Afghanistan Im­pul­sive Strate­gies

As with­drawal looms closer, in­stead of con­ver­gence, Afghanistan and the U.S seem to be mov­ing in op­po­site di­rec­tions.

Southasia - - Contents - By Daud Khat­tak Daud Khat­tak is Act­ing Di­rec­tor at Mashaal Ra­dio, RFE/RLPrague, Czech Repub­lic. As a se­nior jour­nal­ist, he has cov­ered the Tal­iban move­ment in Pak­istan and Afghanistan. He writes for the Chris­tian Sci­ence Mon­i­tor and Sun­day Times.

The De­cem­ber 2014 with­drawal of in­ter­na­tional forces from Afghanistan is viewed with much skep­ti­cism although there are solid rea­sons to be­lieve that the Tal­iban will not over­take the coun­try even if one as­sumes that ef­forts with ne­go­ti­a­tions, presently un­der­way at dif­fer­ent lev­els, fail and the Tal­iban con­tinue their armed strug­gle be­yond 2014.

Those pre­dict­ing a dooms­day sce­nario must as­sess the changes that have oc­curred at the so­cial and po­lit­i­cal lev­els in Afghanistan over the past 12 years. The coun­try’s civil so­ci­ety is much more aware than ever be­fore and the ed­u­ca­tion ra­tio has con­sid­er­ably risen, par­tic­u­larly among girls. A po­lit­i­cal cul­ture is slowly and grad­u­ally tak­ing roots by re­plac­ing the gun cul­ture and war­lordism that be­came the norm dur­ing the civil war till the end of the Tal­iban regime in late 2001. The role of the me­dia has also been crit­i­cal for evok­ing a de­sire of peace and or­der in Afghan so­ci­ety. Hun­dreds of ra­dio and tele­vi­sion chan­nels as well as news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines have sen­si­tized the Afghan so­ci­ety to the need for last­ing peace.

How­ever, many ob­servers and for­eign diplo­mats (both former and cur­rent) are not happy with an ac­cel­er­ated pace of with­drawal in 2014. Many be­lieve the Afghan se­cu­rity forces and the po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship does not pos­sess the ca­pa­bil­ity to sus­tain the sys­tem it is handed over with­out reach­ing a com­pro­mise with the Tal­iban, who have amassed power and ex­panded their net­works and lethal­ity over the past few years.

This ap­pre­hen­sion was rightly sum­ma­rized by Kurt Volker, former US per­ma­nent rep­re­sen­ta­tive to NATO, in his op-ed piece for the Fi­nan­cial Times on Jan­uary 8: “Af­ter the Soviet with­drawal in 1989, the West aban­doned Afghanistan. The re­sult: civil war, Tal­iban rule, hu­man rights catas­tro­phes and an al-Qaeda sanc­tu­ary. Now, as we ac­cel­er­ate to­wards a ma­jor troop re­duc­tion and trans­fer of na­tional lead­er­ship in 2014, we are on the verge of a re­peat.” As part of his so­lu­tion to the Afghan im­broglio and to pre­vent the coun­try from skid­ding into a civil war and haven for ex­port­ing ex­trem­ism once again, Am­bas­sador Volker sug­gests a Plan B that fo­cuses on “sub­stan­tive goals, not on the tim­ing of exit.”

True, this could be the best way to

fo­cus first on goals and then on an exit strat­egy, but this will re­quire much more time which does not seem to be

Now that the num­ber of se­cu­rity forces has reached 350,000, the Afghan par­lia­ment is in place and a demo­crat­i­cally elected pres­i­dent is go­ing to com­plete his fi­nal term in of­fice dur­ing (what many hope) will be a smooth tran­si­tion, the time is ripe to shift the full re­spon­si­bil­ity to the Afghans.

an op­tion with the sec­ond Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion. Pub­lic pres­sure de­mands an early with­drawal from Afghanistan and the end to the coun­try’s ac­tive mil­i­tary in­volve­ments abroad. Fur­ther­more, two ex­pen­sive en­gage­ments in Iraq and Afghanistan have in­flicted in­sur­mount­able pres­sure on the US econ­omy, which is a se­ri­ous con­cern for pol­icy mak­ers in Washington.

The Iraq war may have been one of the most ex­pen­sive and dif­fi­cult ones waged by the US but the with­drawal de­ci­sion taken by the first Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion was en­cour­ag­ing. The Iraqi government is do­ing well so far and the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion is cur­rently sta­ble. In ad­di­tion, pro­po­nents of the with­drawal strat­egy be­lieve that the US will not stay in Afghanistan for a pro­longed pe­riod. They can con­tinue sup­port­ing the Afghans in ush­er­ing in re­forms in the so­cial sec­tor and pro­vid­ing fi­nan­cial and de­fense sup­port, but the ul­ti­mate re­spon­si­bil­ity to lead the coun­try to­wards a bet­ter fu­ture will rest with the Afghan lead­er­ship.

Now that the num­ber of se­cu­rity forces has reached 350,000, the Afghan par­lia­ment is in place and a demo­crat­i­cally elected pres­i­dent is go­ing to com­plete his fi­nal term in of­fice, dur­ing (what many hope) will be a smooth tran­si­tion, the time is ripe to shift the full re­spon­si­bil­ity to the Afghans.

How­ever, there are vis­i­ble prob- lems that ham­per last­ing peace and sta­bil­ity. The pro­fes­sional ca­pa­bil­ity of the nascent Afghan army and po- lice, a stag­nant econ­omy, weak and poor gov­er­nance, wide­spread cor­rup­tion, a war­lord cul­ture and wi­den­ing eth­nic di­vi­sions, all ring alarm bells for an al­ready frag­ile democ­racy. But one must also look at the build­ing of po­lit­i­cal in­sti­tu­tions, the level of aware­ness among Afghans, signs of po­lit­i­cal ma­tu­rity, the build­ing of roads, schools, hos­pi­tals, etc. and the de­sire for peace even among the war­ring sides.

Take the Tal­iban for ex­am­ple. Ini­tially op­posed to rec­og­niz­ing the Afghan con­sti­tu­tion, to­day the group has en­tered into agree­ments for talks in Qatar; a clear sign that they are ready to re­spect the con­sti­tu­tion and ac­cept the demo­crat­i­cally elected Hamid Karzai as the pres­i­dent of Afghanistan. Ad­di­tion­ally, the Tal­iban have also ex­plic­itly dis­as­so­ci­ated them­selves from all forms of ter­ror­ism and have ex­pressed a de­sire for peace­ful coex­is­tence with re­gional neigh­bors and the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity. Call it a change of mind or po­lit­i­cal ma­tu­rity, the in­di­ca­tors show a vis­i­ble change, pro­vided the Afghan lead­er­ship, the in­ter­na­tional back­ers with the United States lead­ing, and re­gional neigh­bors show sin­cer­ity by set­ting aside their in­di­vid­ual na­tional in­ter­ests and join­ing hands to fo­cus their ef­forts on Afghanistan.

Ex­press­ing op­ti­mism over the rel­a­tively free press, the young and grow­ing ur­ban pop­u­la­tion and ‘ro­bust eco­nomic growth’, Afghanistan Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­vi­sor, Dr. Ran­gin Dad­far Spanta told the Wall Street Jour­nal in Jan­uary: “Afghanistan will be much more sta­ble than the coun­tries around it.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.