New Delhi: Indian policymakers tend to be naive in geopolitics taking things at face value and failing to see the big picture. The Indian establishment is ecstatic over Donald Trump’s roasting of Pakistan apropos the unrest in Afghanistan but it doesn’t alter the situation on the ground. If anything, it worsens it. You cannot begin to understand Trump’s fulminations about the Af-Pak crisis unless you return to two breathtaking phases of the last decade of the Cold War. The first phase incorporated three epochal events, these being the Ayatollah Khomeini revolution in Iran, the Teheran hostage crisis and, weeks later, the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. The second phase involved the leadership transition in the Soviet Union with liberal thinker and strategist Mikhail Gorbachev ceding to the uniformly disastrous Boris Yeltsin. In trying to plan and decelerate the Soviet Union’s fall, Gorbachev in some ways resembles the former US president, Barak Obama, who was persevering in his time in office to slow down US decline. Obama has been succeeded by the Yeltsin-like Donald Trump who is, with his rashness and disdain for strategic thinking, hastening US decline. The US leadership crisis comes starkly at a point when troubles have returned to Iran and Afghanistan manifests a new (though subterranean) trajectory for violence. The clock could be turned back if Trump decides on using the Afghanistan platform alongwith Saudi Arabia to create more troubles for Iran seized by politico-economic and anti-clerical unrests. If Trump indeed turns out like Boris Yeltsin, there will be no winners anywhere and the smiles on the faces of Indian policymakers would be replaced by tears.

America has most itself to blame for turning Afghanistan and indeed Pakistan into lawless states. The history of US-Pakistan ties prior to the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan is well-known and often been discussed by this writer in this magazine. Throughout this period, America maintained close ties with the Pakistan army and was scarcely concerned about its harmful effects on Pakistan’s nascent democracy. Indeed, one of Pakistan’s dictators, General Yahya Khan, played the role of secret broker between the United States and China when the two Great Powers set out to mend ties to throw the Soviet Union off-balance.

The United States is the strangest Great Power of Modern history. While it is the mightiest Great Power on the planet, its capacity to win wars and peace is negligible. It has not won a single major conflict after World War II and its interventions have never yielded peace. Korea was followed by Vietnam, Afghanistan, Afghanistan again, Iraq, and so on. Wherever US soldiers have set foot, peace has fled the land.

Jihad and extremist violence as we know today in South Asia is also a gift of the United States. The German High Command during World War I used Turkey to foment jihad in Afghanistan against the empire of its adversary, Great Britain. It was indubitably more successful when the United States and Saudi Arabia joined hands to employ jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan in 1979. Actually, jihad was employed before the Soviets intervened. The Soviets, on balance, walked into a trap. The United States wished to kill two birds with one stone. Iran had deserted the US camp. The Shah was gone. America-hater Ayatollah Khomeini was the new supremo. Four years after the US fled Saigon, its embassy in Teheran was stormed by revolutionary students. The calculation was that jihad in Afghanistan would knock the bottom out of the Soviet Union and slay Iran alongside with Sunni terrorism. Soviet Russia collapsed but Iran survived and grew stronger. For wholeheartedly participating in the sins of the United States and Saudi Arabia, Pakistan was ravaged in due course by jihad, sectarianism and terrorism. It continues to pay the price for the 1979 “mujahideen” misadventure. Radiating from Afghanistan in all directions, jihadi waves have affected Central Asia, China, India, and decades later, the world as a whole. For what it started in Afghanistan, the United States paid a shocking price with the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Osama Bin Laden was a Frankenstein created by the United States. Trump believes in his rottenness that the world lacks knowledge of US misdeeds.

It is this writer’s understanding that the United States desires to play another hand of vicious geopolitics in Afghanistan with the aid of the Islamic State whose notorious remnants tactically have been evacuated from Syria and Iraq. An Islamic State proxy force could be expected to confront Shia Iran on one hand and Russia, its sworn enemy from Syria, on the other. Russia has re-entered Afghanistan in league with China and Pakistan. They are propping the Taliban against Islamic State forces. Iran is in their camp. All these players are aware of the dangers of a repetition of 1979 save Donald Trump who, like Boris Yeltsin, is rushing in where statesmen fear to tread. An Afghan solution demands a compact of the Great Powers, Afghanistan’s neighbours with which it shares borders, the middle powers of Western Europe, and countries like India in the near neighbourhood. Afghanistan is not a place to go alone. Hostilities with Pakistan and Iran will get the United States nowhere in Afghanistan. Afghanistan could sink the United States just as it brought down the Soviet Union. Uncannily, Donald Trump has inherited the worst traits of Boris Yeltsin. Instead of being a Trump cheerleader, India should secure itself against the horror that Trump’s United States is hurtling the world into. Boris Yeltsin imploded the Soviet Union. Trump threatens to take down the world.