In this episode of Beyond the Headlines, I spoke to Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Program at the Wilson Center in Washington DC and a noted commentator on South Asian affairs. Kugelman talked about the long line of policy decisions that led to the ongoing tragedy in Afghanistan, the possible future of that country under the Taliban, and the repercussions that the Taliban’s rise will have for South Asia in general and India in particular.
Arguing that the Taliban’s swift takeover of Afghanistan was “not necessarily inevitable”, Kugelman said that the U.S. had ignored the fact that the Afghan army had been losing its morale in the fight against the Taliban since as early as 2014, when U.S. forces ended their combat mission.
He said that the Iraq War had served as a distraction and frittered away early gains won against the Taliban. “[The Iraq War] was one of the first major failures,” Kugelman said. “It allowed [the U.S.] to take its eye off the ball in Afghanistan and that allowed the Taliban to reconstitute itself with help from the Pakistanis.”
Kugelman also weighed in on the debate over whether the Taliban have really changed, explained how the Taliban have been able to build popularity in the Afghan countryside, talked about whether the Taliban will be able to survive in power and also delved into the role that India can still play in Afghanistan.
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