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Pakistan Press (06 Nov 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Cost of Ignoring Afghanistan’s Ground Realities: New Age Islam’s Selection 06-11-2017

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

November 5, 2017

Pakistan’s Afghan problem

By Dr Hasan Askari Rizvi

Compiled by New Age Islam Edit Bureau

URL: http://newageislam.com/pakistan-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/cost-of-ignoring-afghanistan’s-ground-realities--new-age-islam’s-selection-06-11-2017/d/113128



Cost of ignoring Afghanistan’s ground realities

By Rustam Shah Mohmand

November 5, 2017

The scene is frightening in Afghanistan. There is an exponential increase in the number of deadly attacks on the police, Army personnel and civilians. Not only that the remnants of Islamic State (IS) have targeted mosques in both the capital and in Ghor province. Training centres, police headquarters and convoys have also been attacked all over the country. Casualties have mounted.

The bloodbath has caused consternation and anger forcing former president Hamid Karzai to demand the immediate convening of a Loya Jirga or a grand national assembly to take stock of the worsening security situation and take vital decisions on how to deal with the enormous challenge the country is confronting. As grim as the situation is, it is sadly not evoking any vigorous or constructive response from all the major stakeholders. The Afghan government, ensconced in Kabul and sustained by massive infusion of external funding, is desperately seeking to protect the status quo of which they are the principal beneficiaries.

Reconciliation, as long as it does not impinge on the rulers’ positions, perks and powers is welcome.

The regime would support the mainstreaming of Taliban only if the movement would agree to be assimilated in the ‘systems’ that are currently in vogue in the country. In other words, surrender.

The US approach is even more complex and paranoid. It is not prepared to lay down goals that are sought to be achieved. Washington is not revealing its overarching objectives in a regional perspective that it is seeking to promote. Whether the US is prepared to withdraw its forces once reconciliation is reached between the Taliban and Kabul, is not clear. Doubts persist in the absence of a clear strategy. Many believe the Americans are in Afghanistan for a long haul to achieve the following objectives: keep a menacing eye on Pakistan’s nuclear development programme; not cede space to China for establishing its hegemony in the region; establish its relevance in the context of the One Belt, One Road project of China; and derive some benefit from exploitation of Afghanistan’s vast mineral reserves that are estimated in value at $1.5 trillion.

There are reports of the US covertly encouraging and supporting the rise of IS in Afghanistan as a counterweight to Taliban, and also to keep the pot boiling so that the military presence is seen as necessary and justified. The other goal is to weaken the Taliban by making them fight on multiple fronts.

Pakistan does not seem to have any clear policy on how best to bring about reconciliation between the Taliban and the Afghan government, which would also take care of the US concerns in the area. It has oscillated between positions of collaboration with the US to seeking convergence with Kabul on some issues that, unfortunately, ignore the objective realities.

Other than persuading some Taliban representatives (those few that Islamabad has some leverage with) to come to the negotiating table, there is no clear vision on how could a workable framework be created for resolving the conflict. The problem with all three stakeholders is that they are ignoring the ground realities in Afghanistan. Any attempt to help resolve the conflict can only succeed when it is premised on addressing the root cause of the insurgency. Peripheral measures or treating the symptoms while the fundamental cause that has brought the country to this state, would not deliver.

Contacts between Islamabad, Washington and Kabul are welcome but the problem would not go away by undertaking visits and issuing conciliatory statements. As the insurgency gains further deadly momentum, Afghans across the country are worried, angry and terribly frustrated. Hundreds of thousands have left the country — some offering themselves for recruitment in Iranian militias to fight in Syria. Unemployment has surged, drug addiction is alarming and soldiers deserting the army are a lingering headache.

No step towards normalisation would work unless the root cause, ie, the issue of the presence of foreign forces is addressed. That can only happen if the following conditions are met:

1) The Taliban convert their movement into a political organisation with a clear manifesto that cuts across the ethnic and sectarian divide in the country.

2) Kabul must not insist on mainstreaming the resistance on its own terms; the regime has to be willing to make compromises that include giving up positions of authority, which is is not going to happen anytime soon.

3) The US has to be unequivocal on its position with regard to the withdrawal of all its forces after a consensus has been reached and an accord signed between the Taliban and the government.

4) Pakistan must begin to vigorously pursue the reconciliation efforts that would address the root cause, namely the eventual withdrawal of foreign forces within a stipulated period of time following an agreement between the Taliban and other pro-government forces.

5) China’s role as a mediator must be acknowledged and respected. The Taliban would rely more on Chinese mediation realising that Beijing would not be pressured by the US.

There are no prospects for any breakthrough in the foreseeable future because none of the stakeholders are ready to confront the ground realities. The stalemate, death, destruction and the accompanying suffering and misery will, regrettably, continue. A destabilised Afghanistan will have profound implications for the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline project, Casa 1000, CPEC and many other regional programmes for socioeconomic emancipation for millions of downtrodden people of the region.

Te stakes are high. But peace is being obstructed by the Kabul regime’s concerns for its inclusion and survival and the US’s preoccupation with its regional, hegemonic agenda.



Pakistan’s Afghan problem

By Dr Hasan Askari Rizvi

November 5, 2017

The issues and problems between Pakistan and Afghanistan cannot be simply described as bilateral interaction. This relationship has become so complex over the years that it now touches all the major aspects of Pakistan’s foreign policy and external and internal security. The political and security fallout of the internal strife in Afghanistan impacts not only Pakistan but it also causes problems for several countries in the neighbourhood and beyond. Some countries use this issue to pursue their regional agendas or use it to, among other things, for Pakistan bashing.

This does not mean that Afghanistan has cultivated political, economic and diplomatic clout of global dimensions. Afghanistan is far from it. The long-drawn internal strife dating back to the early 1980s and American involvement in Afghanistan that manifested differently in the 1980s and in the post-September 2001 period have impacted regional and global politics negatively. All this has made the management of the Afghanistan problem difficult for Pakistan.

Pakistan cannot view the Afghan problem merely as a bilateral issue because the foreign policy and security choices that Afghanistan makes, including its policy towards Pakistan, are shaped by the internal power politics in Kabul as well as by the influence that the US and India exercise over Afghanistan’s foreign and security policy. The increased interest of China, Russia, Iran and the states of Central Asia has also to be taken into account. As the issues of terrorism, stability and peace cannot be settled exclusively at the bilateral Pak-Afghan level, the Afghan problem should be viewed as a bilateral-cum-multilateral issue.

The US does not want to talk about its role in creating Islamic militancy in the Pak-Afghan region in the 1980s to oust the military of the former Soviet Union from Afghanistan. Currently, the US plans to maintain its limited military presence in Afghanistan for an indefinite period and demands that Pakistan should serve the counterterrorism agenda as set out by Washington. The US now judges Pakistan’s counterterrorism efforts on the basis of their relevance to achieving American agenda of subduing the Afghan Taliban and their allies. It hardly pays any attention to what bothers Pakistan in Afghanistan’s troubled situation and its difficulties in taking military action against the Afghan Taliban that come to Pakistan because they overlap with about three million registered and unregistered Afghan refugees and local Pashtun population. Similarly, the US neither joins with Pakistan nor encourages Afghanistan to do so in Pakistan’s efforts to strengthen security on the Pak-Afghan border so as to curtail unauthorised two-way movement of people and fighters across this border. The US and Afghanistan manifest similar indifference towards the permanent presence of Pakistani Taliban and their Pakistani allies in three Afghan provinces adjacent to the Pak-Afghan border.

Pakistan, the US and Afghanistan need to evolve a shared approach to deal with terrorism in and around Afghanistan through a regular dialogue that equally accommodates their security concerns. Public denunciation of Pakistan by the US or American public statements on the time frame for Pakistan to take action against the terrorist elements identified by the US are not going to be helpful.

The strident US disposition towards Pakistan has encouraged the Kabul government to display a similarly negative attitude towards the country and it treats Pakistan as the sole culprit for the inability of the Kabul government and American troops based in Afghanistan to eliminate the Afghan Taliban. India also is encouraging Afghanistan to adopt a tough policy towards Pakistan. The Afghan president talked recently about the need of establishing a criterion to judge how far Pakistan is taking action against the Afghan Taliban rather than working together with Islamabad to deal with all kinds of terrorists in both countries.

Now, China and Russia are endeavouring hard to seek a regional solution to the Afghan problem at the bilateral and multilateral level by taking other states of the region in confidence. Though these efforts have not produced any significant result, Chinese and Russian interest in seeking an amicable solution of the Afghan problem is evoking much interest in Pakistan and elsewhere in the region.

As different states are manifesting deep interest in Afghanistan and playing their ‘games’ with reference to the Afghan imbroglio, Pakistan will have to strengthen its multilateral diplomacy with a focus on winning the confidence of as many states as possible that are directly involved in the Afghan problem. Time has come to go beyond the oft-repeated statement that Pakistan has made massive sacrifices in the war on terrorism and that it has suffered more financial losses than what it received as economic assistance and loans.

Instead of blowing Pakistan’s own trumpet on Afghanistan, its policymakers should pay more attention to the imperatives of global politics. They need to make a strong attempt to address the complaints of other states about Pakistan’s Afghanistan policy, even if these complaints are based on faulty information. This must be coupled with a cogent and convincing presentation of Pakistan’s concerns about the situation in Afghanistan, especially the issue of two-way unauthorised cross-border movement between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Another issue that needs to be explained to the international community is that New Delhi’s belligerent approach towards Islamabad complicates Pakistan’s security problems, and slows down its efforts to manage the tribal areas and the border with Afghanistan.

Instead of issuing polemical statements to counter American, Afghan and Indian assertions on internal strife and terrorism in Afghanistan, Pakistan needs a new multilateral diplomacy that takes into account the complexity of the Afghan problem and the varied interest of different states with an unambiguous view of what is possible on long- and short-term bases.


URL: http://newageislam.com/pakistan-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/cost-of-ignoring-afghanistan’s-ground-realities--new-age-islam’s-selection-06-11-2017/d/113128


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