Business and Media. More Info

Development of Chabahar Port to be Accelerated: India-Iran Foreign Diplomats Meet

India’s External Affairs Minister, S. Jaishankar, who is on a two-day visit to Iran, met Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and discussed the expedition of development of the Chabahar Port, which is being jointly built by India, Iran and Afghanistan.

Crux of the Matter
  • Following India’s adherence to USA’s sanctions on oil imports, Iran had hinted a hindrance in the timely development of Chabahar Port.
  • A spokesperson from Washington clarified that India has an exemption in adherence for developing Chabahar Port. The U.S. Official said, “The port acts as a lifeline to Afghanistan in terms for India to be able to export humanitarian supplies and potentially helping Afghanistan diversify its export opportunities.”
  • For India, the strategic location of Chabahar Port at Sistan-Baluchistan Province of Iran will serve as a gateway for trade and improved relations with Central Asia.
  • The Port is also seen as an alternative to Pakistan’s Gwadar Port, which is being developed by China, in a worst-case scenario – Pakistan denying entry to India.
Curiopedia

India-Iran-Afghanistan partnership – In 2016, India signed a deal with Iran entailing $8 billion investment in Chabahar port and industries in Chabar Special Economic Zone, including an aluminium smelter and a urea making facility. At Chabahar port is being developed a transit route to Afghanistan and Central Asia. India has already built a 240-km road connecting Afghanistan with Iran. Also in planning is a rail route connecting Chabahar with the India-promoted $11-billion Hajigak iron and steel mining project in central Afghanistan, as seven Indian companies in 2011 acquired rights to mine central Afghanistan’s Hajigak region, which contain Asia’s largest deposit of iron ore. The Government of India has pledged to Afghanistan to spend $2bn in developing supporting infrastructure including Chabahar to Hajigaj railway. All this will bring cargo to Bandar Abbas port and Chabahar port, and free Kabul from its dependence on Pakistan to reach the outer world, giving India access to Afghanistan and beyond to Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia and Europe via 7,200-km-long multi-modal North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC). More Info