Regional

Wanted: out-of-box-thinking on Afghanistan

Nov 4, 2017
Pakistan and the US continue to do the fandango. Yet is this country that is asking if we are caught up in a landslide with no escape from reality.
 
The US has shared with the Pakistani government us a list of 20 terror groups said to be operating inside our borders. Apparently Washington, in a belated show of strategic benevolence has decided to “test” us; to give us once last chance to see how committed we are to flushing out the terrorist threat from within.
 
Forgive us if we appear a little underwhelmed by all this. We had been hoping that Secretary of State Tillerson might be the man to do business with. But the deal he is offering doesn’t involve any change to the US position.
 
The list of the 20 ‘most wanted’ features the usual suspects, with the Haqqani network retaining the top slot. Then there is the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which has now relocated across the border to Afghanistan. Which, of course, begs the very obvious question as to what we are supposed to do about it? Taking a wild stab in the dark with the sharp end of a pointed pencil we would, if we may be so bold, suggest that the world’s most sophisticated military machine might have slightly better luck than us on that front. Most of the others making it into the top 20 are local based outfits that are operational in Kashmir; meaning they target the Indian state. And while we in no way condone any acts of terrorism against New Delhi — launched from our soil or otherwise — we would like to tell Mr Tillerson that we know what Washington’s game is. Namely, the focus of actionable intelligence and of demands to do more has not so much to do with securing Afghanistan so that the Americans might one day leave. But everything to do with prioritising Indian interests which, in turn, further the US regional goal to counter a rising China.
 
And we have this to say: Washington has squandered an immense opportunity. This was the time for out-of-the-box-thinking. Indeed, our Foreign Minister is right when he points out that it will be very difficult to come up with a different result when the same US generals that have been effectively defeated in Afghanistan over the last 16years are in charge of policy. What we are hearing today is what we heard when Karzai held the Afghan presidency. Yet the US stopped listening to him once he began to question the latter over civilian deaths in his country.
 
So what might a new way forward look like, ideally?
 
Actually, getting Karzai on board would not be a bad idea. It is not as inconceivable as it seems. He has had much experience dealing with this country. And although much of it wasn’t good, there is a different set-up now at the helm here. This is not to mention that the former Afghan leader has genuine affection for Pakistan; a country that was once home to him. And most importantly, he wants the very best for his country. Which means sending the US packing. Surely, it’s worth a shot: a united Afghanistan standing strong with Pakistan to do the best for regional peace and security.
 
Daily Times, November 3, 2017

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