Plan E for Afghanistan

Discussion in 'Subcontinent & Central Asia' started by SHASH2K2, Oct 5, 2010.

  1. SHASH2K2

    SHASH2K2 New Member

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    Plan E for Afghanistan
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    A rough alignment (circled) of the road built by India, which connects Zaranj in Iran with the town of Delaram, on Afghanistan's main Kabul-Kandahar-Herat garland highway.
    by Ajai ShuklaBusiness Standard, 5th Oct 2010
    Robert Blackwill, former US ambassador to India and later New Delhi’s lobbyist in Washington, has stirred up a heated debate with his now famous Plan B for Afghanistan. This involves effectively partitioning the country, with Pashtun-predominant southern Afghanistan ceded to the Taliban and, by proxy, to Pakistan. A US-Nato force of some 40,000 soldiers, down from 150,000 today, would confine itself to northern Afghanistan. Throwing one child to the wolf, Blackwill apparently believes, might save the other.
    Plan B, or so the argument goes, would satisfy everyone who counts: the Taliban, which would re-establish control over their homeland; Pakistan, because its proxy control over southern Afghanistan would satisfy its quest for “strategic depth”; the US, which would remain a significant power in south and central Asia without a crippling price in blood and treasure (currently 700-1000 soldiers dead and $100 billion spent each year); Nato, because of its namby-pamby preference for stationing European soldiers in non-combat or low-combat areas; and India, because of Pakistan’s reduced capacity to extract US tolerance for India-directed terror.

    While acknowledging that Plan B has its drawbacks — notably the abandonment of non-Pashtun groups, non-Taliban militias, and womenfolk in southern Afghanistan to the mercy of the Taliban — Blackwill points out that Plan A, i.e. the current surge of US troops, has changed little in Afghanistan. Therefore, by summer 2011, with US elections looming, Congressmen will be debating the even more disastrous Plan C: the withdrawal of all foreign troops within a couple of years.Even as the US policy debate centres on a minimally damaging withdrawal, India’s moribund strategic community remains in denial, chanting the mantra that if the US does ever pull the bulk of its forces out of Afghanistan, it will be too far in the future to worry about presently. This delusion stems from New Delhi’s self-defeating apprehension that it would be left without options in a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.
    This illusion of Indian helplessness, paradoxically, enjoys greater currency in India than it does abroad. While Pakistan realises how much India’s influence is expanding, New Delhi focuses on the negatives: there is no Ahmed Shah Masood, around whom anti-Taliban forces can coalesce, 1990s-style, nor for that matter a coherent Northern Alliance. With the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) controlling swathes of northern and central Afghanistan, India has little opportunity for resuscitating Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara militias. And while Moscow and Teheran still share India’s revulsion to a resurgent Taliban, they are less willing now to work jointly in undermining the Taliban. 2010, New Delhi concludes, is very different from 1996.
    This unnecessarily gloomy Indian view of Afghanistan springs from our traditional view of influence as a function of hard power, of bayonets and boots on the ground, the more the better. In Afghanistan, however, this last decade has delivered one unmistakeable lesson: hard power is not the answer. In the alternative currency of soft power, India’s nine-year-long, $1.3 billion humanitarian and development aid programme has created a powerful equity in Afghanistan.
    Indian confidence in this intangible, but nevertheless real, asset must guide our strategy in Afghanistan. Our alternative to Blackwill’s Plan B is Plan E — Exit Now. Counter-intuitively, India has more to gain than lose from an immediate US withdrawal.
    America’s pullout from Afghanistan will immediately deprive the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, Al Qaeda, and a smorgasbord of other radical groups of the glue of a common enemy. Inevitably, driven by the contradictions within their unholy alliance, they will turn their hostility upon one another. A key loser in this fratricidal game will be the traditional referee, the Pakistan Army.
    As the Taliban imposes its writ across Afghanistan and Pakistan’s noose tightens, resentment will start to build. In the 1990s, Taliban-imposed order seemed preferable to many Afghans than the outright anarchy and indiscriminate killing and destruction that characterised the post-Soviet “mujahideen” power struggles. The Karzai government, despite its corruption and ineffectualness, would contrast favourably with the Taliban’s religious totalitarianism. As for the “foreign domination” that Afghans cite while railing against the ISAF, none of those free-spirited citizens have any illusions about the Taliban’s dependence on Pakistan. The traditional Afghan resentment of Pakistan would bubble up to the surface.
    A popular argument from India’s strategic elite is that Afghanistan would provide a training ground for India-bound terrorists. This is outdated; today, Pakistan is the terror training academy not just for India-focused jehadis, but for a wide assortment of Islamist radicals with grievances against the US, Europe, Russia, Central Asian countries like Uzbekistan, even China. A resurrected Taliban regime could hardly offer better-located training grounds than those around Sialkot and Peshawar.
    An American pullout from Afghanistan would free the US military to strike at Pakistan-harboured terrorist groups, something that Pakistan’s control over logistical routes into Afghanistan prevents today. A key element of Blackwill’s Plan B is the retention of US troops in northern Afghanistan for strikes into Pakistani tribal areas; paradoxically, though, America’s continued logistic dependence on Pakistan would hold back effective action. This conundrum would only be resolved through a major American diplomatic breakthrough with countries (Iran, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan) that could offer alternative supply routes or bases. For differing reasons, that seems unlikely to happen.
    “The Pope”, Joseph Stalin once sneered, “How many divisions does the Pope have?” But that was in a different era. Today, New Delhi would exercise influence in Afghanistan, even without a physical presence. The heavy lifting for that has already been done; it is time now to act with confidence.
     
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  3. SHASH2K2

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    Gates Says U.S. Is in Position to Start Afghan Pullout


    KABUL, Afghanistan — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Monday that the United States was “well positioned” to begin withdrawing some American troops from Afghanistan in July, but he said that a substantial force would remain and that the United States was starting talks with the Afghans about keeping a security presence in the country beyond 2014.
    At a joint news conference in the Afghan capital with President Hamid Karzai, Mr. Gates said that no decisions had been made about the number of troops to go home. His remarks were tempered with enough caveats, however, to suggest that the July drawdown promised by President Obama could be minor.
    “As I have said time and again, we are not leaving Afghanistan this summer,” Mr. Gates said.
    Currently about 100,000 American troops are in the country.
    Mr. Gates also used the news conference to offer an extended apology to Mr. Karzai for the killings by mistake last week of nine Afghan boys. Mr. Karzai accepted the apology.
    On Sunday, Mr. Karzai had rejected an apology for the killings from Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American commander in Afghanistan.
    “This breaks our heart,” Mr. Gates said as he stood beside Mr. Karzai in the Afghan presidential palace. “Not only is their loss a tragedy for their families, it is a setback for our relationship with the Afghan people.”
    One boy who was wounded but survived described a helicopter gunship that hunted down the children as they gathered wood outside their village. The gunners apparently mistook the children for insurgents who hours earlier had fired on an American base. The boys were 9 to 15 years old.
    Mr. Karzai, after responding that civilian casualties were at the heart of tensions between the United States and Afghanistan, said of Mr. Gates that “I trust him fully when he says he’s sorry.”
    Mr. Gates, who was on an unannounced two-day trip to Afghanistan, spoke more positively than he had in recent months about what he cited as progress in the nearly decade-old war.
    “The gains we are seeing across the country are significant,” he said, citing improvements in security in Helmand and Kandahar Provinces in the south, as well as some progress on Afghanistan’s eastern border with Pakistan.
    Mr. Gates made similar remarks to American troops at Bagram Air Base earlier in the day, when he told them that “you’re having success, there’s just no question about it.”
    He added, “I know you’ve had a tough winter, it’s going to be a tougher spring and summer, but you’ve made a lot of headway, and I think you’ve proven with your Afghan partners that this thing is going to work.”
    Despite the optimism in Mr. Gates’s remarks, American commanders in the east and north have seen continued violence in 2011 and two of the most lethal suicide bomb attacks in nearly two years occurred in the last four weeks. One in the eastern city of Jalalabad killed 40 people and another in Kunduz Province in the north killed 32.
    On Monday, a bomb blast in Jalalabad killed two more people and injured 19.
    Although fewer American troops are dying this year than last, commanders say it is hard to tell whether that is because of a weakening in the Taliban offensive or the traditional winter hiatus in fighting. But if Afghan troops prove able to keep the violence under control, that could signal a growing ability to protect difficult patches on their own.
    Training Afghan troops well enough to defend their own country is the long-term goal of the United States and Mr. Obama’s strategy for ending the war.
    Maj. Gen. John F. Campbell, the top American commander in eastern Afghanistan, told reporters traveling with Mr. Gates that violence in his region on the border with Pakistan was up from a year ago and that it had also increased in the last 30 days.
    “I think the enemy is trying to get an early start on what they call their spring campaign,” General Campbell said.
    In recent weeks American forces have withdrawn from remote parts of the Pech Valley, which is part of General Campbell’s command, to concentrate more forces in the border area.
    General Campbell refused to call the thinning of forces in the valley, once deemed vital to American interests, a retreat, although the fighting there had dragged on for years with no clear result. “When somebody says you’ve abandoned the Pech, that’s absolutely false,” he said.
    Despite the rise in violence in the east, the general said the attacks by insurgents were less effective than a year ago. His office produced statistics stating that American and coalition forces had killed 2,448 insurgents in his region between June 2010 and February 2011 and had captured 2,870 in the same time period.
    As for an American military presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014, Mr. Gates said an American team would be in Kabul next week to begin negotiations on what he called a security partnership, which he predicted would require a “small fraction” of the American forces in Afghanistan today.
     

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