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HindustanTimes Fri,24 Oct 2014
Calling the movers early
Anirudh Bhattacharyya, Hindustan Times
March 21, 2014
First Published: 22:51 IST(21/3/2014)
Last Updated: 22:52 IST(21/3/2014)

It’s possible that many will be unaware of the Afghan polls since that country appears to have gone off the radar just as the MH370 did recently. While Barack Obama is grappling with a greater threat than the Taliban, the fallout of the botched birth of Obamacare, Putin has brought the Big Bad Bear out of the closet and into Crimea

In about a month from now, there will an election of extreme significance for India’s near future. However, rather than a contest between RaGa and NaMo, this will feature the clash of AbAb and AshGha. This, of course, is the scheduled presidential election in Afghanistan, where the principal contestants are Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzay.

In case you were wondering, they do have opinion polls in Afghanistan, though not as frequently as in India where they appear to be conducted nearly as often as Arvind Kejriwal polls voters to decide his next course of action. In Afghanistan, the polls mostly indicate a close contest between the principal contenders.

It’s possible that many will be unaware of the Afghan polls since that country appears to have gone off the radar just as the Malaysia Airlines jet did recently. Several factors play into the absence of sustained scrutiny of developments in Afghanistan. In America, President Barack Obama is grappling with a greater threat than the Taliban, the fallout of the botched birth of Obamacare and its impact on mid-term elections this November. Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin has brought the Big Bad Bear out of the closet and into Crimea. And certainly, the national media has to focus on other critical matters such as Miley Cyrus’ new sad kitty tattoo.

American forces will withdraw from Afghanistan as the year ends. The Canadians ended their Afghan mission this month, withdrawing with a, ‘Sorry. Eh’. All that remains now is for Obama to board a warship and warble Mission Accomplished.

That, of course, is if the mission was to return Afghanistan to the Taliban. The Taliban keep regrouping and returning, like the new strain of mutant super lice that’s supposedly resistant to insecticides. And while the world scratches its head over the premature American withdrawal, the Taliban will exercise its version of the NOTA option in the election. If these fanatics were to seize control of the country, the term hung assembly may take on an entirely different meaning, given how members of the government of Najibullah were treated after Moscow withdrew from Kabul.

Even with a residual American force stationed in Afghanistan, the region will foster and foment terrorism in the neighbourhood. As al Qaeda will celebrate the final drawdown of America, countries like India may well experience a resurgent threat, since the Afghan Taliban have always been controlled and co-opted by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence. Even China is hardly immune. It recently witnessed its own 9/11, the stabbing rampage at the Kunming railway station in Yunnan. As al Qaeda-affiliated Pakistani clerics like Abu Zar Azzam now describe China as the “number one enemy”, it may get payback for its all-weather alliance with Pakistan.

That’s a logical, and predictable, outcome of the furious signalling from Washington since 2010 of seeking the earliest egress from Afghanistan. Or as Shakespeare’s stage directions went in The Winter’s Tale: “Exit, pursued by a bear.”

In his book, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War, which was released this year, former US defence secretary Robert Gates said of vice president Joe Biden: “I think he has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.” Biden, certainly, was one of the chief architects of the Obama administration’s AfPak policy and his record will remain untarnished.

The president, meanwhile, went on Funny or Die’s faux talk show ‘Between Two Ferns’ for an interview with Zach Galifianakis, the bearded guy from The Hangover movies. During that conversation, Galifianakis asked, “I read somewhere you’ll be sending Hulk Hogan to Syria or is that more of a job for Tonya Harding? What should we do for North Ikea?”

Given the performance of this administration’s two secretaries of state, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, over the past five years, in fouling up foreign policy, perhaps even such envoys may prove to be an improvement.

Currently based in Toronto, Anirudh Bhattacharyya has been a New York-based foreign correspondent for eight years.
He is the author of The Candidate. The views expressed by the author are personal.


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