The past four decades have shown that it was not without a rationale that the poet of the East, Allama Iqbal, described Afghanistan as “the heart of Asia”. Iqbal made a profound prophecy. If Afghanistan was not at peace, the Asian continent would not prosper, and vice versa. Afghanistan connects three sub regions—West, Central and South Asia. With the theme of connectivity buzzing the Asian continent, these sub regions have a profound stake in Afghan stability. As the Taliban seek to consolidate their rule within the confines of an inclusive set up, the key question is whether lasting peace and political stability would return to this war-torn country. To get an answer, one needs to investigate the intersection of key actors—the US, the Taliban and other Afghan factions and regional countries.
When the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001, in the wake of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the international community whole-heartedly supported the US because militants and terrorists of the world had all converged into the ungoverned spaces of Afghanistan, posing an ominous threat to world peace. Following the US invasion, the Taliban regime of the time melted away, and within a short time, Al-Qaeda was decimated, thanks mainly to the help that Pakistan extended. The world appeared that much safer. But then, the goal post shifted. The US embarked upon building an Afghan nation in the image of Western liberal democracy. The Taliban regarded this as continuation of the foreign occupation, and resisted both the international forces and successive Afghan governments, which they regarded as puppets of the US. The war raged in Afghanistan for two decades, costing valuable lives and huge sums of money.