Afghanistan and the "New Great Game"
COMMODORE NOMAN BASHIR
After the withdrawal of Red Army from Afghanistan, the country imploded as a result of intense conflict between rival Mujahideen factions. Regional and extra regional interests actively abetted this slide into anarchy and chaos for their own vested interests.
While Taliban were able to re-unify the country and bring some degree of order by demobilization of the militias, their policies have generally been regarded as medieval based on tribal traditions. The international community has sought to isolate Afghanistan and regards Taliban as posing a threat of Islamic extremism. However, a closer analysis reveals that Taliban are inward rather than outward looking. They have also signalled readiness to engage constructively with the international community.
The emergence of resource rich newly independent states in Central Asia and Caspian region evoked a simultaneous interest from amongst regional and extra-regional countries to compete for the resources. The competition has focussed primarily on providing routes for outflow of the hydrocarbons from these landlocked states. Additionally, the area considered as heartland of Eurasia is strategically significant to the states aspiring for regional and global primacy.
The geo-politics dictated by geo-economics in Central Asia and Caspian region as well as the internal turmoil consequent to the jihad against the Soviet invasion has impacted severely on Afghanistan. Keeping Afghanistan broken and destabilized suits those who do not want the Caspian/Central Asian oil and gas pipelines to take one of the shortest and economical outlets over Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Arabian Sea. The current situation in Afghanistan is thus dependent as much on external factors, which have fuelled the ongoing strife. The efforts for stabilisation of Afghanistan and restoration of peace cannot succeed in isolation. A sustained and institutionalised process of addressing concerns about terrorism or fundamentalism may produce positive results. Similarly, a more cooperative endeavour to stabilize the Eurasian heartland regions could bring handsome dividends to all regional and extra regional interests.