FB   
 
Powered bysps
        Society for Policy Studies
 
 

 
Harsh Realities facing the Af-Pak Conundrum
Updated:Mar 5, 2012
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 

By Munir Akram

THE Af-Pak ‘team’ in Washington is reportedly currently preoccupied with negotiating a deal with the Taliban that allows power to be transferred to an Afghan government which the insurgents are expected to integrate with.

The Taliban must also respect US ‘red lines’: break totally with Al Qaeda; uphold women’s rights; not insist on resuming control in Kabul, while exercising influence in south and east Afghanistan; and (even more ambitiously) accept a residual US presence in Afghanistan after 2014.

In an opinion piece in the Washington Post of March 1 titled ‘Fantasy and Reality in Afghanistan’, Fareed Zakaria considers the Obama plan to “transition power” to an Afghan army and government “fantasy”. He calls for coming to terms “with Afghanistan’s realities rather than attempting to impose our [US] fantasies on it”.

Unfortunately, Zakaria himself succumbs to prejudice if not fantasy by proposing that, since Pakistan will not help rein in the Taliban, America should support the Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras and “ally with neighbouring countries that support them” i.e. India, Iran and Russia.

This would be a recipe for a prolonged Afghan civil war and regional turmoil, even in the unlikely event that Iran, currently under US sanctions and threat of military strikes, and Russia, facing destabilisation from a US-supported ‘democracy’ movement, would agree to support such a strategy. Of course, the Zakaria ‘alternative’ would be New Delhi’s ‘dream’.

American policymakers need to face up to three harsh realities in Afghanistan.

One, the US-Nato presence in Afghanistan is now opposed by the majority of Afghans. The circle of alienation has widened progressively. At first, the ousted Taliban were the aggrieved party; US-Nato tactical errors and expanded military presence in south and east Afghanistan extended the alienation to most Pakhtuns. The corruption of Karzai and his coterie deepened popular hostility.

Today, as evident from the series of attacks on foreign troops by Afghan army and police personnel and, even more so, from the violence that erupted due to the desecration of the Holy Quran, most Afghans, outside the ruling elite in Kabul, will be glad to see the backs of the foreign forces.

Two, for different reasons, both of Afghanistan’s critical neighbours —Pakistan and Iran — are now anxious to ensure the withdrawal of US-Nato troops and have no incentive at present to support Washington’s policy objectives to transition power to a ‘moderate’ Afghan government.

Iran cooperated initially in ousting the Taliban and installing the Tajik-dominated regime in Kabul. But its inclusion in George W. Bush’s ‘axis of evil’ and the subsequent escalation of US sanctions and military threats against Iran’s nuclear programme have placed Tehran firmly among America’s detractors in Afghanistan. In the event, Israel or the US conduct military strikes against Iran, its retaliatory targets, without doubt, will include Afghanistan.

Simultaneously, the US relationship with Pakistan has deteriorated to unprecedented depths. The aerial shooting spree which killed 24 Pakistani soldiers on the border added ultimate injury to the insult of the major strategic reversals that Pakistan’s involvement in America’s ‘war on terror’ has entailed — a hostile Tajik-dominated regime in Kabul, a fight with Pakistan’s own Pakhtuns and militants, an open back door for India to do mischief in western Pakistan, the collapse of the Kashmiri freedom struggle, and the one-sided US ‘strategic partnership’ with India.

To top it all, the US has accepted the Karzai-Tajik narrative that it is the ‘safe havens’ in Pakistan, rather than internal Afghan disaffection that is driving the insurgency against the foreign forces in Afghanistan. It is a most convenient excuse for failure, for US generals and politicians.

The US demand that Pakistan neutralise, politically or violently, the Haqqani fighters flows from acceptance of this Kabul narrative. The US was naive or arrogant to believe Pakistan would comply and fight a force that is likely to be a strong friend in post-American Afghanistan.

The latest demand that Pakistan ‘deliver’ the Taliban in the negotiations is also premised on the Kabul thesis of Pakistan’s control over the insurgency. As events before 9/11 attest, Pakistan’s relationship with the Taliban was never one-sided or simple. As often as not, the Taliban acted contrary to Pakistan’s counsel.

The third reality is the growing opposition to the Afghan war in America. If the US army had been a conscript force today, as in Vietnam, and those who were fighting and dying were not only the children of the poor but also the rich, the Afghan adventure would have been long over.

In the US Congress, calls for withdrawal now emanate from both left and right. Some hard-liners say that the aim of defeating Al Qaeda in Afghanistan has been achieved. Most are weary of expending more money and blood for objectives whose strategic value to the US is, at best, marginal.

Thus, the billions needed to maintain any residual US military presence, and an Afghan army and government, are unlikely to be available for very long. Without money, the army and the Kabul regime and its regional satraps will quickly collapse. In fact, the process of economic contraction has already started.

In the context of these harsh realities, the issues which President Obama’s advisers should be preoccupied with are the following: can the Taliban exploit the popular disaffection to bring about an internal collapse of the Kabul regime? Anticipating the growing compulsion for US withdrawal, and their inevitable victory, will the Taliban negotiate at all in Doha or elsewhere? How can Pakistan be brought on board to support stability in Afghanistan during and after the US withdrawal? What will happen in Afghanistan if Israel and/or the US attack Iran’s nuclear facilities? Can the plan for orderly withdrawal turn into a rout? What would be the electoral consequences for Obama and the strategic implications for the US?

Courtesy-  The Dawn, 4 March 2012 

 
 
 
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 
Comments (Total Comments 0) Post Comments Post Comment
Review
 
 
 
 
India's successful launch of putting a record 104 satellites into orbit is a wake-up call for China's commercial space industry which has a lot to learn from New Delhi's frugal space programme, a Chinese government mouthpiece that publishes in English said in one of its rare editorials in which it commended an Indian action
 
read-more
Having made their mark in international cricket, two players from the Afghan national cricket team have been plugged into a team that plays the pompous and exuberant Indian Premier League, writes Chayanika Saxena.
 
read-more
spotlight image For a Dongria child, the schooling process not only displaces him of the community and the land but also displaces him from his own way of seeking truth i.e through nature, writes Rajaraman Sundaresan for South Asia Monitor.
 
read-more
Society for Policy Studies in association with India Habitat Centre invites you to a lecture in the Changing Asia Series by Dr.Pratap Bhanu Mehta, President and Chief Executive, Centre for Policy Research on Asia: Hope for the Future or Prisoner of the Past?    ...
 
read-more
spotlight image The sanctions-only approach toward North Korea spearheaded by the United States has been a conspicuous failure, encouraging the reclusive nation to rapidly advance its nuclear and missile programmes.
 
read-more
China bluntly warned that if the 'One China' principle is compromised or disrupted, the sound and steady growth of the bilateral relationship, as well as bilateral cooperation in major fields, would be out of question, writes Dr. Sudhanshu Tripathi for South Asia Monitor.
 
read-more
Egypt, under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, is fast transforming into a “security State”. He is wresting control of all crucial offices of the Government and he seems to trust nobody, except his parent organisation i.e. the Army.  
 
read-more
The eruption of militancy in the Kashmir valley in 1989 and the subsequent terrorism has been long seen as an internal political issue, exploited by the ISI in cahoots with the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (AHPC) in an attempt to dismember J&K from India.  The eruption of militancy in the Kashmir valley in 1989 and
 
read-more
Column-image

India remians the inflexible bête-noir for Pakistan, yet there are few books by Indian authors that have sought to interpret the prodigal neighbour in a holistic, informed and empathetic manner.

 
Column-image

The line that Mortimer Durand drew across a small map in 1893 has bled the Pashtun heart ever since. More than a century later both sides of that line remain restless. But the mystery behind what actually happened on 12 November 1893 has never ...

 
Column-image

What went wrong for the West in Afghanistan? Why couldn't a global coalition led by the world's preeminent military and economic power defeat "a bunch of farmers in plastic sandals on dirt bikes" in a conflict that outlasted b...

 
Column-image

What will be Pakistan's fate? Acts of commission or omission by itself, in/by neighbours, and superpowers far and near have led the nuclear-armed country at a strategic Asian crossroads to emerge as a serious regional and global concern whi...

 
Column-image

Some South African generals, allied with the British forces, sought segregation from the enlisted men, all blacks, after being taken prisoners of war. The surprised German commander told them firmly that they would have to share the same quarte...

 
Subscribe to our newsletter
Archive