APR 30

Mains   > International relations   >   India and Neighbours   >   India-Afghanistan


  • US President Joe Biden announced that the US will withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Following suit, the NATO will also pull out its troops from the war-torn country.


  • In December, 1979, Soviet invaded into Afghanistan, ostensibly to restore stability following a coup.
  • But the Soviet presence touched off a nationwide rebellion by fighters—known as the Mujahideen. These fighters won extensive covert backing from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United States.
  • The mujahideen were joined in their fight by foreign volunteers, who soon formed a network, known as Al-Qaeda.
  • The guerrilla war against the Soviet forces led to their departure in 1989. In the Soviets’ absence, the mujahideen ousted Afghanistan’s Soviet-backed government and established a transitional government.
  • Later, the Taliban emerged and with al-Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden’s help, won control of over 90% of Afghan territory by early 2001. Some parts were under the Northern Alliance, a loose coalition of mujahideen militias.
  • On September 11, 2001 Al-Qaeda operatives hijacked four commercial airliners and crashed them at various locations in the USA.
  • In the aftermath of the attacks, the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush demanded that Taliban deliver all the leaders of al-Qaeda who hide in Afghan to the US. When they refused, U.S. began implementing a plan for war.
  • The U.S. military, with British support, began bombing campaign against Taliban forces. However, Bin Laden escaped to Pakistan.
  • After the fall of Kabul in November 2001, a UN resolution installed Hamid Karzai as interim administration head, and created an international peacekeeping force to maintain security in Kabul.
  • With the ouster of the Taliban and al-Qaeda, the international focus shifted to reconstruction and nation-building efforts in Afghanistan.
  • Beginning in 2005, violence climbed as the Taliban reasserted its presence through the adoption of suicide bombings and improvised explosive devices. Indian embassy was attacked in the same year.
  • Attempts to reconcile with the Taliban were made. Pakistan offered to mediate Afghan peace talks, but it was a failure. Later, WikiLeaks suggested that the Pakistani intelligence service has been working with Taliban forces
  • In May 2011, Bin Laden was killed by U.S. forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan.  Afterwards, U.S. government confirmed that it was holding reconciliation talks with the Taliban. The U.S. and NATO formally ended their combat mission in Afghanistan on December 28, 2014.
  • In early 2020, US and Taliban signed an agreement committing to drawdown of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and guarantees from the Taliban that the country will not be used for terrorist activities.
  • In 2021, President Biden released a plan for a full withdrawal of US Troops by September 11, 2021.


  • Undermines Afghan’s elected government: The Afghan government, which has objected to such a deal for long, is not a party to the deal. This indirectly legitimizes the Taliban’s claims and hence alters the balance of power in favor of the Taliban.
  • Void left by the US: With their sudden retreat, the US will leave a huge void in the region. This void is going to be potentially filled by the Taliban, Pakistan and China, all of which is detrimental to India’s interests. Also, it could provide safe havens for various anti-India terrorist outfits like Lashkar-e-Taiba or Jaish-e-Mohammed.
  • Intensification of terrorism against India: The deal states that Taliban will not attack the US and its allies. However, India is not a recognized ally of the US nor does it differentiate between ‘good and bad taliban’. Hence, the Pak military-backed Taliban can pose serious threats to India’s strategic, security and political interests.
  • Questions Indian investments: India has invested considerable resources in Afghanistan's development. An increased political and military role for the Taliban and the expansion of its territorial control should be of great concern to these investments, since the Taliban is widely believed to be a protégé of Islamabad.


  • Affects India’s Afghan policy: India has, for long, supported the government of Afghanistan. However, emergence of a Taliban government will force India to rethink its Afghan strategies.
  • Increases risk of terrorism: When the Taliban controlled Afghanistan, they aided militants and terrorists. Many of those militants, like the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, were trained for operations in India, such as the 2001 Parliament attack. A resurgent Taliban can lead to a resurgence of this security risk.
  • Weakens India’s anti-narcotic efforts: Afghanistan had been a prominent producer of opium among the Golden Crescent. The illicit opium trade is proving to be an internal security challenge for India, especially along its north Western parts. A politically unstable Afghan will only aggravate the situation.  
  • Strengthens Pakistan’s deep state: Given its nexus with the Taliban, it is possible that Pak’s deep state forces could use Afghan as a ground to export state-sponsored terrorism to India.
  • Complicated West Asian geopolitics: The deal with US has granted the Taliban legitimacy in international relations. This further complicates the regional geopolitics which involves a precarious mix of religious groups and militant outfits.
  • Affects India’s strategic interests: Strong relations with Afghan is an effective counterweight to the rising geopolitical presence of Pakistan and China in the central Asian region. Eg: Afghan is a pivotal part of India’s International North South Transit corridor project. the But a Taliban government can be detrimental to India’s strategic interests.
  • Inhibits India’s Central Asian ambitions: Afghan is considered as a ‘land bridge’, linking central Asia and Eastern Europe with South Asia. The markets of these regions are vital to India’s ambitious plans like being a USD 5 trillion economy. But an aggressive Afghan can cripple connectivity to these areas.
  • Affects India’s economic interests: India has invested more than $3 billion in Afghanistan, in various infrastructure and social projects. India is the second biggest donor and extends investments in the form of line of credit and ITEC funds. An anti-India government can force India out of Afghan’s economy.
  • Undermines democracy: The deal not only bestows legitimacy and credibility to the Taliban but also legitimises the group’s Islamic Emirate. Their zealotry will now take priority over an Afghan state established on the basis of a constitution and international law.
  • Human rights violation: When the Taliban was in power in the 1990s, it imposed the strictest of Sharia regimes, like depriving women of nearly all freedoms. If they regain power, such violations can return and it will be difficult for India to watch it as a mute spectator.


  • Engage with Taliban: The Afghan peace process should be Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled. India with its economic clout and soft power can still be a major player in Afghanistan. But for that to happen, India may have to engage with the Taliban.
  • Create allies: In any case, India should be open to engagement with non-Taliban ethnic groups and strengthen ties with Afghan’s neighbours such as Iran and the Central Asian republics.
  • Cooperate with regional powers: India, China and Russia must step up to support a sovereign Afghan state that can police itself and protect Afghanistan from invasions in the form of proxy wars. Such a state can best guarantee the security interests of its neighbours and protect the region from the impact of US withdrawal.


Q. Discuss the implications of USA’s retreat from Afghanistan on India’s relations with West and Central Asia?