DPG Panel Discussion on US withdrawal from Afghanistan and its regional impact: a reprise of the “Great Game”?
On June 30, 2021 the Delhi Policy Group hosted a panel discussion on the subject “US withdrawal from Afghanistan and its regional impact: a reprise of the ‘Great Game’?” The event brought together strategists, academics, civil society activists and policymakers from India and abroad.
Panelists recognised that Afghanistan lies at the heart of continental Asia and is a fulcrum which connects all major regional powers. Unfortunately, peace in Afghanistan is not merely a function of its internal dynamics; it has historically been impacted by the interests of external players. The so-called US-Taliban accord was not about bringing stable peace to Afghanistan, but a deal to provide for a safe US exit. On the cusp of the US withdrawal, the outlook for the country is looking bleak and there is imminent risk of a security and power vacuum leading to a reprise of the 19th century “Great Game”.
Panelists assessed that the US withdrawal was driven by domestic political compulsions, not by strategic factors. There is rethinking underway about the consequences. An unchanged and unrepentant Taliban has ramped up violence, but a Taliban victory is not inevitable; Taliban inclusion may be acceptable but Taliban dominance will be resisted internally and externally. Pakistan has put all its eggs in the Taliban basket and will face repercussions. India should continue to be pro-actively engaged and play to its strengths. In addition to ramping up support for the Afghan government and other political forces, India should consider supporting Afghan civil society’s efforts at building a culture of non-violence as an enduring solution to the country’s problems. In terms of power coalitions, China and Pakistan will remain closely aligned, even as the US will face difficulties in garnering support for what will likely be a long game. Peace in Afghanistan will require both a successful internal dialogue and support from regional stakeholders for any eventual settlement.
The event profile, agenda and list of participants can be seen here.