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Founding Editor View on Afganistan Special

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The announcement of a troop withdrawal by President Obama has sent many theorists over the top, but there is much happening under the radar that suggests Armageddon is not imminent. And if the game is played well and fairly, that doomsday can safely be prevented till eternity. But that of course depends on the inimitable 'if' of regional politics and global visions. There are many imponderables enroute and much to happen before the last western soldier leaves the dust and destruction of Afghanistan behind.

For starters it isn't even certain how the withdrawal of NATO / ISAF troops will pan out. There is a commitment to withdraw troops and there will be a departure. But there is no certainty to the scale of it. As of now the commitment stands for 2014, but between now and then there are yet many hurdles to overcome and many more baddies to neutralise. Even as the Afghan National Army and other domestic security forces take up greater responsibilities, a western military presence will remain in the country.

To support, train, even occasionally conduct a raid, but most certainly to keep the global alliance informed about the true conditions on the ground. Despite the presence of every conceivable snooping technology available, boots on the ground are still the most important intelligence asset. And it is unlikely that the western alliance, which freed Afghanistan from the horrors of the Taliban, will give up that greatest advantage.

There are two scenarios commonly doing the rounds in the minds of the analysts and the practitioners. The first believes that the Taliban will roll into Kabul even as the last flight hurriedly leaves for the west.

The other believes that the current formulation of governance will hold out in Afghanistan, pick up a battering and some serious bruises, but still prevent the Taliban from taking power. The former scenario is inspired by the visuals of Saigon 1975 and the latter by the indomitable spirit of late President Mohammad Najibullah of Afghanistan. Conditions globally, as wellv as regionally, suggest that the latter course is the more likely one to be realised.

Battling terror in Afghanistan has certainly lost its sheen for the citizens of western countries that have troops in combat roles. A war that was once considered just is now not the priority for people reeling under an economic crisis. But then the scenario of 1990s Afghanistan constantly rears its head as a reminder of what happens when a vacuum is allowed to develop in the Hindu Kush. The world as a whole has learned lessons from vacating the space in Afghanistan and allowing hell to appear on earth. That is a scenario unacceptable at any cost. And which will propel a larger alliance than that currently exists as boots on the ground. There is little likelihood of another Najibullah as a lone warrior holding out on his own.

For the preachers of terror will not any longer be allowed to make Afghanistan a home to horrors.

The world is more experienced now and will mend its ways, even if every neighbour has yet not done.



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