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Perilous Passage

I.P. Khosla

Edited by Shanthie Mariet D'Souza
Pentagon Press, New Delhi, 2012, pp. 206, Rs. 795.00

VOLUME XXXVII NUMBER 2-3 February/March 2013

Nowadays, when you mention ‘transition’ in the Afghan context, the definite article gets left out and the first letter capitalized; it becomes ‘Transition’, a proper noun and an entity that will produce a new Afghanistan of uncertain lineament. That’s because Transition, or Inteqal as the Afghans call it, meaning the departure of foreign military personnel by the end of 2014 and the assumption of full security responsibility by the Afghans themselves, could produce one of several possible outcomes. The two at the extreme ends are easily described, though one is too chilling to contemplate, but is somewhat more likely than the other, which would seem close to hopelessly unattainable. The first is that the Taliban emerge victorious after a shorter or longer civil war, establish themselves in Kabul and the major cities as well as in most of the countryside, except pockets of resistance by Tajik and Uzbek militias in the North, and Shia militias in the West. Perhaps the least of this is that Sharia law is enforced, with consequences resembling the last half decade of the previous millennium: women are confined to their homes; girls don’t go to school any more; the men grow beards; pictures of any kind, moving or still, are banned. Worse, Al-Qaeda may perhaps return, their leadership taking up residence in Afghanistan. In fact, despite talk about this Taliban being different from the old Taliban, there is nothing in their recent pronouncements to suggest they have changed much. They may say they have nothing to do with Al-Qaeda, reiterate that they do not need help from the latter and are not even close to the it, but, almost sotto voce, add that the latter, being an organization of Muslims, deserve respect. In any case they have formally said they will not cut links, adding that they have no role in Afghanistan in the changed circumstances of today, leaving a big question mark on what happens if circumstances change again and in the opposite direction. Even worse is the possibility of the kind of ethnicization of politics that accompanied their last rule, Pashtun versus the rest and, worst of all, the large scale killings of Hazaras, Tajiks and other non-Pashtun groups that is still such a vivid memory. At the other extreme the ANSF, the Afghan National Security Forces who have, it is generally agreed, the weapons, the training, and the fighting ability, hold ...

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