Saturday, November 5, 2011

What United States should do about Afghanistan!

November 1, 2011

By Saeed Qureshi

Frankly, mighty United States made the same mammoth blunder that the Soviet Union had made by sending forces to Afghanistan in 1979 to invade that country and for fighting the resisting Afghans mostly the Islamic militants against a communist puppet regime.

The first epoch-making victory scored by the United States in February 1989, against a communist super power was made possible by the Islamic militants who fought and paved way for United States to fashion her as the sole super power and leader of a new world order.

United States drunk by that historic victory left Afghanistan in lurch as if a ferocious storm had come and passed away after uprooting everything on the way. The United States did not visualize of streamlining the chaotic land that was devastated by the Russian onslaught and later by a civil war.

It staged a comeback in 2001 to that war-torn country with a grandiose military show along with NATO. But by that time the situation on the ground had drastically changed with Taliban scourging and stalking the country after annihilating the feuding war lords.

The former American president G.W. Bush a stubborn right winger hawk refused to have any interaction with Taliban and ordered them to hand over Osama Bin laden or face a military avalanche. That was a cataclysmic turning point whose ruinous repercussions United States has been witnessing and facing for ten years.

To defeat and destroy Haqqani network would be a stupendous undertaking and gubernatorial risk and would be self defeating and futile when ten years flexing of military muscle and unrelenting fighting have remained non-starter. Haqqani group has been formerly a fighting partner of United States in the anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan.

Now if Haqqani and even other bands of Taliban have remained untamed despite colossal upheavals and survived the combined military might of ISAF and that of America how would it be possible to spring a miracle and the Taliban including Haqqani can vanish in the air or sink in the dust. Not even Pakistan which is being pressured to move into North Waziristan to perform this impossible feat can do this.

The latest initiatives undertaken by USA on Afghanistan including the trilateral summit hosted by Turkish president Abdullah Gul in Istanbul on November 2, is a significant step forward for cultivating cooperation between two mutually indignant neighbors: Pakistan and Afghanistan. Besides Turkish president, Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari and Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai would participate.

It is foregone that United States wants to quit Afghanistan without destroying and dismantling the militant’s network including that of Haqqani. It has therefore fallen back on making peace with Taliban. The heavy loss of lives, countless crippled soldiers, and a trillion dollar financial wastage is what the USA has reaped from this patently aimless and fruitless war.

It is therefore, a salubrious development that United States has mounted new efforts to initiate negotiations with Haqqani and Taliban through Pakistan as an intermediary. There would be no end to this interminable nightmare for America even if its drops an atomic bomb on Afghanistan. So the belated choice of leaving Afghanistan after hammering out peace with Taliban including the Haqqani group is the right strategy.

It is only Pakistan that can bail-out American and ISAF from this yawning predicament and redeem her from the quick sand that it is sinking into. It is also propitious sign that the castigation of ISI and Pakistan army has been toned down and the task of establishing contacts and process of dialogue has been predictably assigned to Pakistan.

Pakistan can act as a very useful go-between bridge between the United States and Taliban. And it is only Pakistan that can ensure that Afghanistan remains a stable country under an establishment that should be unanimously approved by all the parties concerned.

There could be one pernicious dimension that would be a throwback of pre-American presence in Afghanistan. It is that the Taliban may re-establish they brutal sway on Afghanistan again. In that situation America can maintain its links with Pakistan, India and other regional countries to jointly resist if an orthodox and intolerant, oppressive religious regime is forced upon Afghanistan by Taliban.

Once NATO and United States leave Afghanistan, it would be pretty easy for the people of Afghanistan and the neighboring countries to rein in shrew militants and extremist Taliban. The insurgency of Taliban was primarily directed at the United States and the occupation network of NATO. Once they leave Afghanistan, the rationale of Taliban for further fighting would lose its ferocity, momentum and force.

At that phase it would be easy and even justified for Pakistan to launch military action against Taliban and other disparate militias if they continue to pose threat either to Pakistan or a consensus government in Afghanistan.

Evidently the predominant population in the tribal areas is famed for its guerilla fighting. They remained on the sidelines because first they thought Taliban were fighting against a foreign occupation force that had no right to occupy Afghanistan.

Secondly they were not harmed or suffered as much they have in these years after 2001. These tribal people are capable of engaging Taliban in straight fights because the Taliban would then be confined to Afghanistan territory.

If Taliban fight against the Pakistan or the local tribal population they would have to leave theses areas that were their sanctuaries and hideouts for a decade and from where they launched their forays and terrorist attacks on the NATO forces.

Drones cannot kill all the Taliban leaders or those of al-Qaida. If drones would be helpful in liquidating the rank and file of anti American elements from Afghanistan then United States would need to conduct millions of such attacks that kill more civilians than their perceived targets.Moreover, if a few militants are killed more are born. This wild goose chase is not going to be result- oriented and in the meantime the American battered economy would come under more rigors.

The saner course is to entrust the vital task of restoring peace to a body that comprises the Afghan government, the regional countries from the central Asia including Iran and even India to take up the rehabilitation of ravaged Afghanistan, restore its infrastructure, help establish a populist government and oversee it future course.

It would be utterly impossible for the dogmatic Taliban to wage a war of faith against the local mediators and solicitors as they would be isolated and would find very hard to establish their existence within Pakistan. Moreover, they would be shorn and divested of their legitimacy to fight any further when their principal foe would have left Afghanistan.

The United States and the West however can keep supporting the new set up in diverse ways as it would be doing in Iraq after withdrawal of American troops by the end of the current year?

The United States can give financial aid for rebuilding of roads and damaged buildings and other mauled infrastructure and also to create a decent civic system and establishment of civil society institutions. Education, health, water, power sectors can be revived under a modern rehabilitation plan.

With these and other constructive measures, it would be possible for United States to refurbish its bruised image of an invader that wanted to subjugate Afghanistan for no cogent reasons.

The Taliban were friendly at the outset towards America but later turned enemies due to unbending arrogance of the then US president George W Bush who pushed America into two aimless and unwinnable wars resulting in a depleted domestic economy and tarnished image abroad of that otherwise a magnificent country.

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