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Ganesh asked: What would be the status of India in restructuring Afghanistan after departure of NATO?

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  • Vishal Chandra replies: The US and NATO are likely to remain engaged in Afghanistan for years to come. I do not foresee complete withdrawal of American forces anytime soon. Even if the Obama Administration sticks to the July 2011 time frame, the withdrawal of American troops will still be a long drawn affair. Similarly, most of the European countries may pull out bulk of their troops in the next 2-3 years, but that would be no affirmation of West ‘departing’ from the region. They are likely to maintain minimal number of troops inside Afghanistan in support of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and the Afghan government. The pace of withdrawal will also depend on the ground situation in Afghanistan; threat perceptions among the Western countries; and the preparedness of the ANSF. Transfer of security responsibilities to the ANSF itself will take at least 4-5 years or even more. Both the US and NATO will have to fund and provide mentors and trainers for the ANSF for years to come.

    As for the Indian presence, much will depend on the security situation in Afghanistan, the strength of the Afghan government, and how Washington and Islamabad reconcile to each other’s interests. India is likely to continue with its reconstruction assistance to the Afghan people and government to the extent possible. As a neighbouring country, India is expected to take a long-term view of the Afghan situation. The current policy may not be sustainable if the West fails to manage and stabilize the Afghan situation. India response will thus depend on the situation as it evolves on either sides of the Durand Line. In all circumstances, Indian response and policy towards Afghanistan must factor in the views and perceptions of various sections of the Afghan people. India has to be patient and cautious in its response. Any misadventure will prove counter-productive and further work to the advantage of forces inimical to the Indian interests.

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