How the international efforts might succeed
bringing peace in Afghanistan?
By Rahim Baloch (Dec 21, 2018)
Soon after the horrific terrorist attacks of 9/11 the USA, on October 7, 2001, launched its "War on Terror" in Afghanistan against Alqaeda and its Taliban hosts. Later on NATO forces also joined the war on terror. UNO Security Council too endorsed US led NATO efforts against Islamic extremism and terrorism (which is beautifully termed as jihad) in Afghanistan. The US also aligned Pakistan as a non-NATO ally.
In this prolonged war the US has often been introducing changes in its approach and strategy. President Barak Obama extended drone attacks against Alqaeda-Taliban leaders and their hideouts in Pakistan. US Navy SEALS, in a secret raid, captured and killed Osama Bin Laden on May 2, 2011 at a compound near Kakul Military Academy Abottabad, the Pakistani West Point. Taliban head Mulla Mansoor was also killed in a US drone attack in the Pakistani Occupied Balochistan.
On 21st August 2017 President Donald Trump announced important changes in the USA’s Af-Pak policy. He blamed Pakistan for providing safe havens to Afghan Taliban. He also approved certain punitive measures against Pakistan for its support to Afghan Taliban especially the Haqqani Network and Quetta Shoora.
On 1st January 2018 Mr Trump in his first tweet of the year strongly criticized and condemned Pakistan for its support for Taliban and said, “The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!”
President Trump adopted a punitive policy of cut offs in coalition support funds for Pakistan, which eventually has been transformed into a total suspension of military aid and assistance to Pakistan. The punitive policy was obviously aimed at compelling Pakistan for cooperation in international efforts against elements of terrorism and chaos in Afghanistan.
On one hand USA is putting pressure on Pakistan by suspending its aid, on the other hand it is inducing Pakistan by offering incentives for its cooperation to bring peace in Afghanistan. All in vein.
Troops of more than 40 countries are deployed with latest war technologies and sophisticated weapons, modern communication systems, finest military training, air support and other facilities at their disposal. Yet they don’t succeed in achieving the goals of a complete and decisive victory against terrorism.
Instead of a decisive victory of US led forces, the war on terror in Afghanistan, according to Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is in a condition of "stalemate”.
Now question arises that why the US led NATO forces aren’t succeeding in war on terror to bring peace and stability in terror-ridden Afghanistan? What mistake has been made in the approach and strategy of war on terror in Afghanistan? What should be the USA policy for a decisive victory against terrorism in Afghanistan?
The answer is simple and clear. It is Pakistan that directly benefits from civil war and instability in Afghanistan. Due to its long standing dispute with Afghanistan over the issues of Durand Line boundary and Pashtunistan, Pakistan isn’t happy to see peace, prosperity and stability in Afghanistan. Pakistan considers Afghanistan as an enemy and believes that an unstable and weak Afghanistan suits and serves its core strategic and security interests.
Pakistani security policy revolves around its enmity with India and Afghanistan. Because, Pakistan knows that it can’t afford to face two strong hostile neighbors on her eastern and western borders at the same time. This is the basic approach/mindset which shapes Pakistani foreign and security policies.
Pakistan, a so-called non-NATO ally of the US, has opened its borders for all those Islamic extremists at a time when USA was expelling them from Afghanistan and was hunting them down during "Operation Enduring Freedom ". In fact Pakistan can’t afford and imagine a US led NATO victory over Islamic extremism because the Islamic extremism is an inalienable part of Pakistani policy. It was used as an ideological instrument to justify the creation of Pakistan.
Pakistan has also been using Islamic extremism as a tool in its foreign policy as well as in home politics. That is why Pakistan allowed Alqaeda and Taliban along with their numerous other affiliated groups to enter and take refuge into Pakistan. It deceitfully sheltered, facilitated, reorganized those extremists and relaunched them against US led NATO forces in Afghanistan at a time when USA was badly busy in Iraq war.
In the light of above facts it’s clear that main hurdle in the way of victory over terrorism is Pakistan, not Taliban. Taking Pakistan as a non-NATO ally in the ‘War on Terror’ was a disastrous decision of America. Whilst, since the last days of President Bush’s administration, the US is blaming Pakistan for providing the elements with funds and safe havens that are responsible for instability and terrorism in Afghanistan. Those US allegations against Pakistan seem true.
It’s no more a secret that Osama and Mullah Omer led the war against US/NATO in Afghanistan for years from their Pakistani safe havens. Quetta Shoora and Haqqani Network are still operating from their Pakistani sanctuaries. Despite the exposure of Pakistani duplicity, the USA is still following a futile policy of "carrot and stick" towards Pakistan, believing that war on terror couldn’t be won without Pakistani cooperation.
It is the fatal fault in USA’s approach and strategy which can rightly be termed as the root cause of failure to achieve a decisive victory over Islamic extremism. A famous Urdu poet Mir’s following lines are fit to the US stratagem of including Pakistan as an ally in the War on Terror;
میر کیا سادہ ہیں بیمار ہوئے جس کے سبب
اسی عطار کے لونڈے سے دوا لیتے ہیں
“How innocent Mir is
For getting the remedy
From one caused the injury.”
Recent US dialogue with Taliban for a peaceful settlement of Afghan civil war might bring positive results but reliance on Pakistan for that purpose or giving it any role will definitely destroy the entire peace process.
If the Trump administration’s recent decision of withdrawing half of the US forces from Afghanistan is an outcome of recent dialogue with Taliban, aimed at paving the way for a peaceful settlement then it may be helpful to bring peace in Afghanistan. Otherwise such a surprising and hastily decision, without managing any mechanism for the continuation and protection of democratic process and gains in Afghanistan, will leave an impression of American defeat at the hands of Pakistani duplicity. It will also be termed as a US betrayal of its Afghan friends which will also create a trust deficit in USA’s friends and allies all around the world. It will be deemed a decline in the US power and prestige as a superpower too.
The vacuum which might occur after USA’s retreat as a superpower will definitely be filled by its international rivals. If the US withdrawal of forces is affected prior to the preparations for preserving democratic gains and security of Afghanistan then it might deprive extremists of their main tool of attaining public sympathy and support on the plea of fighting foreigners. The ongoing uncertainty and ambiguity will soon be clear in the near future.
Finally, a purposeful peace settlement with Taliban is essential, sustaining development and democracy in Afghanistan, while Pakistan should be denied any role in Afghanistan peace efforts. Otherwise it will undermine and sabotage the whole peace process.
The author is the former Secretary General of Baloch National Movement (BNM). He tweets at @RahimBalochh