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Terrorist Paki is talking about ''Endgame''

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Posted 22 January 2011 - 11:33 AM

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http://www.thenews.c...?ID=26709&Cat=9
The Afghan endgame

Thursday, January 20, 2011
Shamshad Ahmad

America's Afghan war is in its tenth year and Washington still doesn't seem to have a plan to end it. It has been one of the costliest wars lasting longer than the Second World War. There is no sign of a finale soon coming to this unwinnable war that has not gone beyond retribution and retaliation. No wonder people in the US and the European countries are sick of this conflict and want their troops to be out of the war theatre.

To mollify this sentiment, the US is working on alibis of all sorts. The one agreed at the last NATO summit in Lisbon envisages limited withdrawal from Afghanistan in July as a prelude to a transition plan, with an eye to ending their combat mission in Afghanistan by 2014. According to the Lisbon Declaration, the transition process was on track and, by the end of 2014, Afghan forces will be assuming full responsibility for security across their country. In the Afghan context, that is easier said than done.

The Lisbon decision was qualified with a caveat that "the transition would be conditions-based, not calendar-driven. In his concluding remarks, President Obama also clarified the intent of the NATO decision on withdrawal by 2014 by stressing that "it is a goal to make sure that we are not still engaged in combat operations of the sort that we're involved with now," but "it's hard to anticipate exactly what is going to be necessary." He added, "We are much more unified and clear about how we're going to achieve our ultimate end-state in Afghanistan."

However, the Obama strategy spells out no long-term "end-state" and only aims at "setting the conditions" for a small but unspecified number of US troops in July 2011. An unclassified strategic policy review released by the White House on Dec 16 was cautious in claiming operational gains in the war. The assessment found "substantial improvement in the international training of Afghan army and police forces and increased cooperation by Pakistan's military in targeting insurgents on its side of a porous border," but admitted that "recent gains in the south remain reversible."

Whatever it's real intent and content, the Afghan endgame in its present form shows clear divergence in NATO and US positions. America's NATO allies are looking for a military exit from Afghanistan, limiting their presence in the war-ravaged country beyond the stipulated timeline only to a supporting role in nation-building. On its part, the US does not rule out a military role for its forces in Afghanistan even beyond 2014.

Vice President Joe Biden was in Kabul and Islamabad last week on a mission to assess the ground situation preparatory to the scheduled limited withdrawal in July this year in the run-up to the 2014 deadline. His talks in both capitals were described as useful and constructive, though each side had its own narrative of the areas of "concern" in the US withdrawal plan.

While the US wants Afghanistan and Pakistan to do more to facilitate the transition, there are serious doubts and apprehensions in both countries on the very viability of the whole process. For them, the US withdrawal is not the issue. They would welcome it. The issue of concern to them is the premises on which the execution of the transition is based, in complete disregard of the Afghan realities.

The foremost reality is that the Afghans have a fierce sense of independence, and have never been pacified by foreign forces. The post-Soviet chaos and the post-9/11 US-led military campaign both have only deepened the Afghan ethnic divide. The experience of centuries, especially of the last two decades, should make one thing abundantly clear. No reconciliation imposed from outside will work in Afghanistan, and no exit strategy will succeed by further deepening the ethnic divide in this war-torn country.

Henry Kissinger, who opposes any time-bound US withdrawal, sees the Afghan reality in its true character. In his view, Afghanistan is a nation, not a state in the conventional sense, and any exit strategy must be based on the historic reality that the writ of the Afghan government has traditionally been confined to Kabul and its environs, leaving the rest of the country to be run by local warlords or tribal influentials as almost semi-autonomous regions configured largely on the basis of ethnicity, dealing with each other by tacit or explicit understandings.

Historically, for reasons of its difficult geography and multiple ethnicities, the country has rarely been able to achieve a strong central government. Now to expect President Hamid Karzai to create a modern central government within a given timeframe is not realistic. Given the structure of his society based on personal affinities and tribal traditions, the demand for him to deliver in matter of months is beyond his capacity. The country is too large, the ethnic composition too varied, and the population too heavily armed. No army or police force without genuinely reflecting the ethnic reality can deliver in this scenario.

Another lesson from history is that no military occupation for an indefinite period has ever worked. Also different theatres of war require different approaches. Iraq's "Anbar" blueprint will not work in Afghanistan. Gen Petraeus must understand that any plan that precipitates intra-Afghan conflict as part of his anti-Taliban strategy will seriously jeopardise the reconciliation process and throw this ill-fated country in another fratricidal civil war. It would be a dangerous mistake which will not be without grave implications for both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Washington must understand that the Afghans are not the only victims of the Afghan tragedy. Pakistan as the key frontline state in the last Afghan war suffered irreparably in multiple ways in terms of millions of refugees, socio-economic burden, a culture of drugs and guns, rampant terrorism and protracted conflict in its border areas with Afghanistan, and now as its pivotal non-NATO ally in the war on terror is waging a full-scale war on its own territory.

The US may have its own political compulsions in the run-up to next year's presidential election but both Afghanistan and Pakistan have suffered for too long and cannot afford another cataclysm. The effectiveness of their role and capability in this process will suffer if other conflicts and disputes continue to engage and divert their attention and resources.

Whatever the end-game, durable peace in Afghanistan will remain elusive as long as Pakistan's legitimate security concerns in the region remain addressed. Pakistan has already staked everything in support of this war and is constantly paying a heavy price in terms of violence, massive displacement, trade and production slowdown, export stagnation, investor hesitation and a worsening law and order situation. It is also suffering the consequences of US insensitivity to Pakistan's legitimate concerns about India's preponderant role in the region, especially its nuisance potential in its backyard.

A coercive and, at times, accusatory and slanderous approach towards Pakistan and its armed forces and security agencies is both reprehensible and counterproductive. Instead of using Pakistan as an easy scapegoat for their own failures in this war, the US and its allies must accept the reality that Afghanistan is an area of fundamental strategic importance for Pakistan. If the Soviet presence in Cuba almost triggered a nuclear war in the early 1960s, India's continued ascendancy in Afghanistan will remain a danger of no less gravity to the already volatile security environment of this nuclearised region.



The writer is a former foreign secretary. Email: shamshad1941@yahoo. com

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