Will US compensate loss of Kabul by action on China?
The day after the Taliban seized Kabul, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan praised the Sunni Pashtun Islamists for breaking the shackles of slavery, in an obvious reference to the US military-led occupation of Afghanistan post 9/11. The Chinese, Russians, Iranians and Turks also made peace overtures and offered support to the UN-designated Sunni terrorist group in what is euphemistically called the reconstruction of Afghanistan.
While the Joe Biden administration has been rightly panned by the democratic world for leaving Afghanistan in the hands of terrorists and killers, the future may not be so kosher for the deal makers in Islamabad, Washington and London. Even though the global credibility of the US has been damaged with the Afghan withdrawal, Washington will have to compensate for this loss by action against rising challenge China if it has any intention of retaining its sole global superpower status. Perhaps this was the signal of vice president Kamala Harris visit to Singapore.
With no military commitments left after August 31 in the Afghan capital, the US and the EU will physically switch off from Kabul and with it will dry billions of dollars of aid and funding that Pakistan was getting for its two-faced role in the war against terror in Afghanistan since 2001. While Joe Biden and Donald Trump are two ends of the political spectrum, there is bipartisan consensus over Trump’s January 1, 2018, tweet where he accused Pakistan of deceit and harbouring terrorists that US forces were hunting in Afghanistan at that time. Pakistan would be living in a fool’s paradise if it thinks that the US with National Security Agency at its disposal does not know where the entire Taliban top leadership is based in Pakistan and their confabulations with Pakistan Army and ISI. After the Afghan withdrawal, neither the US nor the EU needs to fund Pakistan or give them preferential status for supporting military logistics lines to Afghanistan. US has funded Pakistan with over USD 35 billion dollars in aid since 2001 and the EU has given more grants to Islamabad than China has given in loans.
Although the Biden administration may go politically dark over the Af-Pak region, the American agencies through spy satellites and communication intercepts will ensure the area is under floodlights and suppress any terror strike being plotted by the Taliban, Al Qaeda and their terror brothers based in Pakistan. In an era of stand-off weapons and missiles, counter-strike against terror plotters in this highly radicalized region can be taken with pinpointed accuracy. Taliban must not forget how their chief Mullah Mansour Akhtar was taken out by a hellfire missile from a US predator drone in 2016 inside Pakistani territory.
China, Russia and Iran are sanguine about the rise of the Taliban and virtually cheered the Deobandi-Islamist force for making the US run for their lives from Kabul on August 15. However, the Sunni Islamist force, weaned on perpetual jihad, has no space for either the Chinese Communists, Christian Russians or Shia Iran as all of them are Kaffirs. With top of the line US weapons at their disposal, a strong Taliban will not only reach out to their Uighur counterparts in Xinjiang but also destabilize both Iran and Central Asian Republics which buffer the Russian Federation. Pakistan will become more radicalized than ever with its Shia minority under threat and the Taliban will put pressure on border settlement as it does not recognise the Durand Line.
The Chinese propaganda machine has gleefully put out narratives in the media questioning the American commitment to ASEAN and Taiwan after the collapse of Kabul. The propaganda media has taunted all the American allies in Indo-Pacific by telling them that Washington under Joe Biden has no stomach for war against the PLA navy in the South China Sea. However, indications from Washington are to the contrary with the Biden administration focusing on China. It is also very much possible that the Biden administration compensation towards China may turn out to be Barack Obama’s Asian pivot, which was never implemented but only talked about in seminars in Singapore. Except for this time the US allies particularly in QUAD will trust only after verification.
The rise of the Taliban will also destabilise the Indian sub-continent particularly countries like Nepal, Maldives, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka through Islamic radicalisation. While the Taliban may not be directly involved, their ideological brothers and comrades-in-jihad based in Pakistan will use this opportunity and new US weapons to spread political Islam in the region.
Clearly, blood will not dry in Af-Pak battlefields for the time to come.