New Delhi/Washington: Even as US President Joe Biden has announced that the US will completely withdraw all its forces from Afghanistan by September this year, American intelligence agencies are sceptical of the future of peace in the war-torn country.
In its annual report, Office of the Director of National Intelligence of the US said that it assesses that prospects for a peace deal will remain low during the next year. “The Taliban is likely to make gains on the battlefield, and the Afghan Government will struggle to hold the Taliban at bay if the coalition withdraws support.”
Kabul, the report said, continues to face setbacks on the battlefield, and the Taliban is confident it can achieve military victory. Afghan forces continue to secure major cities and other government strongholds, but they remain tied down in defensive missions and have struggled to hold recaptured territory or re-establish a presence in areas abandoned in 2020, the intelligence analysis said.
Interestingly, the US intelligence report said that although, in the Afghanistan neighbourhood, a general war between India and Pakistan is unlikely, crises between the two are likely to become more intense, risking an escalatory cycle.
“Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India is more likely than in the past to respond with military force to perceived or real Pakistani provocations, and heightened tensions raise the risk of conflict between the two nuclear-armed neighbours, with violent unrest in Kashmir or a militant attack in India being potential flashpoints,” the report predicted.
The US intelligence said that internal and interstate conflict and instability will continue to pose direct and indirect threats to US persons and interests during the next year. Competition for power and resources, ethnic strife, and ideology will drive insurgency and civil war in many countries. For example, the fighting in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria has direct bearing on US forces, while tensions between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan remain a concern for the world.
Interstate conflicts will also flare, ranging from border sparring, such as that between China and India, to potentially more sustained violent confrontations, the US intelligence assessed. As per the report, China-India border tensions remain high, despite some force pullbacks this year.
“China’s occupation since May 2020 of contested border areas is the most serious escalation in decades and led to the first lethal border clash between the two countries since 1975. As of mid-February, after multiple rounds of talks, both sides were pulling back forces and equipment from some sites along the disputed border.”