Alarmed by the prospect of America departing from Afghanistan, powerful voices are pleading for sustained international support for the Afghan government.
How will Afghanistan take benefit from the International support in the days leading to the U.S. troops’ withdrawal in 2014?
No less a person than Jan Kubis believes that continued international support is critical for Afghanistan to proceed with the process of transition from foreign occupation to full freedom. Kubis is the UN Special Representative and the Head of the UN Assistance mission in Afghanistan. Afghanistan, in his opinion, would need support in economic, political and security sectors. Of the three only the case for economic assistance is easily understood. The entire economic infrastructure will have to be rebuilt as if from scratch after the devastation it has suffered from 12 years of US occupation.
But how international support could successfully translate itself into ushering in political stability is questionable. First of all, what shape Afghan politics will take after the departure of the alien forces is a matter of speculation. Even the peace talks with the Taliban that were expected to start last month have drifted into limbo.
Having realized its past error in abandoning Afghanistan to its fate after the Soviet withdrawal, the US is determined to use Afghanistan as one of its forward posts, for surveillance over Russia, China and its major anathema, Iran. Its troops will therefore remain in Afghanistan indefinitely after 2014, under one pretext or another. America is already in the process of negotiating such an agreement with the Karzai government. In fact, its basic concern is to secure the safety of its troops from Taliban snipers. The opening of a Taliban office in Doha for the purpose of United States-Taliban talks has to be seen as the first step in this direction.
For political stability, an understanding among the Taliban, the Kabul government and the Northern Alliance is of the core. It should also be understood that in Afghanistan’s context, the “international community” actually means the United States and its poodle, Britain, as well as its neighbors -- Pakistan, Iran and India. Pakistan enjoys clout with the Taliban; India on the other hand has close ties with President Karzai. All of these countries can prod the various factions to carve out a commonly agreed arrangement on the political set-up in Afghanistan after 2014.
But whether all the involved countries could work on the issue with a unity of purpose, given the eternal hostility between Pakistan and India, is an open question. For example, Pakistan is already uneasy with India’s growing influence in Afghanistan under Karzai, even though it has not done anything concrete to aid and assist his government as India has done. “India has already invested US$10.8 billion in Afghanistan, as of 2012,” mainly on various construction projects. More projects are likely to come up after US withdrawal, “including setting up Iron ore mines, a 6 MTPA steel plant, a 800 MW power plant, Hydro-electric power projects, roads and transmission lines.” And finally, Afghanistan has signed a strategic partnership agreement with India in 2011, which, among other things will include the training of Afghan security personnel. On the contrary, Kabul’s relations with Islamabad remain taught if not strained, with a frequent exchange
able. But such an idea is anathema to President Karzai. No wonder, therefore, that Kabul went into conniptions when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s special adviser on national security and foreign policy, Sartaj Aziz, allegedly suggested that Kabul accept some kind of powersharing agreement with the Afghan Taliban, wherein, “parts of the country may eventually be ceded to Taliban control.” Even though Pakistan officially denied Mr. Aziz having offered any such idea, the fact remains that Taliban do control fairly large swathes of territory in the North and have a strong presence in and around Kandahar. It is also an established fact that Mr. Karzai’s writ, even now, is limited by and large to the capital and its precincts. And in view of these factors the idea attributed to Mr. Aziz does make sense.
As for the Taliban, they treat Karzai with contempt. They call him an American stooge and are averse to talking with him. It is hoped that Karzai’s successor may bring change. All eyes are therefore set to the forthcoming election. However, the most crucial problem after the US-NATO pullout will be putting Afghanistan’s economy on the rails. The torrents of dollars flowing inside Afghanistan will dry up. The CIA will no more deliver large packets of cash. But international financial support is critical to enable the country to stand on its own two feet. The United Nations that sanctioned its invasion and occupation as well as the invaders, must come forward with sizeable donations.
Not only do they owe it to the people of Afghanistan with whose lives they played havoc, but also because a politically and economically unstable Afghanistan may pose a threat to the stability of the region, especially Pakistan. A concerted effort is needed from the international community and especially its close neighbors to avoid a repeat of the Dr. Najibullah drama after 2014. of barbs between each other. And yet, Pakistan has a crucial role in Afghanistan’s peace and stability.
Nonetheless, the fact remains that the “international community” may do just so much. It may provide encouragement, but the initiative for political stability in Afghanistan must emerge from its own soil.
Jan Kubis has also mentioned Afghanistan’s security. But, its security will be guaranteed by the presence of US troops. Besides, it will have a fully trained national army of its own. Afghanistan, therefore, would have no external threats to its security. Even otherwise, except the Soviet Union and the United States, no other country has invaded Afghanistan within living memory.
What shape Afghanistan’s politics will take after 2014 is anybody’s guess. Presidential election is due in early 2014. Who will be the next president if Karzai is either defeated or decides not to run? And how will the new president deal with the country’s myriad post2014 problems? Because there can be no peace and stability if fighting between the Kabul government and Taliban goes on, some sort of power-sharing agreement with the Taliban is indispens-