Un­clear Strate­gies

With no clear roadmap for sta­bil­ity and with­drawal from Afghanistan, the much-hyped NATO sum­mit failed to de­liver much, apart from send­ing a strong sig­nal to Pak­istan to clean up its act.

Southasia - - Contents - By She­hzad H. Qazi She­hzad H. Qazi is a Re­search As­so­ci­ate at the In­sti­tute for So­cial Pol­icy and Un­der­stand­ing, Wash­ing­ton, D.C. and founder of the Coun­cil for Strate­gic and In­ter­na­tional Af­fairs at In­di­ana Univer­sity-pur­due Univer­sity In­di­anapo­lis.

The NATO Sum­mit dis­ap­points,

yet again.

The transat­lantic al­liance, NATO, that has been bat­tling a decade­long in­sur­gency in Afghanistan, met in Chicago this May. In ad­di­tion to the pomp and show, the par­tic­i­pat­ing heads of state were greeted with hun­dreds of anti-war demon­stra­tors that in­cluded US mil­i­tary per­son­nel. As was ex­pected, dis­cus­sions on the se­cu­rity tran­si­tion in Afghanistan and the troop with­drawal dom­i­nated the con­fer­ence.

Three main is­sues were ad­dressed at the Sum­mit with re­gard to the war in Afghanistan and Pak­istan. First, through an of­fi­cial dec­la­ra­tion NATO for­mal­ized its with­drawal and se­cu­rity tran­si­tion strat­egy for Afghanistan. Its mis­sion will end in 2014, with Afghan forces tak­ing the se­cu­rity lead from sum­mer 2013 and ISAF sub­se­quently mov­ing into an ad­vi­sory and train­ing role. De­spite this an­nounce­ment, both Pres­i­dent Obama and An­ders Fogh Ras­mussen, NATO Sec­re­tary Gen­eral, of­fered re­peated as­sur­ances that Afghanistan was not be­ing aban­doned and that the sup­port­ing role of the US and NATO will last be­yond 2014. This un­der­stand­ing was also for­mal­ized by sign­ing a US-Afghan strate­gic pact.

Dif­fer­ences be­tween the US and its Euro­pean al­lies on the pace of with­drawal be­came ap­par­ent when France an­nounced that it was pulling out ear­lier, bring­ing 3500 sol­diers home this year alone. Other NATO coun­tries have al­ready shrunk their troop sizes, in­di­cat­ing that af­ter nearly 11 years, the U.S al­lies are ready to wind down their com­mit­ments and there is lit­tle that the U.S can do to change their po­si­tions.

The re­solve on the Afghan se­cu­rity tran­si­tion con­trasted sharply with

the lack of a break­through de­ci­sion on the is­sue of NATO sup­ply lines that Pak­istan blocked last Novem­ber, as a re­ac­tion to the ‘ac­ci­den­tal’ killing of 24 troops on the Salala border. The pri­mary rea­son that NATO had in­vited Pak­istan to the Sum­mit was to reach an un­der­stand­ing on the mat­ter. The PPP-led gov­ern­ment had shown some flex­i­bil­ity in the days prior to the meet­ing but alarmed the US-led coalition by ask­ing to be paid up­wards of $5000 per con­tainer, off­loaded at Karachi Port and mov­ing through Pak­istani ter­ri­tory be­fore en­ter­ing Afghanistan through the Chaman and Torkhum border cross­ings.

The dis­plea­sure was made clear when Pres­i­dent Obama re­fused to meet Pres­i­dent Zar­dari and in his open­ing re­marks rec­og­nized the pres­ence of all part­ners ex­cept Pak­istan, qual­i­fy­ing the state­ment as “all those na­tions who al­low tran­sit into Afghanistan.” As a Los An­ge­les Times head­line noted, “At NATO sum­mit, warm wel­come for most lead­ers, but not Pak­istan’s.” Even Ras­mussen can­celled his meet­ing with Zar­dari at the last mo­ment. Though the White House later re­leased a pic­ture show­ing Obama speak­ing with Karzai and Zar­dari, and both gov­ern­ments an­nounced that they were mov­ing to­wards an un­der­stand­ing, the fact re­mained that they had in­deed failed to reach an agree­ment. More­over, the Sum­mit once again il­lus­trated that both coun­tries were re­sent­ful and lacked a prag­matic strat­egy that could se­cure co­op­er­a­tive en­gage­ment on Afghanistan with­out up­set­ting their do­mes­tic elec­torates.

An agree­ment was, how­ever, signed be­tween Kyr­gyzs­tan and the US for cargo ship­ments. This se­cures NATO’s in­creased re­liance on the North­ern Dis­tri­bu­tion Net­work, which it uses to trans­port sup­plies into Afghanistan from Rus­sia and Cen­tral Asia. Nev­er­the­less, while this agree­ment can pro­vide a costly short-term so­lu­tion, it can­not solve the ma­jor lo­gis­ti­cal chal­lenges NATO will face when with­draw­ing in 2014. And so NATO re­mains re­liant on Pak­istani co­op­er­a­tion.

Some at­ten­tion was also ac­corded to dis­cus­sions on Pak­istan’s role in sta­bi­liz­ing Afghanistan. Prior to Zar­dari’s ar­rival, Ras­mussen com­mented, “We can’t solve the prob­lems in Afghanistan with­out the pos­i­tive en­gage­ment of Pak­istan.” In short, the coalition was re­mind­ing Pak­istan that to en­sure Afghanistan’s sta­bil­ity it has to re­move Afghan Tal­iban safe havens from its ter­ri­tory

De­spite the dec­la­ra­tions and re-af­fir­ma­tions of move­ment to­ward progress, the sum­mit was dis­ap­point­ing on sev­eral is­sues, the pri­mary one be­ing the fail­ure to of­fer a com­pre­hen­sive strat­egy for a re­spon­si­ble with­drawal. The al­liance of­fered se­cu­rity tran­si­tion plans with­out ex­plain­ing what its po­lit­i­cal strat­egy for sta­bi­liz­ing Afghanistan would be. There was no ex­pla­na­tion of how rec­on­cil­i­a­tion would avoid an­other civil war, how a US-Tal­iban di­a­logue would be ini­ti­ated, how the north­ern par­ties op­posed to Karzai and the Tal­iban would be brought to the ta­ble to en­gage in mean­ing­ful di­a­logue or what kind of a power-shar­ing deal would be cre­ated? Sim­i­larly, there was no dis­cus­sion on how the re­gional coun­tries would be in­volved? Re­gional co­op­er­a­tion on Afghanistan is both a chal­lenge and a ne­ces­sity. How­ever, there is cur­rently no roadmap for a strat­egy that an­swers se­cu­rity is­sues and pur­sues mu­tual in­ter­ests in Afghanistan.

Fur­ther­more, on the se­cu­rity front, sev­eral is­sues re­mained un­ad­dressed. There was no men­tion of how the war against al-Qaeda will be fought af­ter 2014, es­pe­cially inside Pak­istan. More­over, while there was much talk of strength­en­ing the Afghan Na­tional Se­cu­rity Forces (ANSF), it is not clear who ex­actly will pay for their train­ing and main­te­nance, which is ex­pected to cost $4.1 bil­lion an­nu­ally. How will the US and Europe fund this project, and for how long? With Europe’s eco­nomic woes, pledges have al­ready been hard to come by and a cost- cut­ting U.S. Congress may not want to sus­tain this project for much longer.

Fi­nally, with Obama con­ced­ing that the Tal­iban was a strong en­emy and gains in Afghanistan re­mained frag­ile, NATO Com­man­der, Gen­eral John Allen added that he “fully ex­pected com­bat to con­tinue be­yond 2013.” With the progress on talks with the Tal­iban ap­pear­ing un­likely be­fore the U.S. elec­tions, it is clear that the ANSF will be re­spon­si­ble for fight­ing the in­sur­gency from next year on­wards. What is less clear is whether the ANSF is ca­pa­ble of bat­tling the in­sur­gents.

Ul­ti­mately the Chicago sum­mit did not de­liver much. The se­cu­rity tran­si­tion and with­drawal an­nounce­ment was im­por­tant be­cause it for­mal­ized an ex­ist­ing un­der­stand­ing. How­ever, it proved lit­tle be­cause it of­fered no pol­icy to deal with the po­lit­i­cal prob­lems of the con­flict, which is a big­ger con­cern since a po­lit­i­cal set­tle­ment and not vic­tory on the bat­tle­field can only bring peace to Afghanistan.

NATO also failed to reach a deal with Pak­istan on the is­sue of sup­ply routes. With the NATO man­date end­ing in just over two years, un­cer­tainty and the ab­sence of long-term think­ing con­tinue to de­fine at­ti­tudes to­wards Afghanistan. If the US-led coalition is truly in­ter­ested in sta­bi­liz­ing Afghanistan, then it must work with the Afghan gov­ern­ment to for­mu­late a ro­bust na­tional rec­on­cil­i­a­tion pro­gram that brings to­gether var­i­ous hos­tile groups and should en­gage re­gional coun­tries to de­velop a strat­egy for mul­ti­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion. With­out these ef­forts and a long-term com­mit­ment to help­ing Afghanistan re­form and de­velop, sta­bil­ity will be scarcely more than a wish.

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