America’s wondrous Afghanistan!
After spending tremendous effort in terms of American munitions and Asian blood, Afghanistan is militarily volatile, politically ungovernable and communally uncontrollable. It has the capacity of destabilising its all six neighbours and, indeed, the entire Asia.
While pondering whether this status has occurred by default or design, one tends to conclude in the favour of a mix. Historic perspective indicates that Afghanistan has never allowed a foreign power to consolidate its occupation. American trajectory indicates that a stable Afghanistan does not suit US interests, thus it has been persistently working for a perpetually capricious Afghanistan; and a simmering Pakistan.
When America attacked Afghanistan, Musharraf thought it would all end within three to four weeks, although academics had professed that the venture could last for about a decade. The famous quote by Alexander the Great that Afghanistan, “is easy to march into, but hard to march out of”, has held out ever since. Soon America would join the club of earlier failed adventurers; indeed, each one of them was a titanic of its era.
President Hamid Karzai is an erratic leader, his rhetoric keeps oscillating between the ultra right nationalist to ‘his master’s voice’. He also keeps jockeying between India and Pakistan for strategic benefits. His latest trophy is an elusive strategic agreement with India, while his messages in recent days have conveyed a deep suspicion of Pakistan’s intentions; particularly disquieting statement that Afghanistan needs to negotiate not with the Taliban, but with Pakistan coincided with the anti-Pakistan diatribe of his Washington-based overlords.
Meanwhile, the declining of military action against the Haqqani network is Pakistan’s first and clear-cut refusal to accept the US dictation. Americans are not expected to take it lightly. The shaky process of Afghan reconciliation has accrued a serious setback with the assassination of Burhanuddin Rabbani, while ensuing accusations and denials between Afghanistan and Pakistan has dealt a mortal blow to the peace process; at least for the time being. Even more serious are the broader repercussions for regional peace.
Admiral Mullen’s advice for his successor, General Dempsey is quite intriguing: “I urge Marty to remember the importance of Pakistan to all this. To try to do a better job than I did with that vexing and yet vital relationship…….I continue to believe there is no solution without Pakistan and no stable future in the region without a partnership.” However, he did not have the courage to tell the Americans that right under the nose of his boys, Haqqanis run a de facto government in four provinces and can move about freely in seven provinces. With this ground reality, they do not need any fallback shelters in Pakistan. Wall Street Journal has recently revealed only a bit of the liaison that Mullen’s troops have recently had with the Haqqanis.
The non-Pashtun warlords, US military and CIA are natural allies. In unison, this trio is quietly working on a plan to retard Obama’s drawdown plan. They also agree on isolating the Pashtuns, and assigning India a role of America’s military proxy in Afghanistan. In all probability, Rabbani was not killed by the Taliban, but by the warlords working in concert with the CIA. He was critical of the US mess in his country in the days prior to his murder. Rabbani had genuinely sought reconciliation among the Afghan groups; he openly opposed the use of force against the Taliban. He also believed that peace could not return to the country so long as the foreign forces remained on the Afghan soil. He was advocating a revamped Kabul government, including the Afghan Taliban and was a strong opponent of the American military bases in his country. So Rabbani’s demise has helped the warlords end the prospects of peace with the Taliban. The murder has also enabled Pentagon and CIA to put pressure on the White House to prolong the process of drawdown. They are close to pushing the Afghan war into Pakistan to avoid scrutiny of their failures in Afghanistan; an expanded war would help them reclaim their slashed budgets.
An American writer, Wayne Madsen, recently claimed: “Pakistan is next on the target list of nations that will soon be feeling the military muscle of the US…….unlike other Muslim nations that have been subjected to its military intervention, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, and Libya. Pakistan’s ultimate prize for the West is its nuclear weapons arsenal…….The plans have been coordinated between the CIA, RAW and Mossad.” The US always wanted to get to Pakistan’s nukes. Moreover, President Lyndon B. Johnson once said: “Wars can be lost, but election must be won.” In a spree to win the elections, he went so ballistic that the Vietnam war spun out of American control and Johnson had to abdicate his right to contest the second term. In the footsteps of Johnson, Obama is following similar trajectories.
Obama, Biden, Hillary, Mullen, Petraeus and Panetta, who are in the habit of firing threatening salvos, need to be realistic and understand that the Americans, as well as the world, cannot be fooled by such rhetoric again and again. America must take the initiative by publicly abandoning its aims to retain bases in Afghanistan and indicate its firm commitment to exit out at the earliest.
Islamaad’s vision about Afghanistan’s future pegs around a peaceful polity; whereas Washington is looking for a turbulent Afghanistan. Further Pakistan is seeking a self-governed Afghanistan, which could take care of its security; whereas America wants an Afghanistan that is perpetually dependent on America for its security and economic survival. Hence, both the countries are on a point of strategic divergence.
At least until Obama loses elections, Pakistan is up against an insidious psyche. American military threat is real and serious. Our military leadership needs to upgrade the readiness structures and refine response procedures to thwart American misadventures through special operations. Likewise, the political leadership needs to specify clear and precise rules of engagement – “shoot to neutralise all intruders.”