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Afghanistan future after US pullout: Challenges and prospects

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Afghanistan, famously known as grave yard of empires, has remained battle ground for world powerssince the Cold War days which has left the country politically unstable, economically poor and socially underdeveloped.United States withdrawal from Afghanistanand the consequent takeover of Kabul by Taliban has put the country and the Taliban at critical juncture. Now the Taliban face challenges of forming government, constitution, foreign and economic policy which will be crucial in deciding the fate of country. The future course of action by incumbent Talibanwill either lead the country on the path of development after the decades long fatal war which has causedpoverty, illiteracy and instabilityand loss of lives or start a new great game for world powers.
Doha agreement which was signed by US and Talibanto bring an end to the decades long warincludes pledges and a guarantee by Taliban that the Afghan soil will not be used against US or his allies. International community has raised concerns of militants’infiltration in the Afghan region which could create unrest in the country and could be breeding ground for terrorist outfits whichmay pose threat to the security of US and international community.On the other hand, NATO has warned Taliban that they still have the capability to strike from distance if the Afghan soil became breeding ground for Al-Qaeda or other militant groups. Taliban has strength of about 80,000 guerilla soldierswhich need extensive militarytraining and a counter-terrorism policy to be able tofight terrorist outfits and control the security matters of the country.
Moreover, international communityis expecting from Taliban to form an inclusive government which has representation of ethnic groups and minorities but the earlier caretaker government formed by the Taliban had hardly any representation of other groups which invited criticism from countries around the globe.Prime Minister Imran Khan in SCO conference held at Dushanbe on 18thSeptember, 2021 has said that the dialogue with Afghanistan has been initiated on the formation of inclusive government.
Similarly, Russia and China have also stressed the need for broad based government in Afghanistan. With the efforts of regional countries, Taliban has recently included new members in their interim government who belong from Hazara community which is a welcoming step. Nevertheless, Taliban still needs to demonstrate to the world that they have changed by including women, non-Taliban members from minorities and ethnic groups to change international perception about them.Taliban cannot afford to face international pressure in the form of sanctions which can cripple the economy and make it difficult for them to run the affairs.Hence, a national government which has representation of ethnic groups, minorities and women can lead the country towards peace and stability.
Another challenge that Taliban face is of putting the economy on right direction. Afghanistan’s economy had been struggling for years, the worst droughts, COVID-19 and sudden ascent of the Taliban has further deteriorated the economic situation. Further, Afghanistan’sforeign reserves have been frozen by the US and assistance from the IMF/World Bank suspended to pressurize Taliban to fulfill the promises made in Doha Agreement. According to Chatham House, if the assets remain frozen for a longer period of time it will cause a massive contraction in government financing and collapse of essential services such as health and education.
United Statesshould not punish or starve the country out but help the Afghans out of the crisis to avoid future bloodbaths, humanitarian crises, and refugee surges. Moreover, Taliban government needs to show flexibility and be open to international hopes to secure the flow of funds and aid to avert an economic bankruptcy.
The international community and Afghanistan’s neighboring countries are keen to bring stability in Afghanistan specially Russia and China who wants to establish foothold after US withdrawal. It also gives China opportunity to include Afghanistan in Belt and Road Initiative which would provide the later with an opportunity to uplift economy and contribute in Afghanistan’s development.
Lastly, the international community has withheld recognition to Taliban’s government until they comply by the pledges made under Doha agreement.Hence, it is time that Taliban act wisely to accommodate the aspirations and expectations of its own people and world communityby respecting human and women rights.