FB   
 
Powered bysps
        Society for Policy Studies
 
 

 
Trumpís speech signals a strategy for South Asia, not just for Afghanistan
Posted:Aug 22, 2017
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 
By Saad Mohseni 
 
It took US President Donald Trump months to finally decide on his policy for Afghanistan, America’s longest war. Trump’s reluctance to immediately acquiesce to his military’s demands did result, though, in the most careful study of various Afghanistan options undertaken by any US administration – and one that also holds out the promise of transforming South Asia’s dynamics for the better.
 
President Trump did well in his speech to justify continued US engagement in Afghanistan, and key to that was the open-ended commitment of troops and the decision not to specify troop numbers. The US military and their civilian counterparts have never had the time horizon to effectively implement measures that could have strengthened the Afghan state or weakened terrorist organisations that continue to maintain region-wide support networks. Afghan security forces have fought bravely but lack adequate air power, leadership, retention rates and coalition support to stem the tide of a resurgent Taliban, which now controls more ground than at any point since 2001. The new, open-ended commitment will also boost the morale of the Afghan security forces, who are engaged in more than two dozen battles against the Taliban across the country.
 
Just as importantly, by approaching the Afghan strategy as a South Asian one, Washington is recognising again that this is a regional challenge. For the US to have withdrawn from Afghanistan would have prompted the collapse of the state and most likely resulted in greater factional violence. India, Pakistan, Iran and others would have been forced to increase support to their chosen sides in the conflict, exacerbating regional tensions and perhaps setting the scene for a disastrous showdown in the region. Pakistan and its 120 nuclear warheads would have become more vulnerable. Already Iran, Russia and China have been looking to exert greater influence in Afghanistan given Washington’s silence (perceived as absence) thus far.
 
President Trump’s decision to specifically mention India in his speech reflects New Delhi’s deep ties to Afghanistan. India remains Afghanistan’s most important regional partner, contributing to the construction of key dams, roads, power infrastructure and even the Afghan parliament building; committing $200mm in small development projects; and providing food aid, educational scholarships and other in-kind support. Its Afghanistan-friendly tariffs have transformed India into one of Afghanistan’s primary export markets.
 
At the same time, his mention of Pakistan lays much of the blame on Afghanistan’s eastern neighbour. The Afghans and international partners cannot prevail unless the Taliban’s support networks, training camps and safe havens in Pakistan are dealt with. But Washington now needs to match its words with deeds. Through specific publicly and privately communicated conditions – and through delivering on promised consequences – Washington should this time aim to change Pakistan’s behaviour rather than just its public statements. At the same time, it will have to communicate to Pakistan why, and how, playing a positive role in Afghanistan will not be a threat to Pakistan’s own national interest.
 
Taken together, this renewed commitment to Afghanistan and increased engagement of India and Pakistan could have the side benefit – but an enormous one -- of fostering improved relations across the region. If Afghanistan can be used as a cause for all three countries to rally around, there is a real possibility that that cooperation could ease broader tensions between them and potentially result in closer ties.
 
There are of course other key elements to Trump’s strategy. The floundering and deeply unpopular National Unity Government in Afghanistan needs to deal with corruption, broaden its base and earn its legitimacy, as ultimately it relies for its survival on the support of the Afghan people. Trump was right to demand that the Afghans need to do much of the heavy lifting and that US support will not come in the form of a blank cheque. He was also right to not insist on peace talks with the Taliban; their intransigence and continued terrorist attacks reflect their unwillingness to talk. Only a strong government in Kabul coupled with gains in the battlefield will prompt them to seriously consider a settlement.
As announced on Monday, the ultimate goal of US strategy will continue to be the prevention of terrorist groups from using Afghan territory for launching or planning attacks against the US. However, as the President mentioned, this cannot happen in isolation. There are many moving parts to this reset involving the Afghan government, the US and Nato allies. Just as importantly, for the greater good of the region, Afghanistan, India and Pakistan should work together in unison for Afghanistan’s future.
 
 
 
 
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 

Disclaimer: South Asia Monitor does not accept responsibility for the views or ideology expressed in any article, signed or unsigned, which appears on its site. What it does accept is responsibility for giving it a chance to appear and enter the public discourse.
Comments (Total Comments 0) Post Comments Post Comment
Review
 
 
 
 
spotlight image Since Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina assumed office again in Bangladesh in 2009, bilateral relations between New Delhi and Dhaka have been on a steady upward trajectory.
 
read-more
  Nearly 58 per cent of the about 600,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are children who suffer from severe malnutrition, a UN report released said.
 
read-more
A unique and passionate gathering of acrophiles, or mountain lovers, took place in neat and picturesque Aizawl, the capital of Mizoram state in north-eastern India in September.
 
read-more
India’s foreign policy under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has attained a level of maturity which allows it to assert itself in an effective manner. This is aimed at protecting the country’s national interests in a sustained way.
 
read-more
With over 100 incidents of braid chopping reported in different parts of Kashmir, there is widespread fear and anger among the people.
 
read-more
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, China's GDP expanded 6.9 percent year on year in the first three quarters of 2017, an increase of 0.2 percent above that of the corresponding period of last year.
 
read-more
As political roller coasters go, there is none as steep and unpredictable as the one shared by the United States and Iran.
 
read-more
In West Asia, the end of one war paves the way for the next. Raqqa, the Syrian capital of the self-styled Islamic State (IS), has fallen to a coalition of rebels, the Syrian Democratic Forces that is backed by the United States.
 
read-more
On “Defining Our Relationship with India for the Next Century”
 
read-more
Column-image

Title: The People Next Door -The Curious History of India-Pakistan Relations; Author: T.C.A. Raghavan; Publisher: HarperCollins ; Pages: 361; Price: Rs 699

 
Column-image

Could the North Korean nuclear issue which is giving the world an anxious time due to presence of hotheads on each side, the invasion of Iraq and its toxic fallout, and above all, the arms race in the teeming but impoverished South Asian subcon...

 
Column-image

Title: A Bonsai Tree; Author: Narendra Luther; Publisher: Niyogi Books; Pages: 227 Many books have been written on India's partition but here is a firsthand account of the horror by a migrant from what is now Pakistan, who ...

 
Column-image

As talk of war and violence -- all that Mahatma Gandhi stood against -- gains prominence across the world, a Gandhian scholar has urged that the teachings of the apostle of non-violence be taken to the classroom.

 
Column-image

Interview with Hudson Institute’s Aparna Pande, whose book From Chanakya to Modi: Evolution of India’s Foreign Policy, was released on June 17.

 
Subscribe to our newsletter
Archive