By Kumar David –
When I asked this question from someone with knowledge of security matters the answer was: “It is unlikely because they will be too involved in sorting out a slew of problems within Afghanistan to take on involvement elsewhere”. The Taliban is not ISIS; it has no pretentions to a Caliphate and World Islam. It wants to be left in peace to catch its corner, abuse its women and terrorise the occasional hungry kid caught stealing a loaf of bread by chopping off an arm – unless as some hope the Taliban have mellowed. Yes in the short term measured in months it will be busy at home, but beyond that? So far as we are concerned it will depend on how our government, Muslim hating State Ministers and unruly Buddhist extremists behave. Though Gotabaya and his inner military cabal are dim-witted, I think in this instance Brothers Mahinda and Basil are likely to prevail and say “Ahaka-yana polangu ange gahagana epa”. This change of strategy will work only if the aforesaid extremists are brought to heel, but then one part of Gota’s power base will be neutralised. This is not impossible, but Gota will have to let free Muslim personages his goons have incarcerated under trumped up terrorism charges, stop spreading stark lies about Muslim surgeons chopping up the wombs of Sinhala-Buddhist women and stop his mobs from looting Muslim shops.
Kabul was match point and game over; Afghanistan fell like a ripe mango. See BBC video “Another Saigon moment”. There are people writing about why it happened so decisively and so quickly, I have nothing to add at this point. I want to look forward. However hard the Taliban try to catch their corner they are going to be drawn-in particularly into Pakistan, India and China. The Afghan-Paki border is unsettled with Afghans demanding to cross in either direction with minimal IDs. The border is going to become a nightmare for the Paki security force and for Islamabad; you simply cannot stop the faithful from preaching the Word of God. If Modi imagines can go on crushing the Kashmiri people, contemptible ogre that he is, he has a very bloody nose coming his way. Though there is no common border between India and Afghanistan, Modi cannot continue to rape Kashmir; he will have a bigger problem on his hands than Islamabad. China too will have to be careful. The Uighur Muslims now have an Islamic ally and a common if narrow connecting border. I don’t think China had a hand in the Taliban’s lightning quick victory. For oppressed Muslims across the region, though not for the women, children and men of the country itself, the Taliban conquest of Afghanistan will probably bring relief. Fate moves in mysterious ways its wonders to perform.
The critical aspect in general and for SL is the American response. Yes of course US military overseas land interventions are most likely over for ever. A draw in Korea followed by a rout in Vietnam, a whiplashing in Iraq and Libya and now this debacle settles the matter. Unlike ISIS ideology, containment of Taliban ideology is not an issue; it is contiguous countries Pakistan, India, China and not too far away Sri Lanka that may be affected. That too not because of a Taliban thrust but because local players may implore assistance. How Taliban’s victory will influence Sino-American relations and how these may play out in our backyard is an interesting aside.
China, understandably, would like to use a less unfriendly Afghanistan to enhance its transport links via Afg-Pak to Gwaidor but that does not mean its need for the Straits of Malacca route on which SL lies diminishes because China’s trade and logistical needs are so large that everything is needed. Both China and the US have a common interest in discouraging Islamic over ebullience by the new regime. No one should try to predict how this will all pan out; there are too many factors and facets at work. A game of tacit Sino-US cooperation on Afghanistan is likely and if we are smart the good of it can rub off on us. Covid, the fertiliser cock-up, the 70% renewable electricity fiasco, the appointment of incompetents and freeloaders to high positions, a rap on the knuckles from the UNHRC and the US Congress, isn’t that trouble enough? Gota and his henchmen will be wise (can they sic!) to stop grating on the country’s Muslims.