Ajai Shukla builds a strong case for why an immediate American withdrawal from Afghanistan would serve India's interests, despite concerns in New Delhi to the contrary. The case rests on three major arguments. First, the vacuum created by the U.S. withdrawal would splinter the insurgent factions, and set them at odds not only with each other but also with their Pakistani handlers. Second, the epicenter of terrorist safe havens is no longer Afghanistan, but Pakistan, and a U.S. withdrawal would free Washington's hands to target them by removing its dependence on Pakistani supply routes for the war effort. And finally, India's aid and development assistance to Afghanistan over the past decade has built up a capital of soft power, whose value New Delhi, in its focus on hard power, underestimates.
It's impossible to say for sure whether any of these arguments would hold up under the weight of actual developments on the ground. But they are compelling and worth considering from the U.S. perspective as well, especially regarding the wider liberty of action a U.S. withdrawal would afford in targeting safe havens in Pakistan. Clearly the exigencies of the war effort have forced us to pursue a partnership with Pakistan that works in opposition to our broader strategic interests in the region, which lie with India. Part of any realistic exit strategy should address how we can reverse that situation on the way out.