Next Step

Alarmed by the prospect of Amer­ica de­part­ing from Afghanistan, pow­er­ful voices are plead­ing for sus­tained in­ter­na­tional sup­port for the Afghan govern­ment.

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By S.G. Ji­la­nee S. G. Ji­la­nee is a se­nior po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst and the for­mer edi­tor of SouthAsia Mag­a­zine.

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-

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