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world | IST

Exclusive: US withdrawal from Afghanistan big mistake, says ex-NSA John Bolton

Taliban and like-minded terror groups taking over Pakistan's nuclear weapons would be a catastrophe, says Former US National Security Advisor John Bolton. America's Former National Security Advisor John Bolton has warned, that the rise of the Taliban may eventually pose a bigger threat to Pakistan than Afghanistan.

Taliban and like-minded terror groups taking over Pakistan's nuclear weapons would be a catastrophe, says Former US National Security Advisor John Bolton. America's Former National Security Advisor John Bolton has warned, that the rise of the Taliban may eventually pose a bigger threat to Pakistan than Afghanistan.
Speaking exclusively to CNBC TV18, Bolton said, "Rise of Taliban in Afghanistan poses a threat of a takeover of Pakistan by terror groups. It would be a catastrophe if like-minded terror groups take control of Pakistan's nuclear weapons".
Bolton further said the US has been "gritting its teeth" against Pakistan for 20 years and now it is time to put pressure on the country to stop terrorism in Afghanistan or Kashmir. He also called Pakistan the principal external influence which is helping the Taliban settle down in government.
The former US National Security Advisor has called America's withdrawal from Afghanistan a huge mistake, one that will create a strategic vacuum in the region and encirclement of India in the North.
"China and Russia will move in to fill the vacuum as a base of opportunity. China will leverage its influence over Pakistan for belt and road and oil and gas in the Persian Gulf", he said.
In a comprehensive conversation, the former American Ambassador told CNBC-TV18 that the Taliban could have one of the best-equipped armies in the world, as they have taken control of military equipment donated to Afghan forces over the last 20 years.
Bolton said, the Afghanistan withdrawal fiasco will cause massive political damage to Joe Biden, and will have strong ramifications on the 2022 Congressional elections and the 2024 Presidential Election.
Here are the salient points from the interview:
On US withdrawal from Afghanistan as a strategic failure: Bolton said the US withdrawal from Afghanistan is a big mistake. Walking away from Afghanistan after 20 years puts the country in the pre 9/11 period. The principal beneficiaries would be Russia and China, they will deal with terror threats in their own way.
On the US retreating from the fight against terror: US adversaries should not think of this as a larger US retreat around the world. I Hope President Joe Biden does not follow up Afghanistan with withdrawals from the Middle East. Congressional hearings in September will closely scrutinise US withdrawal from Afghanistan.
On Pakistan a winner in Afghanistan: Pakistan has supported the Mujahideens against the Soviet Union in the 1980s. The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has helped create the Taliban in the 1990s. The Taliban has taken significant refuge in Pakistan and the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan poses a threat of a takeover of Pakistan by terror groups.
On terror groups taking Pakistan's nuclear weapons: Pakistan has certainly given strategic advice to the Taliban in the last few months. Islamabad has taken extensive efforts by Pakistan to get the Taliban well settled in government. The country is the main external influence on the Taliban. Also, the Taliban and Pakistan-based terror groups may try to take control of Pakistan and like-minded terror groups may take control of the country's nuclear weapons.
On the impact on the Indian subcontinent: US and NATO withdrawal create a strategic vacuum. China and Russia will move in to fill the vacuum as a base of opportunity. China will leverage its influence over Pakistan for Belt and Road and oil and gas in the Persian Gulf. The rise of China in the region will create a strategic encirclement of India in the North.
On biggest threats to India: The country's biggest threat will be from China. The need for closer cooperation between QUAD is to be accelerated. The grouping also needs to take practical steps to ensure the security of its members.
On strategic encirclement of India: Terror groups competing within Afghanistan will create instability in India's neighbourhood. A large unaccessible place with like-minded terror groups ready to execute attacks poses a threat to India.
Has Taliban changed? Taliban has had an extraordinarily effective public relations exercise. Taliban in a prudent way will impose Sharia and take the country back to the '90s. Taliban will not behave differently from the way they did in the '90s.
Billions of military aid now with Taliban: The collapse of the Afghanistan army is a huge achievement for the Taliban. By seizing Afghan weaponry, the Taliban has become one of the best-equipped army in the world. The US will have to seriously consider how much equipment can be left in the hands of the Taliban. They will use the US equipment against the Panjshir valley. Also, the US Congress will ask questions on the status of the US equipment.
Can disabled US helicopters be revived by adversaries: Boltain said that we cannot rule out Russia, China, Pakistan helping Taliban reviving disabled US equipment. More concerning is that Russia and China can provide spare parts and reverse engineer these equipments.
Pressure points that American can use against the Taliban: The bulk of Afghanistan's currency reserves are with the Federal Reserve in New York and the Taliban knows its significance. It would be foolhardy to think that the US can have Taliban cooperation against ISK. The US ought to consider aiding opposition in Panjshir and outside. Taliban is not reliable or sensible
Time for greater pressure on Pakistan: Bolton said now is the time to put real pressure on Pakistan to end terror in Afghanistan or Kashmir. Notwithstanding concerns about Pakistan nuclear stockpile, it's time to act against them. The US has to now take stronger steps against Pakistan. India and the US need to strengthen cooperation