Triumphing Taliban: Why should we care?
Now that the Taliban has taken over Kabul, the country is all set for a roller coaster ride. Taliban's resurface was just merely a matter of time; experts suggested this many a times over the years. But how the Taliban really survival for last 20 years in the face of one of the most advanced and capable militaries of the world is a subject for the researchers.
Perceived danger of Taliban's dominance is generating wide range of opinion because of what history has endured during Taliban's rule from 1996 to 2001. For now, it is evident that the Taliban is again in total control of Afghanistan. The position of Bangladesh in regards to Afghanistan is unequivocally clear. Bangladesh will welcome the new government in Afghanistan if it is democratic and supported by its people, says the Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen.
Although Taliban's power projection is happening about 2000 km from Bangladesh, it is imperative to understand how it is likely to shape the future of south-central Asia, Indian sub-continent including Bangladesh. There can be lot of positive impacts; however, those are not the purview of today's article-negative impacts are. Dhaka Metropolitan Police Commissioner Shafiqul Islam has already indicated that few Bangladeshi nationals are trying to join the Taliban by crossing border, which is a concern for us. Additionally, there can be other scenario based outcomes based on unbiased evaluation.
China is demonstrating keen interest in including its next door neighbour, Afghanistan in its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) due to its geo-strategic location and possibility of connecting Chinese markets to the rest of Asia, Middle-East, Europe and East Africa. Since the US has left the hotspot and Taliban has gained sweeping victory, China will try to expedite promotion of peace process in Afghanistan.
The meeting of China's foreign minister Wang Yi and a Taliban delegation in Tianjin in late July suggests that China is ready to expand her influence, and it has the intention of creating a sustainable environment to benefit from BRI. Bangladesh can also benefit substantially from BRI. However, the relationship chemistry among China-Afghanistan-Taliban, and contrast of having no international boundary with China-Bangladesh and having international boundary with China-Afghanistan will play a complex role in deciding which country will benefit more. Bangladesh needs a cautious approach in this arena.
Historically, Indian sub-continent has been driven by religion to an extent that India, West Pakistan, and the then East Pakistan were divided based on it. Religious sentiment will always be a catalyst in deciding the opinion of the mass people of all these countries of this region. Having said that, being Muslim majority country, a certain amount of Bangladeshi population may develop sympathy for the Taliban's philosophy.
Taliban's resilience may encourage radical Islamic groups to reorganize and pursue dark paths because any ideology is contagious. Taliban has set an example of living in hideout for two decades and carrying out its activities against Afghan security forces including the most powerful military in the world.
What if this example fuels ill motivated groups in the Chattogram Hill Tracts? We surely don't want to see any disturbance after everything that the government has done for creating exemplary stability. Vested groups may also inject wrong ideology among Rohingya population, which may have far reaching effect.
How about the possibility of proliferation of drugs from Afghanistan? Afghanistan dominates the global opium markets by producing about 80 to 90 percent of the world's opium despite the US's extensive measures for last two decades. Possibility of drug proliferation from Afghanistan considering its geo-strategic location can't be overruled. With the help of sympathizers, indigenous weapon manufacturing knowhow and illegal transfer of money may take place to conduct destabilization activities. Radical Islamic group like Al-Qaeda may try to spread its influence in Bangladesh.
Although Holey Artisan Café attack in 2016 and Atia Mahal incident in 2017 made headlines, and trivial issues concerning religious extremism in the country are a worry for the country; however, the gravity of these incidents is significantly low in comparison with the extremist activities happening in other countries around the world.
On a positive note, even if it does, the percentage is likely to be negligible because government has done a remarkable job in maintaining stable security situation in the country and subduing religious extremism at a tolerable range. The government of Bangladesh has more pressing issues to address, which might have more devastation power, for instances, controlling pandemic situation, uninterrupted energy supply, sustainable RMG sector etc.
The possibility of creating substantial impact by Taliban's resurface in Bangladesh is meager; still it needs careful thoughts because Bangladesh can't effort to lose track at this moment. Graduation from Least Developed Country (LDC) to DC is a remarkable achievement; however, graduation from LDC is not our final destination. Our focus is sustainable development and we can't effort to slip. We must anticipate and identify issues, which may divert our focus from it; even if it seems like an innocent and insignificant one.
Anticipation of what may come is a big strategic advantage. When, how, or whether it will really affect us, that we don't know. But there is nothing wrong in remaining prepared. Napoleon Bonaparte's quote can be an inspiration in this regard: "If I always appear prepared, it is because before entering an undertaking, I have meditated long and have foreseen what might occur."
No one canprecisely anticipate what might happen but we can make educated guesses based on history, trend, contributing factors, and perceived scenarios, can't we? Afghanistan is the talk of the town nowadays; we must look at the issue keeping our national interest in purview. What if someday these anticipation becomes true? Or, worse, what if something more sever comes up? We need to anticipate correctly and prepare prudently. As it says in military, preparation is half of the battle. Let's not be reactive; let's be proactive.
Lieutenant Colonel Golam Towhid Al Kibria is a serving military officer