More ef­fort needed in Afghanistan by US

The China Post - - COMMENTARY -

An inau­gu­ral U.S. De­fense Depart­ment re­port sub­mit­ted to the U.S. Congress eval­u­at­ing the postDe­cem­ber tran­si­tion from lead­ing the war ef­fort in Afghanistan to a so-called train, ad­vise and as­sist mis­sion named Res­o­lute Sup­port has in diplo­matic lan­guage spelled out the se­cu­rity and gov­er­nance chal­lenges in Afghanistan to­day.

Clearly, the mas­sive spring of­fen­sive by the Tal­iban has been a set­back for hopes of sta­bil­ity in Afghanistan while the unity gov­ern­ment has strug­gled to get be­yond per­sis­tent po­lit­i­cal trou­bles that have made it all but im­pos­si­ble to im­prove gov­er­nance there.

Pres­i­dent Ashraf Ghani is a leader pulled in many di­rec­tions with his hands of­ten tied and mul­ti­ple fac­tors be­yond his con­trol.

In truth, how­ever, what is play­ing out in Afghanistan at the mo­ment is partly the re­sult of the U.S. not hav­ing a rea­son­able or re­al­is­tic strat­egy there for years now, with Pres­i­dent Barack Obama in par­tic­u­lar seem­ing more fo­cused on an exit from Afghanistan than any­thing else.

Con­sider the var­i­ous ways in which the U.S. has con­trib­uted to the ever- in­creas­ing un­cer­tainty hang­ing over the fate of Afghanistan.

If the unity gov­ern­ment is not work­ing out or does not ap­pear to be able to over­come in­ter­nal dif­fer­ences, is that re­ally a sur­prise?

But it was U.S. Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry’s dra­matic diplo­macy that cre­ated the un­likely mar­riage be­tween Ghani and chief ex­ec­u­tive Ab­dul­lah Ab­dul­lah in the first place.

Then, when the White House an­nounced its surge-and-exit plan in 2009, it was ap­par­ent straight away that an ar­ti­fi­cial timeline had been im­posed — a timeline within which the Afghan army and po­lice forces sim­ply would not be able to de­velop the ca­pac­ity to de­fend large swathes of the coun­try.

Even more prob­lem­at­i­cally, the U.S. long dithered on talks with the Afghan Tal­iban and then be­lat­edly at­tempted to nudge along an Afghan- led, Afghan- owned em­bry­onic peace process.

Col­lec­tively, that history has surely in­formed the rapid­ness of the de­te­ri­o­ra­tion in 2015.

Yet, the mis­steps and mis­takes of the past should not mean that the de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of 2015 can­not be re­versed.

‘Not in any­one’s in­ter­est’

One con­sis­tent pos­i­tive is that all of Afghanistan’s neigh­bors — and that in­cludes Pak­istan — agree that civil war in Afghanistan is not in any­one’s in­ter­est.

More­over, over the past cou­ple of years at least the U. S.Afghanistan- Pak­istan tri­lat­eral ties have moved in the right di­rec­tion, with the U.S. and Pak­istan sta­bi­liz­ing their bi­lat­eral links and the Pak­istan mil­i­taryAfghan gov­ern­ment re­la­tion­ship wit­ness­ing un­prece­dented co­op­er­a­tion.

The China fac­tor too is a new and pos­i­tive in­flu­ence, while the specter of the Is­lamic State mak­ing in­roads in Afghanistan could in­duce the Afghan Tal­iban to take talks with Kabul more se­ri­ously. Key to re­vers­ing the alarm­ing de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of 2015 though will be re­al­is­tic goals by the Afghan gov­ern­ment and the out­side pow­ers. Afghanistan is not go­ing to be­come a vi­brant and thriv­ing democ­racy with strong in­sti­tu­tions and a sus­tain­able econ­omy any­time soon.

A mod­icum of sta­bil­ity and gov­er­nance will do — and the route to that clearly lies through a more ur­gent ef­fort at talks. This is an ed­i­to­rial pub­lished by Dawn on June 22.

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