Monday, October 5, 2009

Saner course is to quit Afghanistan

Saner course is to quit Afghanistan
By Saeed Qureshi
Let Afghanistan go to hell. America should think of a prompt withdrawal of its forces from that God forsaken country. The sooner the better. The incumbent American administration cannot he held responsible for plunging United States into a treacherous quagmire that has swallowed numerous armies during the past several milleniums. The latest example is the Red army’s humiliating defeat and Soviet Union’s disintegration in the wake of its decade old military incursion in Afghanistan. If a mighty neighbor like Soviet Union, that maintained her ideological and military sway on Afghanistan for many decades, buried its prestige in the wilderness of that vast expanse consisting of nude mountains and sand, how a country from the overseas could spring miracles.
The land starting from the Central Asian states to the no man land called tribal areas in Pakistan is rightly or wrongly blessed by nature with at terrain that has remained insurmountable for the mightiest armies equipped with the obsolete to the latest weaponry. More than that, the inhabitants of that land tend to be shrew, chivalrous and warriors. If one has to travel through the historical Khyber Pass in Pakistan to reach the border of Afghanistan; a trek of about 50 miles, one can witness the stray groups or individuals with rifles slung on their shoulders. The shepherds carry the rifles and daggers with them. Before the invention of firearms there were other weapons such as spears and swords that were part of their body armor. The mutual tribal feuds and bloody clashes are customary and are taken as part of their normal fighting culture.
On top of this internecine culture, it is the religious faith that inflames their chivalrous spirits even to willingly lay down their lives if needed. The central Asian Muslims are more tenacious, conservative and staunch believers in Islam and treat to die for Islam as the greatest and most coveted goal to be rewarded with paradise. Taliban are one breed of another fanatic Muslims who came into being by default and by a queer mix of circumstances. Taliban, a distinct, freakish religious brotherhood is more ferocious than other Islamic conglomerations. These religiously motivated brigands keep mushrooming to replace the dead and the maimed. Their movements are nomadic. If they cannot succeed in one part, they move to another. This is what has happened in Pakistan. Driven out by Pakistan army from Northern valleys, they have relocated themselves in tribal regions or in Afghanistan.
In the 8 years standoff between the NATO forces led by United States against the interspersed bands of Taliban and Al-Qaida, the auxiliary and replenishing fighting support for insurgents comes from the traditional warrior races from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and other conservative Muslim Central Asian states
If Iraq’s case is instructive to provide any insight then the NATO military network in Afghanistan will have to sooner or later, pack up and leave. The kind of victory that the Pakistan armed forces have scored against Taliban’s strongholds in Swat and Dir cannot be reenacted in Afghanistan because of the huge difference in terrain and geographic conditions. Swat and Dir were small valleys fortified by high mountains and therefore it was possible for the Pakistan army to hunt Taliban them and flush them out. The local population that could have posed an impediment in speedy and effective military onslaught moved to the plains, leaving the battlefield between the discredited and savage Taliban and trained troops. The fear of civilian casualties was reduced to minimum and thus Pakistan army was able to take swift and effective action against the well entrenched radical religious militants.
The role of NATO forces in Afghanistan is merely confined to have sporadic skirmishes with Taliban and in this wild goose chase, either kill them or get killed. Another frivolous role of the occupation forces is to defend the surrogate government of Hamid Karzai and keep it on life support. Karzai may be loyal to America but his government is confined only to Kabul city and its suburbs. His stay at the helm is staggeringly costly to United States and NATO allies. It is quite evident as also being projected by the top brass of NATO and American commanders that the war in Afghanistan was not on the winning track. It’s foregone that with more troops in Afghanistan, the coveted victory would still remain elusive. The NATO casualties are alarmingly on the rise.
In ten years’ of civil war among war-lords, then followed by between war-lords and Taliban and finally between Taliban and Northern Alliance supported by NATO has devastated that country, economically, culturally, socially and in huge loss of humans. Even earlier during a decade’s long armed resistance against the Soviet Union army, Afghanistan and its population suffered enormously in all manners. Never was so mush of upheaval, displacement and slaughter of Afghan population that had taken and place in three decades of unremitting war.
If military option has failed to tame Taliban or to annihilate America’s number one enemy Al-Qaida, then this futile option should be called off to spare further casualties of civilians and soldiers. Besides a huge war budget can be curtailed. United States should not be worried about the future of Afghanistan. It should, instead, focus on its timely and face-saving withdrawal from Afghanistan. The NATO allies too seem to be war weary and the spiraling deaths of their troops is setting off public outcry in their respective countries. Before it is too late and the United States is left alone to bear the brunt of this aimless war; a draw down strategy of troops from Afghanistan should be put in place.
The most viable and time tested recourse is to maintain a level of humanitarian help for reconstruction of Afghanistan and rehabilitation of its population. America can rein in and defeat or neutralize the overbearing effect of Taliban through dialogue and peaceful means that would only need diplomatic skills and international moral and financial collaboration. The Afghan war lords and friendly bands from among the Taliban and local population should be wooed and won over by generous economic aid and postures of friendliness, to act as a local bulwark against the radical factions of the religious militants.
That strategy can be applied from remote control and perhaps would be ideally safe and effective. United States should build up an international front to isolate dissident and fanatic Taliban whom the local population does not like. Otherwise, to lend a conclusive military defeat to Taliban or Al-Qaida, America needs a million troops to be engaged in every district, on mountains tops, in valleys and in every nook and corner of Afghanistan. Only thus Taliban can be physically eliminated. Pakistan’s victory in Swat is a shining example of such an achievement. But to mobilize a million soldiers with all attending logistic and other support is a monumental undertaking that cannot be accomplished. The saner course is to quit Afghanistan.

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