On his trip to New Delhi this past week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his band of rabble-rousing State Department officials met with India’s Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar. The two diplomats spoke fondly of the blossoming US-India partnership and reiterated their shared commitment about how “no military solution” can fix the conflict in Afghanistan.
“I think it’s also accurate to say that there is largely agreement among most countries… and certainly a rejection of the proposition that military force is the way to define the future of the country,” Blinken said in his remarks to the press after the closed-door meeting. “There’s only one path” to international recognition and legitimacy, the secretary noted — “and that’s at the negotiating table.” “Taking over the country by force and abusing the rights of its people is not the path to achieve those objectives.”
Blinken, of course, was not referring to the current Afghan government. He spoke only of the Taliban and the sweeping territorial advances which they’ve made against the Washington-backed regime in recent weeks. Among the 426 districts, the Taliban now controls approximately 212, mainly those in northern, rural areas which border Pakistan.
But of his many supplications, Blinken remained silent on the topic of Washington’s continuous bombing campaign. US forces, under the behest of US Central Command in the Pentagon, now conduct several air strikes against the Taliban each week, launching, on some occasions, multiple missiles per day. The air strikes, which are in support of the Afghan military, are launched by both conventional and drone aircraft flown from outside the country, with some strikes targeting Taliban military equipment. As the US continues its withdrawal, it’s unclear if more air strikes are to follow.
Washington surely ascertains that a future Taliban-led Afghanistan government is not bad for business, for what’s good for business is what’s good for the military-industrial complex. And at the moment, a conflict still exists in Afghanistan — Washington and the beltway’s arms dealers remain willing to sustain the war effort, despite the costs to the taxpayer.
The Biden administration, hoping to either outlast the Taliban or become its fundraiser, has subsidized the current regime, sending around $300 million in foreign aid in April and an additional $3 billion in June. The funds contribute to both humanitarian and military assistance. But the funds often do little to provide any material benefit — in most cases, the nation’s military remains struggling or the weapons end up in the hands of the Taliban. Once that policy fails, it is expected that Washington will decide to rinse and repeat, rehashing the folly of the past twenty years.
As for New Delhi, the Modi government is choosing to tactfully ignore violent US-intervention. India, like the United States, shares imperial visions. Their purported key priority in Afghanistan is a “reduction in violence.” Yet their heightened involvement in the US’ imperial network, as well as increased cooperation in US-led counterterrorism missions, only adds fuel and resources to the very beast against which they claim to fight.
India has a lot at stake in the current Kabul government. “Who governs Afghanistan has a legitimacy aspect to it and that is something that should not be ignored,” Jaishankar said in a joint conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
With a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan government, the country, according to Indian officials, could become an epicenter of terrorist activity; this concerns officials in New Delhi. But, more importantly, a renewed Afghanistan-Pakistan partnership would strengthen China’s influence by expanding the current Islamabad-Beijing economic partnership into Kabul. Moreover, India has a stake in the US’ militarization of the Indo-Pacific; New Delhi also looks at China as an unwelcome guest. Pivoting against China, whether it be in the high Himalayas or in Afghanistan, is lockstep with the US’ imperial policy.
Washington finds both a military and strategic partner in New Delhi. Leaders of both countries share interest in maintaining a US-backed Afghan regime, in addition to a hawkish China policy — their heightened partnership is just the start.
Despite agreeing to a cease-fire and withdrawal date with the Taliban, Washington’s true willingness is in waging the forever war on terror, with no regard for explanation. The state-funded military-industrial-complex and enterprise network, confounded by an unwary future about Afghanistan, knows confidently that it has a future in the Indo-Pacific. Why not recruit an ally that can help the US’ imperial ambitions in both regions?