Division of Afghanistan. Solution or more problems?

Discussion in 'Subcontinent & Central Asia' started by ajtr, Jul 20, 2010.

  1. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

    Oct 2, 2009
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    Needed: A new political order in the Hindu-Kush region
    Time has come to accept the de facto partition of Afghanistan

    Brahma Chellaney

    The Sunday Guardian, July 18, 2010

    As the Afghanistan war approaches its 10th anniversary, it is a reminder that this is the longest foreign war in American history. The U.S. war effort is clearly faltering, to the extent that Afghan President Hamid Karzai has started exploring the possibility of cutting his own deal with the Taliban.

    If defeat is beginning to stare the U.S. in the face, it is largely because of President Barack Obama’s botched strategy. Obama has designed his twin troop surges not to militarily rout the Afghan Taliban but to strike a political deal with the enemy from a position of strength. But as CIA director Leon Panetta admitted recently about the Taliban, “We have seen no evidence that they are truly interested in reconciliation.”

    Why would the Taliban be interested in negotiating a deal with the Americans when Obama publicly declared, just weeks after coming to office, that he was interested in a military exit from Afghanistan? The Taliban and their sponsors, the Pakistan military, simply want to wait out the Americans.

    Unable to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table, the Obama administration is searching for credible options to fend off defeat. While the U.S. has no cost-free option, its least bad option, according to Robert Blackwill, is to accept the de facto partition of Afghanistan. Blackwill, who served as U.S. ambassador to India, deputy national security advisor for strategic planning and presidential envoy to Iraq in the George W. Bush administration, says in an article that de facto partition offers the only alternative to strategic defeat. That option means that the U.S. will end ground operations in Afghanistan but use air power and its special forces to attack Taliban strongholds in Afghanistan’s Pashtun-dominated south and east while ensuring that the non-Pashtun northern and western Afghan regions retain their present de facto autonomy.

    Blackwill has picked up the de facto partition idea from M.J. Akbar, who has been advocating it for a while. This idea meshes with the thesis this writer has been propounding that the way to contain the scourge of international terrorism is to stop treating as sacrosanct the existing political borders of Afghanistan and Pakistan. There is continuing reluctance in the international policy discourse to face up to a central reality: The political border between these two problem countries has now ceased to exist in practice.

    The so-called Durand Line, in any event, was an artificial, British-colonial invention that left the large Pashtun community divided into two. Set up in 1893 as the border between British-led India and Afghanistan, the Durand Line had been despised and rejected by Afghanistan for long as a colonial imposition.

    Today, that line exists only in maps. On the ground, it has little political, ethnic and economic relevance, even as the Afghanistan-Pakistan region has become a magnet for the world’s jihadists. A de facto Pashtunistan, long sought by Pashtuns, now exists on the ruins of an ongoing Islamist militancy but without any political authority in charge.

    The disappearance of the Af-Pak political border seems irreversible. While the writ of the Pakistani state no longer extends to nearly half of that country (much of Baluchistan, large parts of the North-West Frontier Province and the whole of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas), ever-larger swaths of Afghanistan are outside the control of the government in Kabul. The Pakistani army has lost increasing ground to insurgents in the western regions not because it is weaker than the armed extremists and insurgents but because an ethnic, tribal and militant backlash has resulted in the state withering away in the Pashtun and Baluch lands. Forced to cede control, the jihadist-infiltrated Pakistani military and its infamous Inter-Services Intelligence agency have chosen to support proxy militant groups, in addition to the Taliban.

    The international reluctance to come to terms with the new reality is because of the fundamental, far-reaching issues such acceptance would throw open. It is simpler to just keep up the pretense of wanting to stabilize Pakistan and Afghanistan within their existing political frontiers.

    Take U.S. policy. As if determined to hide from this reality, Washington is now pursuing, at least outwardly, a military approach toward Afghanistan through a troop “surge” and a political strategy toward Pakistan centered on the tripling of non-military aid. The plain fact is that the entire war effort has been focused on the wrong side of the Durand Line. A forward-looking Af-Pak policy demands consistency in approach toward these two interlinked countries and recognition of the 2,640-kilometer Durand Line’s disappearance. The ethnic genie cannot be put back in the bottle.

    To arrest further deterioration in the Afghan war, the U.S. military needs to focus less on al-Qaeda — a badly splintered and weakened organization whose leadership operates out of mountain caves — and more on an increasingly resurgent Taliban that operates openly and has sanctuaries and a command-and-control structure in Pakistan.

    The Obama administration complains that a weak, corrupt government in Kabul is driving Afghans into the Taliban’s clutches. So, it has sought to do business directly with provincial governors and tribal leaders and seek their help to set up local, Iraq-style militias to assist the U.S. forces. Yet in Pakistan it is doing the opposite: propping up a shaky, inept central government while pampering the military establishment that is working to undermine the civilians in power. Despite the generous U.S. aid, the 2010 Failed States Index ranks Pakistan as the 10th most failed state on Earth.

    Let’s be clear: Pakistan and Afghanistan, two artificially created states with no roots in history that have searched endlessly for a national identity, constitute the most dangerous region on earth. They have emerged as the global epicenter of transnational terrorism and narcotics trade. Additionally, Pakistan is where state-nurtured terrorism and state-reared nuclear smuggling uniquely intersect.

    Yet, as if the forces of terror can be boxed in, the U.S. is now scaling back its objective to regionally contain rather than defeat terrorism — a strategy that promises to keep the Af-Pak problem as a festering threat to global security.

    Given that this region has become ungovernable and borderless, it seems pointless to treat the existing political frontiers of Afghanistan and Pakistan as sacrosanct when the Af-Pak fusion term itself implies the two are no longer separate entities. The time has come to start debating what kind of a new political order in the Hindu-Kush region could create stable, moderate, governable and ethnically more harmonious states. Accepting the de facto partition of Afghanistan can serve as a first step in that direction.
  3. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

    Oct 2, 2009
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    cross-posting from afghanistan news thread.Its the original plan

    A de facto partition for Afghanistan

    By: Robert D. Blackwill
    July 7, 2010 04:53 AM EDT

    The Obama administration’s counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan seems headed for failure. Given the alternatives, de facto partition of Afghanistan is the best policy option available to the United States and its allies.

    After the administration’s December Afghanistan review, the U.S. polity should stop talking about timelines and exit strategies and accept that the Taliban will inevitably control most of its historic stronghold in the Pashtun south. But Washington could ensure that north and west Afghanistan do not succumb to jihadi extremism, using U.S. air power and special forces along with the Afghan army and like-minded nations.

    Enthusiasts for the administration’s counterinsurgency strategy, or COIN, are likely to reject this way forward in Afghanistan. They will rightly point out the many complexities in implementing de facto partition.

    De facto partition is clearly not the best outcome one can imagine for the United States in Afghanistan. But it is now the best outcome that Washington can achieve consistent with vital national interests and U.S. domestic politics.

    There are many reasons for this.

    Even if President Barack Obama adds a year or two to his timeline for major progress, the COIN strategy appears unlikely to succeed. Given the number of U.S. combat forces now fighting, the Taliban cannot be sufficiently weakened in Pashtun Afghanistan to drive it to the negotiating table on any reasonable timeline. True, the Afghan Pashtun are not a unified group. But they do agree on opposing foreign occupation and wanting Pashtun supremacy.

    “We have seen no evidence that they are truly interested in reconciliation,” CIA Director Leon Panetta said on June 27, “where they would surrender their arms, where they would denounce Al Qaeda, where they would really try to become part of that society. ... Unless they're convinced the United States is going to win and that they are going to be defeated, I think it is very difficult to proceed with a reconciliation that is going to be meaningful.”

    With an occupying army largely ignorant of local history, tribal structures, language, customs, politics and values, the United States cannot, through social engineering, win over, in the foreseeable future, sufficient numbers of the Afghan Pashtun on whom COIN depends.

    Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s deeply corrupt government — as unpopular as the Taliban — shows no sign of improvement, and Afghanistan has no history of a robust central government. Allied efforts to substitute Western nation building for Afghan nation building will continue to fall short. The Afghanistan National Army is not expected to be ready to vanquish the Taliban for many years, if ever.

    Moreover, Pakistan’s military and intelligence services, with their dominating optic of India as the enemy, have shown no willingness to end support for their longtime Afghan Taliban proxies — or accept a truly independent Afghanistan.

    Decisively, the long-term COIN strategy and far shorter U.S. political timeline are incompatible.

    The lack of progress in substantially pacifying Pashtun Afghanistan before Obama’s July 2011 decision date will become increasingly clear — though proponents are sure to focus more on the costs of failure than on the likelihood of enduring success.

    What then? If the COIN strategy cannot produce the desired results in the next 12 months, the administration has six broad policy alternatives:

    1) It can stay the course with the failing COIN strategy or even “double down” on the U.S. commitment — despite the lack of intrinsic U.S. vital national interests tied to Afghanistan.

    2) It can seek other ways to entice the Afghan Taliban to end violence and enter into a coalition government. Karzai now seems to be pursuing this, but his efforts cannot alter the grim realities on the Pashtun battlefield or the enemy’s sustained intransigence. As Panetta says, why negotiate if you believe you are winning?

    3) It can try to save parts of Pashtun Afghanistan, locale by locale — in an ink-blot strategy — fighting in some areas and acquiescing in others. But this would mean continuing major U.S. and NATO casualties in the south. It would also allow the Taliban — like the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese — to concentrate its forces, ink blot by ink blot, among a sympathetic or intimidated local Pashtun population. In any case, it only delays the inevitable when U.S. forces depart.

    4) It can opt, as Vice President Joe Biden reportedly counseled before Obama’s surge decision, not to fight the Taliban in the countryside. It can, instead, defend Kabul and Kandahar (epicenter of the Pashtuns and the Taliban’s spiritual birthplace), intensify efforts to lure Taliban who can be bought with money or political power and work with local warlords rather than the central government.

    5) It can initiate rapid withdrawal of all American forces, which would produce a strategic calamity for the United States. For it could lead, first, to all-out Afghan civil war; then, to the Taliban’s probable conquest of the entire country. Since Afghanistan’s neighbors would very likely be drawn in, it could ultimately destabilize the entire region.

    It could also dramatically increase likelihood of the Islamic radicalization of Pakistan, which then calls into question the security of its nuclear arsenal. It might also weaken, if not rupture, the budding U.S.-India strategic partnership.

    In addition, it would profoundly undermine NATO, perhaps persuading the alliance to never again go “out of area.” It could trigger global support for Islamic extremist ideology and increased terrorism against liberal societies everywhere.

    And worldwide, friends and adversaries alike would see it as a failure of international leadership and strategic resolve by an ever weaker United States, with destructive aftershocks for years to come.

    6) Or it can adopt new U.S. policy goals for Afghanistan that, realistically, have a better chance of succeeding. This means accepting a de facto partition, enforced by U.S. and NATO air power and special forces, the Afghan army and international partners.

    After years of faulty U.S. policy toward Afghanistan, there are no quick, easy and cost-free ways to escape the current deadly quagmire. But with all its problems, de facto partition offers the best available U.S. alternative to strategic defeat.

    Announcing that we will retain an active combat role in Afghanistan for years to come and that we do not accept permanent Taliban control of the south, the United States and its allies could withdraw combat forces from most of Pashtun Afghanistan (about half the country), including Kandahar, over several months.

    We would stop fighting and dying in the mountains, valleys and urban areas of southern Afghanistan — where 102 coalition soldiers were killed in June, the most in any month of the war and almost three times as many as a year ago. But we could be ready to assist tribal leaders on the Pashtun periphery, who may decide to resist the Taliban.

    We would then focus on defending the northern and western regions — containing roughly 60 percent of the population. These areas, including Kabul, are not Pashtun dominated, and locals are largely sympathetic to U.S. efforts.

    We would offer the Afghan Taliban an agreement in which neither side seeks to enlarge its territory — if the Taliban stopped supporting terrorism, a proposal that they would almost certainly reject.

    We would then make it clear that we would rely heavily on U.S. air power and special forces to target any Al Qaeda base in Afghanistan, as well as Afghan Taliban leaders who aided them. We would also target Afghan Taliban encroachments across the de facto partition lines and terrorist sanctuaries along the Pakistan border.

    Though careful analysis is needed, this might mean a longtime residual U.S. military force in Afghanistan of about 40,000 to 50,000 troops. We would enlist Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras and supportive Pashtun in this endeavor, as well as our NATO allies, Russia, India, Iran, perhaps China, Central Asian nations and, one hopes, the U.N. Security Council.

    We would continue accelerating our Afghan army training. We would devote nation-building efforts to the northern and western regions, where, unlike the Pashtun areas, people are not conflicted about accepting U.S. help and not systematically coerced by the Taliban.

    There might even come a time when a stronger Afghan National Army could take control of the Pashtun areas.

    Such fundamentally changed U.S. objectives and strategies regarding Afghanistan would dramatically reduce U.S. military causalities and thus minimize domestic political pressure for hasty withdrawal. It would substantially lower our budget-breaking military expenditures on Afghanistan — now nearly $7 billion per month.

    This would also allow the U.S. Army and Marines to recover from years of fighting two ground wars; increase the likelihood that our coalition allies, with fewer casualties, might remain over the long term; encourage most of Afghanistan’s neighbors to support an acceptable stabilization of the country and reduce Islamabad’s ability to parlay the U.S. ground role in southern Afghanistan into tolerance for terrorism emanating from Pakistan.

    In addition, it would allow Washington to focus on four issues more vital to its national interests: the rise of Chinese power, the Iranian nuclear weapons program, nuclear terrorism and the future of Iraq.

    There are certainly problems with this approach:

    The Taliban could trumpet victory or not accept a sustained status quo and continually test our resolve. It is likely that lower-level violence would persist in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future, especially in the south. Pashtun Afghanistan could again become a hotbed of international terrorism, a dangerous outcome that probably could only be avoided by U.S. combat forces fighting there for years — and, in any case, the current Al Qaeda epicenter is in Pakistan.

    In the context of de facto partition, the sky over Pashtun Afghanistan would be dark with manned and unmanned coalition aircraft — targeting not only terrorists but, as necessary, the new Taliban government in all its dimensions. Taliban civil officials — like governors, mayors, judges and tax collectors — would wake up every morning not knowing if they would survive the day in their offices, while involved in daily activities or at home at night.

    But there would be no mountain caves in which they could hide and, at the same time, do their jobs. Over time, that could produce some degree of deterrence against Taliban support for terrorism.

    Pakistan would likely oppose de facto partition. Managing Islamabad’s reaction would be no easy task — not least because the Pakistan military expects a strategic gain once the U.S. military withdraws from Afghanistan.

    Indeed, Islamabad might need to be persuaded to concentrate, with the United States, on defeating the Pakistan Taliban and containing the Afghan Taliban to avoid momentum toward a fracturing of the Pakistan state.

    There might be potential pockets of fifth column Pashtun in the north and west. Karzai and his associates would almost certainly resist partition — and might not remain in power. Fearing a return of Pakistan dominance in Afghanistan, India would likely encourage Washington to continue ground combat in the south for many years to come — and would have to be told that was not in the cards.

    Human rights in the Taliban-controlled areas would also probably be abysmal, including for minorities.

    Putting together a coalition of like-minded nations to implement this strategy would be a daunting diplomatic challenge — not least with Tehran.

    But even with all the challenges, it is better to accept defacto partition sooner rather than persist until our current COIN strategy has failed, triggering a domestic political eruption and, perhaps, a disastrous total U.S. military withdrawal.

    Washington should not wait to change its objective and strategy in Afghanistan until even more U.S. blood and treasure have been lost in a fruitless quest among the Afghan Pashtun and the enemy proclaims that it has mighty America, like the Soviets, on the run out of Afghanistan.

    Robert D. Blackwill served as U.S. ambassador to India, deputy national security adviser for strategic planning and presidential envoy to Iraq in the George W. Bush administration.
  4. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

    Oct 2, 2009
    Likes Received:
    X-posting from afghanistan quagmire thread......

    We’re Not Winning. It’s Not Worth It.

    Here’s how to draw down in Afghanistan.

    Justin Sullivan / Getty Images
    A U.S. soldier in Jeluwar, Afghanistan
    GOP chairman Michael Steele was blasted by fellow Republicans recently for describing Afghanistan as “a war of Obama’s choosing,” and suggesting that the United States would fail there as had many other outside powers. Some critics berated Steele for his pessimism, others for getting his facts wrong, given that President George W. Bush ordered the invasion of Afghanistan soon after 9/11. But Steele’s critics are the ones who are wrong: the RNC chair was more correct than not on the substance of his statement, if not the politics.
    The war being waged by the United States in Afghanistan today is fundamentally different and more ambitious than anything carried out by the Bush administration. Afghanistan is very much Barack Obama’s war of choice, a point that the president underscored recently by picking Gen. David Petraeus to lead an intensified counterinsurgency effort there. After nearly nine years of war, however, continued or increased U.S. involvement in Afghanistan isn’t likely to yield lasting improvements that would be commensurate in any way with the investment of American blood and treasure. It is time to scale down our ambitions there and both reduce and redirect what we do.

    Tim A Hetherington
    View a gallery of the war in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley
    At Outpost Restrepo
    The first thing we need to recognize is that fighting this kind of war is in fact a choice, not a necessity. The United States went to war in October 2001 to oust the Taliban government, which had allowed Al Qaeda to operate freely out of Afghanistan and mount the 9/11 attacks. The Taliban were routed; members of Al Qaeda were captured or killed, or escaped to Pakistan. But that was a very different war, a necessary one carried out in self-defense. It was essential that Afghanistan not continue to be a sanctuary for terrorists who could again attack the American homeland or U.S. interests around the world.
    The Bush administration was less clear on what to do next. Working in the State Department at the time, I was appointed by President Bush as the U.S. government’s coordinator for the future of Afghanistan. At a National Security Council meeting chaired by the president in October 2001, I was the one arguing that once the Taliban were removed from power there might be a short-lived opportunity to help establish a weak but functional Afghan state. There and at subsequent meetings I pressed for a U.S. military presence of some 25,000–30,000 troops (matched by an equal number from NATO countries) to be part of an international force that would help maintain order after the invasion and train Afghans until they could protect themselves.

    My colleagues in the Bush administration had no interest in my proposal. The consensus was that little could be accomplished in Afghanistan given its history, culture, and composition, and that there would be little payoff beyond Afghanistan even if things there went better than expected. They had no appetite for on-the-ground nation building. The contrast with subsequent policy toward Iraq, where officials were prepared to do a great deal because they hoped to create a potential model for change throughout the Middle East, could hardly be more stark.
    As a result, the United States decided not to follow up its ouster of the Taliban with anything ambitious. U.S. troop levels did top out at about 30,000, but most of those just hunted the handful of Al Qaeda who remained. The United States never joined the international force sent to stabilize Afghanistan and in fact limited its size and role.
    By the time Obama became president in 2009, the situation inside Afghanistan was fast deteriorating. The Taliban were regaining a foothold. There was concern in Washington that if left unchecked they could soon threaten the existence of the elected government in Kabul headed by Hamid Karzai. Trends were judged to be so bad that the president ordered 17,000 more American combat troops to Afghanistan even before the first review he’d ordered up was finished.

    Since then Obama has had several opportunities to reassess U.S. goals and interests in Afghanistan, and in each instance he has chosen to escalate. Upon completion of that first review in March 2009, he declared that the U.S. mission would henceforth be “to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat Al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future.” But in reality the U.S. objective went beyond taking on Al Qaeda; the president announced in those same remarks that the additional U.S. troops being sent to Afghanistan would “take the fight to the Taliban in the south and the east, and give us a greater capacity to partner with Afghan security forces and to go after insurgents along the border.” In short, the return of the Taliban was equated with the return of Al Qaeda, and the United States became a full protagonist in Afghanistan’s civil war, supporting a weak and corrupt central government against the Taliban. Another 4,000 U.S. troops were sent, to train Afghan soldiers.
    Just five months later, a second, more extensive policy review was initiated. This time the president again described U.S. goals in terms of denying Al Qaeda a safe haven in Afghanistan, but again he committed the United States to something much more: “We must reverse the Taliban’s momentum and deny it the ability to overthrow the government. And we must strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan’s security forces and government so that they can take lead responsibility for Afghanistan’s future.”
    The decisions that flowed from this were equally contradictory. On the one hand, another 30,000 U.S. troops were pledged, both to warn the Taliban and to reassure the shaky government in Kabul. Yet the president also promised that “our troops will begin to come home” by the summer of 2011—to light a fire under that same government, as well as to placate antiwar sentiment at home.

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    Today the counterinsurgency strategy that demanded all those troops is clearly not working. The August 2009 election that gave Karzai a second term as president was marred by pervasive fraud and left him with less legitimacy than ever. While the surge of U.S. forces has pushed back the Taliban in certain districts, the Karzai government has been unable to fill the vacuum with effective governance and security forces that could prevent the Taliban’s return. So far the Obama administration is sticking with its strategy; indeed, the president went to great lengths to underscore this when he turned to Petraeus to replace Gen. Stanley McChrystal in Kabul. No course change is likely until at least December, when the president will find himself enmeshed in yet another review of his Afghan policy.
    This will be Obama’s third chance to decide what kind of war he wants to fight in Afghanistan, and he will have several options to choose from, even if none is terribly promising. The first is to stay the course: to spend the next year attacking the Taliban and training the Afghan Army and police, and to begin reducing the number of U.S. troops in July 2011 only to the extent that conditions on the ground allow. Presumably, if conditions are not conducive, Petraeus will try to limit any reduction in the number of U.S. troops and their role to a minimum.
    This approach is hugely expensive, however, and is highly unlikely to succeed. The Afghan government shows little sign of being prepared to deliver either clean administration or effective security at the local level. While a small number of Taliban might choose to “reintegrate”—i.e., opt out of the fight—the vast majority will not. And why should they? The Taliban are resilient and enjoy sanctuary in neighboring Pakistan, whose government tends to view the militants as an instrument for influencing Afghanistan’s future (something Pakistan cares a great deal about, given its fear of Indian designs there).
    The economic costs to the United States of sticking to the current policy are on the order of $100 billion a year, a hefty price to pay when the pressure to cut federal spending is becoming acute. The military price is also great, not just in lives and matériel but also in distraction at a time when the United States could well face crises with Iran and North Korea. And the domestic political costs would be considerable if the president were seen as going back on the spirit if not the letter of his commitment to begin to bring troops home next year.
    At the other end of the policy spectrum would be a decision to walk away from Afghanistan—to complete as quickly as possible a full U.S. military withdrawal. Doing so would almost certainly result in the collapse of the Karzai government and a Taliban takeover of much of the country. Afghanistan could become another Lebanon, where the civil war blends into a regional war involving multiple neighboring states. Such an outcome triggered by U.S. military withdrawal would be seen as a major strategic setback to the United States in its global struggle with terrorists. It would also be a disaster for NATO in what in many ways is its first attempt at being a global security organization.
    There are, however, other options. One is reconciliation, a fancy word for negotiating a ceasefire with those Taliban leaders willing to stop fighting in exchange for the chance to join Afghanistan’s government. It is impossible, though, to be confident that many Taliban leaders would be prepared to reconcile; they might decide that time is on their side if they only wait and fight. Nor is it likely that the terms they would accept would in turn be acceptable to many Afghans, who remember all too well what it was like to live under the Taliban. A national-unity government is farfetched.
    One new idea put forward by Robert Blackwill, a former U.S. ambassador to India, is for a de facto partition of Afghanistan. Under this approach, the United States would accept Taliban control of the Pashtun-dominated south so long as the Taliban did not welcome back Al Qaeda and did not seek to undermine stability in non-Pashtun areas of the country. If the Taliban violated these rules, the United States would attack them with bombers, drones, and Special Forces. U.S. economic and military support would continue to flow to non-Pashtun Afghans in the north and west of the country.
    This idea has its drawbacks as well as appeal. A self-governing “Pashtunistan” inside Afghanistan could become a threat to the integrity of Pakistan, whose own 25 million Pashtuns might seek to break free to form a larger Pashtunistan. Any partition would also be resisted by many Afghans, including those Tajik, Baluchi, and Hazara minorities living in demographic “islands” within the mostly Pashtun south, as well as the Tajiks, Uzbeks, and others elsewhere in the country who want to keep Afghanistan free of Taliban influence. And even many Pashtuns would resist for fear of the harsh, intolerant rule the Taliban would impose if given the chance.
    Another approach, best termed “decentralization,” bears resemblance to partition but also is different in important ways. Under this approach, the United States would provide arms and training to those local Afghan leaders throughout the country who reject Al Qaeda and who do not seek to undermine Pakistan. Economic aid could be provided to increase respect for human rights and to decrease poppy cultivation. There would be less emphasis on building up a national Army and police force.
    The advantage of this option is that it works with and not against the Afghan tradition of a weak ruling center and a strong periphery. It would require revision of the Afghan Constitution, which as it stands places too much power in the hands of the president. The United States could leave it to local forces to prevent Taliban inroads, allowing most U.S. troops to return home. Leaders of non-Pashtun minorities (as well as anti-Taliban Pashtuns) would receive military aid and training. The result would be less a partition than a patchwork quilt. Petraeus took a step in this direction last week by gaining Karzai’s approval for the creation of new uniformed local security forces who will be paid to fight the insurgents in their communities.
    Under this scenario, the Taliban would likely return to positions of power in a good many parts of the south. The Taliban would know, however, that they would be challenged by U.S. air power and Special Forces (and by U.S.-supported Afghans) if they attacked non-Pashtun areas, if they allowed the areas under their control to be used to supply antigovernment forces in Pakistan, or if they worked in any way with Al Qaeda. There is reason to believe that the Taliban might not repeat their historic error of inviting Al Qaeda back into areas under their control. Indeed, the United States should stop assuming that the two groups are one and the same and instead start talking to the Taliban to underscore how their interests differ from Al Qaeda’s.
    Again, there are drawbacks. This approach would be resisted by some Afghans who fear giving away too much to the Taliban, and by some Taliban who don’t think it gives enough. The Karzai government would oppose any shift in U.S. support away from the central government and toward village and local leaders. Fighting would likely continue inside Afghanistan for years. And again, areas reclaimed by the Taliban would almost certainly reintroduce laws that would be antithetical to global norms for human rights.

    So what should the president decide? The best way to answer this question is to return to what the United States seeks to accomplish in Afghanistan and why. The two main American goals are to prevent Al Qaeda from reestablishing a safe haven and to make sure that Afghanistan does not undermine the stability of Pakistan.
    We are closer to accomplishing both goals than most people realize. CIA Director Leon Panetta recently estimated the number of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan to be “60 to 100, maybe less.” It makes no sense to maintain 100,000 troops to go after so small an adversary, especially when Al Qaeda operates on this scale in a number of countries. Such situations call for more modest and focused policies of counterterrorism along the lines of those being applied in Yemen and Somalia, rather than a full-fledged counterinsurgency effort.
    Pakistan is much more important than Afghanistan given its nuclear arsenal, its much larger population, the many terrorists on its soil, and its history of wars with India. But Pakistan’s future will be determined far more by events within its borders than those to its west. The good news is that the Army shows some signs of understanding that Pakistan’s own Taliban are a danger to the country’s future, and has begun to take them on.
    All this argues for reorienting U.S. Afghan policy toward decentralization—providing greater support for local leaders and establishing a new approach to the Taliban. The war the United States is now fighting in Afghanistan is not succeeding and is not worth waging in this way. The time has come to scale back U.S. objectives and sharply reduce U.S. involvement on the ground. Afghanistan is claiming too many American lives, requiring too much attention, and absorbing too many resources. The sooner we accept that Afghanistan is less a problem to be fixed than a situation to be managed, the better.
    Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, is the author of War of Necessity, War of Choice: A Memoir of Two Iraq Wars.
  5. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

    Oct 2, 2009
    Likes Received:
    End of the game​

    Former US ambassador to India, former deputy national security adviser in the Bush administration and now senior fellow at the RAND Corporation, Robert Blackwill has outlined a new strategy for the US to deal with the Afghan Taliban, at minimum cost to American and allied forces. In one sense, it can be interpreted as the inexorable strategic logic that is bound to propel US action, sooner or later. Simply put, the strategy suggests that the US accept a de facto partition of Afghanistan between Pashtun and non-Pashtun areas, concentrate its forces in non-Pashtun areas, and maintain an effective air force including drones and special forces to strike relentlessly at the Taliban leadership in Pashtun areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
    Blackwill is compelled to advocate this strategy, given Pakistan’s double game in dealing with the Afghan Taliban, corruption and the increasing alienation of the Karzai government, the inefficiency and combat-unworthiness of the Afghan forces being raised, and the tribal divisions in Pashtun Afghanistan. He argues that American and allied casualties are not commensurate with the results achieved, and are not likely to be, despite surges of various magnitudes. So he advocates adopting new policy goals for Afghanistan that, realistically, have a better chance of succeeding. This means accepting a de facto partition enforced by US and NATO air power and special forces, the Afghan army and international partners. The US should retain an active combat role in Afghanistan for years to come and should not accept permanent Taliban control of the south.But the US should be ready to assist tribal leaders on the Pashtun periphery, who may decide to resist the Taliban. The focus will be on defending the northern and western regions — containing roughly 60 per cent of the population. These areas, including Kabul, are not Pashtun dominated, and locals are largely sympathetic to US efforts. The US should offer the Afghan Taliban an agreement in which neither side seeks to enlarge its territory — if the Taliban stopped supporting terrorism, a proposal that they would almost certainly reject.

    In those circumstances the US should make it clear that it would rely heavily on air power and special forces to target any Al Qaeda base in Afghanistan, as well as Afghan Taliban leaders who aided them. They would also target Afghan Taliban encroachments across the de-facto partition lines and terrorist sanctuaries along the Pakistan border.This may require a longtime residual US military force in Afghanistan of about 40,000 to 50,000 troops. Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras and anti-Taliban Pashtuns could be mobilised in this endeavour, as well as NATO allies, Russia, India, Iran, perhaps China, and Central Asian nations. Afghan army training could be accelerated and also nation-building efforts in the northern and western regions, where, unlike the Pashtun areas, people are not systematically coerced by the Taliban. In due course, a stronger Afghan National Army could take control of the Pashtun areas.

    He argues that “such fundamentally changed US objectives and strategies regarding Afghanistan would dramatically reduce US military casualties and thus minimise domestic political pressure for hasty withdrawal. It would substantially lower our budget-breaking military expenditures on Afghanistan — now nearly $7 billion per month.This would also allow the US Army and Marines to recover from years of fighting two ground wars; increase the likelihood that our coalition allies, with fewer casualties, might remain over the long term; encourage most of Afghanistan’s neighbours to support an acceptable stabilisation of the country and reduce Islamabad’s ability to parlay the US ground role in southern Afghanistan into tolerance for terrorism emanating from Pakistan.”

    He accepts that there are problems with this approach: “The Taliban could trumpet victory or not accept a sustained status quo and continually test US resolve. It is likely that lower-level violence would persist in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future, especially in the south... Pashtun Afghanistan could again become a hotbed of international terrorism, a dangerous outcome that probably could only be avoided by US combat forces fighting there for years — and, in any case, the current Al Qaeda epicentre is in Pakistan.”

    In the context of de facto partition, Blackwill argues, “the sky over Pashtun Afghanistan would be dark with manned and unmanned coalition aircraft — targeting not only terrorists but the new Taliban government in all its dimensions”. He accepts that “Pakistan would likely oppose de facto partition. Managing Islamabad’s reaction would be no easy task — not least because the Pakistan military expects a strategic gain once the US military withdraws from Afghanistan. Indeed, Islamabad might need to be persuaded to concentrate, with the United States, on defeating the Pakistan Taliban and containing the Afghan Taliban to avoid momentum toward a fracturing of the Pakistan state.”

    The last sentence is pregnant with dark forebodings for Pakistan. A Taliban-dominated Pashtun Afghanistan and Pakistani Pashtun areas under Pakistani Taliban influence are likely to move towards their long-cherished goal of scrapping the Durand Line and uniting to form the independent Pashtunistan. If that were to happen, Baloch, Sindhi and Balti nationalist assertions cannot be far behind. The Taliban dominated Pashtunistan may conclude a deal with the US to break off with al-Qaeda and other terrorist organisations. In that event, Pakistan, instead of gaining strategic depth in Afghanistan will be in danger of losing Pashtun areas of Pakistan. In the alternative theTaliban may continue its links with Al Qaeda and other terrorist organisations. In that case, their anger at being constantly hit by US airpower may turn on the Pakistan army and state with terrorist attacks on Pakistani Punjab being stepped up.

    The Blackwill article is a clear warning to the Pakistan army leadership and its supporters in the government who have deluded themselves and even persuaded a large number of policy makers and analysts in US, India and the West that the Pakistan army has all the aces in this game and the US is desperately dependent on Pakistan for its Afghan strategy.The present US strategy attempts to preserve the unity and integrity of Pakistan and Afghanistan, as it is today. The US is prepared to accept some costs to itself in terms of casualties to secure the best possible result. If the Pakistani army and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) continue to play games with the US as they think they can and get away with it, then the US will have to secure its national security interests at the cost of Pakistani unity and integrity. That is the message of Blackwill’s article. President Obama has many options between accepting defeat and withdrawal and being compelled to accept unacceptable casualties. The Pakistan army should not repeat the blunders of 1947-48, 1965, 1971 and 1999 through its overconfidence.

    The writer is a senior defence analyst
  6. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

    Oct 2, 2009
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    from blackwill's article....

  7. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

    Oct 2, 2009
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    In defence of Pakhtun nationalism

    In defence of Pakhtun nationalism
    Jan Assakzai

    Some pro-Taliban writers have said on the Internet media that Pakhtun nationalism as a political movement is against Islam that nationalist leadership both in Pakistan and Afghanistan do not enjoy the backing of the people and that they are a small clique who are western stooges whereas Pakhtuns are following political Islamists. But this discourse refutes that Pakhtun nationalism is anti-Islam and argues that Pakhtun nationalism is not only alive in Pakistan but also thriving in Afghanistan and is the only guarantee in the long run that can help prevent mayhem in both countries and the repeat of Sept 11.
    Pakhtun nationalism as political ideology despite its shortcomings has always been there on both sides of the Durand Line. However, there might be some differences in emphasis and scope. Another distinction is that one may be a political Islamist, not a nationalist or communist but may take nationalist stance on some issues. So the definition may not be as absolute as one may understand by the word “nationalist”.
    Pakhtun nationalism as a political phenomenon has its roots in Pakhtun history. The various uprising of Pakhtuns/Afghans against different invaders had nationalist connotations: be that the struggle of Khushal Khan Khattak against the Moguls, the three Anglo-Afghan wars in the nineteenth century, the uprising of Faqir of Ipi in North Waziristan, Bacha Khan and Abdul Samad Khan Achakzai’s non-violent movements against British Raj so on and so forth. Majority of Pakhtuns: around 40 million, live in Pakistan and roughly 15 to 17 million constitute Afghanistan’s Pakhtun population out of 30 million if the current census estimates are to be believed. Political nationalist currents and their underlying dynamics amongst the Pakhtuns on both side of the Durand Line have both similarities and dissimilarities. (For me Pakhtun, Afghan and Pathan are interchangeable that define the same ethnic group, so just for clarity I will often use the word Pakhtun). Nationalism is sometimes reactionary, calling for a return to national past, and sometimes for the expulsion of foreigners. Other forms of nationalism are revolutionary, calling for the establishment of an independent state as a homeland for an ethnic underclass. But after the end of British Empire and emergence of Pakistan as a nation state, Pakhtun nationalism has been progressive and within the confines of Pakistan’s boundaries and has also by and large not sought pan-Pakhtun nationalism despite the stereotyped views of many non-Pakhtun and oriental writers. It has also not been based on ethno-nationalism: a belief in the superiority of one ethnicity over others, and never supported ethnocentric protectionism or ethnocentric supremacy of Pakhtuns over other ethnic groups. Whereas Islam as religion is concerned, I think almost 99 per cent Pakhtuns would believe in some sort of interpretation of Islam at philosophical/metaphysical, societal or functional levels. Yes, if one has more divisive or sectarian interpretation of religion, may term fellow Muslims as non Muslims, Shias, Kafirs, Murtads etc.
    But vast majority of Pakhtuns do not subscribe to these divisions except a fringe group that may have got influence from Wahhabism or Pakistan’s mainstream sectarian extremist outfits. As there is no religious authority/body in the Islamic world who for example could issue certificates for who being a bonafide Muslim. However, there had been a tiny number of Pakhtuns who happened to be adherents of left political ideology of communism and did also adopt different metaphysical beliefs about God, and views on religion propagated by the founders of the ideology.
    But with the collapse of communism as political system, and the collapse of its philosophic/metaphorical leftist political liberalism all over the world, their numbers have come to a negligible figures. Majority of Pakhtuns, including nationalists practise Islam as religion and have a Islamic religious outlook for all metaphysical questions, some how. But historically, Pakhtun traditions have been so strong that they have always kept religion subservient to traditions. In other words, Pakhtun traditions and religion is blended, to the consternation of Wahabbis. Some may disagree as to what constitute Muslim, depends on his/her degree of observance of religious rituals in its totality. But it is again a matter of interpretation and one cannot deprive one of his/her use of religion to fill in one’s spiritual, philosophical voids.
    There is another political current among Pakhtuns who use religion for political purposes I call them as political Islamists, some dub them as extremists. Political Islamists’ beliefs and actions may not necessarily be in line with the tenets of Islam as a religion. Their second type is the Jihadists who not only believe in political Islam but also believe that in order to impose their interpretation of political Islam, they should use violence and intimidation not only in their own territories but if possible throughout the world - a view which runs against the spirit of Islam (and is not the scope of this discourse for further exploration). Political Islam has largely been represented by the erstwhile Islamist Mujaheddin and the Taliban among Pakhtuns particularly in Afghanistan and to a lesser degree in Pakistan. Back in 1979 when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, Pakistan’s then generals worried that Moscow would expand its footprint in the Pakhtun heartland and pose a direct threat to the unity of Pakistan, they began a covert programme of funding, training, and equipping Afghans willing to take on the Soviet Army It is now open secret that how political Islam was cultivated on both sides of the border over past three and half decades and how proxy Mujaheddin were sponsored and imposed on Pakhtuns/ Afghans by the CIA’s trainings, Pakistan’s logistical help, and Saudi petrol money, latter how their political successor, the new proxy, the Taliban were introduced to the scene. US policymakers relied on intelligence agents, diplomats, and experts who in the past had worked closely with the Pakistan’s intelligence agencies.
    These individuals bought into Islamabad’s line that Pakhtun/Afghan nationalists needed to be sidelined and the focus needed to be on the political Islamists who were being trained in their thousands in Pakistan. Indeed, these nationalists who were patriotic people, soon found themselves unwelcome in Pakistan, and nearly 1.5 million migrated to Gulf, Europe, North America and India. While the sponsors of the political Islam defeated Afghan nationalism and thought in Pakhtun areas but failed to wipe out in Pakistan. But what is precisely Pakhtun/Afghan nationalism? First, Afghan nationalism is slightly different from Pakhtun’s ethnic nationalism in Pakistan. I call Afghan nationalism as “civic nationalism”. “Civic” nationalism compared to “ethnic” nationalism emphasises on loyalty to a kind of “cosmopolitan” state rather than ethnicity. “Civic” nationalism defines the nation as an association of people with equal and shared political rights, and allegiance to similar political procedures.
    Why it is different in emphasis is because in Afghanistan, Pakhtun /Afghan situation is sharply different from their counterparts in Pakistan. Pakhtuns in Afghanistan form the largest ethnic group and for many they are the majority ethnic group as well. Pakhtuns have substantive political representation in the state institutions, they are the major stake holders and hence their pragmatic needs are different form those of their Pakhtun cousins in Pakistan.
    There might be issues of neglect of language or culture at the hand of Persian speaking Pakhtun and non- Pakhtun elite in the past or now. However, there has been no second class status reserved for Pakhtuns except at marginal levels. Thus Pakhtun is a kind of big brother in Afghanistan, not a small minority. From Pakhtun perspective, there are other minorities who have to be part of its view of nationalism which implies that the allegiance have to be to state more than to individual ethnic groups. In other words, according to the principles of “civic” nationalism, the nation is not based on common ethnicity or ethnicites , but is a political entity, whose core is not ethnicity.
    As a result of “civic” nationalism, Afghan identity though being historically interchangeable with “Pakhtun” and “Pathan” has also evolved to include other ethnic groups who are quite happy to call themselves as Afghans. The integration of Pakhtuns/Afghans with other ethnic groups has been far greater compared to Pakhtuns in Pakistan. As far as “ethnic” nationalism among Pakhtuns in Afghanistan is concerned, there were/are some elements who have been highlighting the “excesses” of non Pakhtuns towards Pakhtuns for exmaple, “Afghan Milatian”. But they did not find much following among the Pakhtuns. Pakhtuns either Islamists or civic nationalists could not afford to be ethnic nationalists due to political cost, yet they remained “civic” nationalists in their political outlook. Thus political (civic) nationalism has always been there in Pakhtuns/Afghans throughout history whether they were communists, Islamist Mujaheddin or political hardline Taliban.

    Meanwhile, another dynamic related to political Islam is a legitimacy question that hang over them not only in Afghanistan but world over. They have always been wary of elections and in seeking votes from people in order to get their support. This is why most of the countries in the Islamic world who practise political Islam as political ideology abhor free elections and getting mandate of the people to rule them.
    This has also been the case with Mujaheddin in Afghanistan and the Afghan Taliban of today as well. Thus assuming that they automatically enjoy the support of Pakhtuns/ Afghans for having fought against the Soviets now fighting the US and NATO forces is simply not true as there is no statistical basis in terms of ascertaining the people’s opinion regarding their past/present role or regarding the question whether they should rule Afghanistan. In other words, there has never been vote to prove that Pakhtuns want political Islam of either Mujaheddin or the Taliban in Afghanistan. Out of nearly 12 million registered votes, overwhelming majority supported moderate civil Pakhtun/Afghan (civic) nationalist leadership of Hamid Karzai in the past three successive presidential elections. Whereas in Pakhtuns of Pakistan, “ethnic” nationalism is the by product of a geo-political state’s policy of promoting a different kind of thinly-veiled ethnic nationalism by design under the name of Islam. The sole aim of this project in practice means keeping the dominance of Punjab as an ethnic group in all the state institutions including bureaucracy, Army, Parliament and others, while being less than majority before 1971 and dubious and controversial majority of around 50 per cent of the total population after the fall of East Pakistan. Though officially the state policies deny that it is preserving Punjabi dominance in every walk of life and claims instead it is promoting a kind of Pakistanisation which I call “cosmopolitan nationalism”: all citizens are Muslims and Pakistanis; we are all Pakistanis; and no one is Pakhtun, Baloch, Punjabi, Sindhi etc. But in reality some are more equal than others.
    They have also promoted Urdu language which is the language of nearly six per cent of the population, at the cost of neglecting other languages, including Pakhtu, which is being spoken by between 35 to 40 per cent of Pakistan’s population if fair census of Pakhtuns is held. And Pakhtuns consider their language and culture as heritage. In Pakistan, Pakhtun nationalism have been wary of Pakistan’s “cosmopolitan nationalism” which they equate with eradication of diverse national cultures, and languages while ending up promoting a single largest ethnic group and it rejects such important nationalist values as ethnic identity and loyalty, language, culture etc.
    This is why nationalists are deeply suspicious of “state’s cosmopolitan attitudes”. Why the type of nationalism in Pakistan has been more of “ethnic” nature is because they are five distinct ethnic groups with different languages, different geographically, linguistically based provinces and areas, with minor exceptions though. So those who do not agree with state’s policy and have less stakes in the polity are nationalists by design or default. Whatever term you may coin, their opposition can only be categorised as political nationalism.
    Thus Pakhtun nationalist forces in Pakistan have been demanding an end to exclusion of other minority population including Pakhtuns, Baloch, Sindhis and Siraikis in the state institutions. As far as the masses are concerned, if we were to know the level of their support, one has to count the votes as it is the only relatively fairer method to gauge one’s popularity among the people. But in Pakistan out of nearly 62 years there have been direct army rule and all elections were oftenly rigged. While due to mullah-military historical alliance, Islamist parties won the elections of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa which were accepted as rigged elections even by Gen Pervez Musharaf’s own admission. In the last elections of 2008, Pakhtun nationalists got move that 50 per cent of the vote polled. In Balochistan Pakhtun areas, though Pakhtun nationalists boycotted, historically they have garnered majority share of the votes polled despite rigged elections. They have also made electoral gains in Karachi showing Pakhtun nationalists have the mandate of the majority Pakhtun people.
    As far as religion is concerned, it has never been a hurdle in the political evolution of Pakhtun nationalism. However, political Islam’s role has been controversial. During the foreign invasions of Pakhtun territories throughout history, it has often been used as supporting tool by Pakhtun nationalists to fight against the invaders. But in twentieth century it has been promoted by foreign sponsors as part of their geo-political rivalry played out on Pakhtun territories in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
    The West including the US, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, and China used political Islam as a tool to defeat Soviet Union and contain “ethnic” nationalism in Pakistan and “civic” nationalism and progressive thoughts in Afghanistan. Following the abandonment of the US from the Afghan scene regional actors particularly Pakistan again cultivated a new proxy the Taliban while using political Islam as ideological underpinning. Yes, in the process political Islam also got some adherence in Afghanistan.
    Even today particularly Pakhtuns in Afghanistan were not offered alternative socio-economic and socio-political alternative by the West thus they are being forced to accept the proxy Islamist Taliban as the only alternative. Though it is not yet proved how many Afghans support political Islam which is only possible to know if the practitioners of political Islam participate in elections, until then all claims of Pakhtuns supporting the Islamist Taliban have no credibility. But to say that Pakhtun “ethnic” nationalism in Pakistan or Pakhtun/Afghan “civic” nationalism in Afghanistan have no followings among the Pakhtuns is far from reality. Pakhtun nationalism is alive and kicking despite being on the wrong side of the establishment of Pakistan, and of the west during the cold war era.
    However, the West particularly the US paid heavy price for its mistake of backing Islamabad to cultivate political Islam at the cost of Pakhtun nationalism on either side of the Durand Line: the most vicious expression of the price was September 11, 2001 and as of today, the resolve of the West in Afghanistan is faltering, only a fool will be satisfied that there will be no repeat of Sept. 11 attacks. But for the world peace, and the people of both countries, the only insurance policy in the log term will be the passing over of carefully nurtured political Islam in favour of Pakhtun nationalism in Afghanistan and Pakistan with iron clad guarantees for the territorial integrity of both the nation states, and the strategic involvement of the international guarantors par
    ticularly, the United States, to check bilateral infighting of the regional states played out on Pakhtun territories, particularly the policy expressed in Road-to-Kabul-goes-through-Srinagar Mantra. [email protected]

  8. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

    Oct 2, 2009
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    A weak, balkanised Pakistan is in India's interests

    In fact, some analysts suggest just such a balkanisation to solve the Pakistan problem. (There are clearly potential problems for India, too -- perhaps there will be pressure to create a separate Kashmiri State; similarly Iran may end up losing its Baluch province of Sistan/Baluchistan to an independent Baloch State).
    Somehow, the enterprising ISI has turned this weakness into a strength, by hijacking the Pashtun elements into their proxy Taliban. Similarly, the ISI, which faced the wrath of America after 9/11 with its peremptory warning to President Musharraf to behave or else, has turned it into a $25 billion bonanza. Ironically, the Americans are in effect subsidising the Pakistani purchase of Chinese reactors!

    Instead of containing Pakistan with a pincer movement with one front in Afghanistan, India is now in the unenviable position of confronting the ISI's 'strategic depth', which it has always craved. Uncertain about its goals and ever-eager to appease, India has allowed a failing State one-seventh its size to checkmate it. Lack of strategic intent has led to dismal failure yet again.

    There is only one small silver lining in this cloud, and it is based purely on geography and demography. That silver lining is that the ISI may have been too clever for its own good, and that its 'victory' in Afghanistan may well be Pyrrhic, if it results in the unravelling of the country. There are those in India who say that a 'stable, prosperous' Pakistan is in India's best interests. Hardly. On the contrary, a weak, balkanised Pakistan is.

    Pakistan has made a career out of running with the hares and hunting with the hounds. It was obvious as long ago as the siege of Kunduz in 2001 and the ensuing 'Airlift of Evil' that the so-called Taliban officers are serving or retired Pakistani Army and ISI brigadiers and colonels wearing baggy pants and beards and turbans. The ISI has had a great run with the fiction that the Taliban is distinct from itself.

    With luck, this may be coming to an end. Former US Ambassador to India Robert Blackwill endorsed a formulation of a de-facto partition of Afghanistan, with the northern portion (including Kabul) to be under an American-NATO umbrella, and the southern, Pashtun, portion, to be left to the tender mercies of the Taliban/ISI. This is surely a trial balloon from the US Administration.

    In effect, this would mean the old Northern Alliance would be re-constituted, with the US/NATO supporting it and keeping the Taliban at bay, as it was before 9/11, the only difference being that 10 years have passed and $300 billion has been spent, a fair bit of which has spirited away by the ISI and friends. And Massoud has been assassinated.

    If this is the final end game in Afghanistan, India had better be prepared to play an active role. Otherwise, in the new Great Game being played on the fringes of Indian territory, it will end up just a spectator. India should be looking to parlay its long tradition of relations with Afghanistan to establish strong commercial linkages, especially now that it turns out the country is chock-full of minerals.

    The Indo-Pakistan 'peace process' is merely a ritualistic sideshow, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. The real strategic imperative is a plan for India in a post-Pakistan scenario, especially to prevent China and America from dividing up the Af-Pak region into their spheres of influence. With some luck, Pakistan may yet implode without any help from India. India should look beyond its obsession with Pakistanis strutting about, and pursue its national interests.
    Image: A group photograph of the delegates attending the conference on Afghanistan in Kabul on July 20, 2010. Foreign Minister SM Krishna is to the extreme left
    Photographs: Jay Mandal/On Assignment
  9. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

    Oct 2, 2009
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    The question is ----Will the partition of Afghanistan result in unraveling of pakistan or will it result in more stronger pakistan?????
  10. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

    Oct 2, 2009
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    Obama reviews his agenda

    G Parthasarathy

    Few developments have so profoundly affected the course of India-Pakistan relations as the stunning revelations by Daood Gilani aka David Coleman Headley about the direct involvement of the ISI and Hafiz Mohammed Saeed in the 26/11 terror attack on Mumbai. Just on the eve of Foreign Minister SM Krishna’s visit to Pakistan, US National Security Adviser Gen James Jones remarked in Delhi, “In our bilateral relationship with Pakistan, we have expressed strong concerns over the existence within the borders of Pakistan, of terrorist organisations that have goals to destabilise our way of life, your way of life, to prevent (our) strategic goals from being achieved in Afghanistan.”

    Cornered by pressure from the US on the role of its favourite jihadi groups in India and Afghanistan, Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has evidently worked to get a weak civilian Government to divert attention from its role in the Mumbai outrage by reverting to a Jammu & Kashmir-centric agenda, even going to the extent of demanding “time-bound” efforts to resolve “core issues” to its satisfaction. India should realise that Pakistan’s politicians, who have watched elected Prime Ministers executed, assassinated or exiled during Army rule, have no stomach any longer to defy Army diktats.

    The cooperation extended by the Obama Administration in the interrogation of Headley appears to be part of its larger strategic review of global policies. The US State Department has rejected Pakistani accusations of “human rights violations” during recent protests in the Kashmir Valley. Referring to these events, the State Department Spokesman has said, “We regret the loss of lives in this incident. It is an internal matter (of India). We respect the efforts of the Government of India to resolve the current situation in Kashmir. In terms of the protest, we would urge everyone to refrain from violence and conduct protests in a peaceful manner.”

    Moreover, the new Obama National Security Doctrine states, “Collective action is needed in terms of engagement with friends and allies. The US must also work to build deeper and more effective partnerships with other key centres of influence — including China, India and Russia, as well as increasingly influential nations such as Brazil, South Africa and Indonesia.” It adds, “We value India’s growing leadership on a wide array of global issues, through groups such as the G 20, and will seek to work with India to promote stability in South Asia and elsewhere in the world.”

    On July 1, the Pentagon’s Under Secretary for Defence Policy (the counterpart of India’s Defence Secretary), Ms Michele Flournoy, outlined the US approach in Asia. She asserted that it no longer makes sense to discuss the increasingly inter-connected Asian region in terms of ‘East Asian’ security or ‘South Asian’ security. She said, “It also means that the security of Asia’s two dominant powers (India and China) can no longer be viewed as a zero sum game. A safer and more secure India that is close to the United States should not be seen as a threat and vice versa. Indeed all three countries play an important role in that region’s stability.” Ms Flournoy also remarked that the economies of both India and the US rely on effective maritime security to preserve free passage in the Indian Ocean and surrounding waterways.

    India believes that its interests are not served when US-China relations are marked by collusion, as was apprehended in the first year of the Obama Administration, or by confrontation, which marked the early years of the Cold War. Moreover, emerging American policies appear to reject Chinese efforts to undermine India’s ‘Look East’ policy. China views India’s engagement with its Asia-Pacific neighbourhood with suspicion, asserting that India is merely a “South Asian power”.

    While Ms Flournoy indicated that the Obama Administration recognises that India has a “lot to offer” in space technology and that agreements are being finalised to permit “frontline American (defence) technologies to be shared” with us, substantial spadework remains to be done if the relationship is to grow significantly. American firms are still restricted in developing relations with the Indian Space Research Organisation and key defence industries.

    Though India has already moved to acquire C 130 J transport aircraft and P 81 maritime reconnaissance aircraft and appears interested in meeting its shortages in field artillery by purchases from the US for its mountain divisions, future high value Indian defence acquisitions should have detailed provisions for technology transfer and imports from India by American suppliers — provisions which the American defence industry needs to get familiar with.

    The US is now realising that despite all its solicitude towards and assistance for Pakistan, Gen Kayani has no intention of ending support to Taliban groups like the Quetta Shura led by Mullah Omar and the Haqqani network based in North Waziristan which are inflicting heavy casualties on American forces in Afghanistan. Moreover, these groups are now being reinforced by the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba.

    In these circumstances, there are now calls in the US, led by influential Congressmen and Gen David Petraeus, to declare the Haqqani network as a terrorist organisation. Thus, contrary to earlier perceptions, it now appears that while the US may nominally thin down its forces in Afghanistan and even move its forces out of southern Afghanistan, the Americans will not permit a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and will retain adequate air power and ground forces to inflict continuing damage on the Taliban and Al Qaeda bases on either side of the Durand Line.

    Moreover, there are now indications that as the Pentagon readies for an extended stay in Afghanistan, an improved US-Russian relationship is leading to the US reducing its dependence on Pakistan for its fuel and logistical supplies which will now come increasingly through Russia and Central Asia in the coming years.

    Preparations now appear to have commenced for US President Barack Obama’s visit to India this November. While the Obama Administration is now showing a better understanding of India’s security concerns, New Delhi would be well-advised to prepare even now to utilise his visit for addressing other concerns also like the existing sanctions on Indian Defence Research and Space Organisation. A strategic partnership can have little meaning if such sanctions persist. Moreover, India needs to work with both the US and Russia in thwarting Gen Kayani’s jihadi ambitions of installing a Taliban-oriented regime in Kabul. India should ensure that Pakistan’s men in khaki pay a heavy price for their jihadi ambitions.
  11. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

    Oct 2, 2009
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    Obama Faces New Doubts on Pursuing Afghan War

    WASHINGTON — When President Obama announced a new strategy for Afghanistan in December, he argued that by setting a deadline of next summer to begin drawing down troops he would create a sense of urgency for the Afghan government to take the lead in the fight, while acknowledging the limits of America’s patience with the longest war in its history.But over the past two weeks — on Capitol Hill, in Kabul and even in conversations with foreign leaders — Mr. Obama has been reminded how the goal has become what one senior American military commander called a “double-edged sword,” one that hangs over the White House as surely as it hangs over President Hamid Karzai.

    The absence of serious progress this year has sown new doubts, here and abroad, that Mr. Obama will be able to reach even the scaled-down goals he set for America’s mission in the time he laid out in his speech at West Point seven months ago. The result is that the fierce debate over whether the war is worth the cost — a debate that Mr. Obama did not want to join until the Taliban suffered some losses — is unwinding one summer earlier than he had hoped.

    Mr. Obama has begun losing critical political figures and strategists who are increasingly vocal in arguing that the benefits of continuing on the current course for at least another year, and probably longer, are greatly outweighed by the escalating price.

    For two months, Democrats in Congress have been holding up billions of dollars in additional financing for the war, longer than they ever delayed similar requests from President George W. Bush. Most Republican leaders have largely backed a continued commitment, but the White House was surprised the other day when one of Mr. Obama’s mentors on foreign policy issues in the Senate, Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, argued that “the lack of clarity in Afghanistan does not end with the president’s timetable,” and that both the military and civilian missions were “proceeding without a clear definition of success.”

    “We could make progress for decades on security, on employment, good governance, women’s rights,” he said, without ever reaching “a satisfying conclusion.”

    The allies, voicing similar concerns, have abandoned most talk of a conditions-based withdrawal in favor of harder timetables. Britain’s new prime minister, David Cameron, did his best to sound as though he and Mr. Obama were on the same page during his first visit to the White House on Tuesday, but he also told a BBC interviewer while in Washington, “We’re not going to be there in five years’ time.”

    The Dutch leave this fall, and the Canadians say they intend to follow suit by the end of 2011.

    As one of Mr. Obama’s top strategists said this week, with some understatement, “There are signs that the durability of this mission has to be attended to.”

    All this has made it harder than ever for Mr. Obama to convince the Afghans and the Pakistanis that the West’s commitment is enduring. “Politically, the support is absolutely crumbling,” said David Gordon, a former top official on the National Intelligence Council and at the State Department who is now at the Eurasia Group. “You can’t hide that from the players in the region, and when they see it, it makes them hedge even more, preparing for the post-American era.”

    In public, White House officials continue to argue that Mr. Obama struck the right balance last December, and sent the right signals, when he called for a short-term troop increase followed by a drawdown. “America has no interest in fighting an endless war in Afghanistan,” he said then, quoting President Eisenhower about the importance of balancing America’s foreign commitments with its domestic needs.

    But when granted anonymity, some senior White House officials who a few months ago said that this would be “the year of Kandahar” — referring to plans to retake control of the city that was the spiritual center of the Taliban — now acknowledge that the chances of progress there are growing more remote.

    From the start of Mr. Obama’s review of the war’s strategy last year, he and his advisers debated the debilitating effects of what one called “the weariness factor.” Their calculation was that the withdrawal from Iraq, combined with the 18-month limit on the troop increase established by Mr. Obama, would quiet critics in his own party. That assessment proved optimistic. Earlier this month, 153 Democrats, including the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, voted in favor of an amendment that would have required a clear timetable for withdrawal. Only 98 Democrats joined Republicans in defeating it.

    But over the long term, what may be more damaging is the fact that members of the foreign policy establishment, even those who vigorously supported ousting the Taliban in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks, are gaining traction with arguments that the White House has simply failed to make the case that the rising cost is worth it.

    “After nearly nine years of war,” Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations and a senior official in Mr. Bush’s State Department, wrote over the weekend in Newsweek, “continued or increased U.S. involvement in Afghanistan isn’t likely to yield lasting improvements that would be commensurate in any way with the investment of American blood and treasure. It is time to scale down our ambitions there and both reduce and redirect what we do.”

    Mr. Haass is not recommending full withdrawal. Instead, he said in an interview, “I’m talking about reducing combat troops and operations and costs and casualties by more than half,” leaving mostly Special Forces, air power and trainers for Afghan troops in the region. In Kabul on Tuesday, President Karzai talked about having Afghan soldiers and the police taking responsibility for security by 2014. “Why should we be confident of that,” Mr. Haass asked, “given the history of Afghanistan?”
  12. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

    Oct 2, 2009
    Likes Received:
    America must give the south to the Taliban

    By Robert Blackwill
    Published: July 21 2010 23:04 | Last updated: July 21 2010 23:04
    In spite of the commitments made at Tuesday’s conference on the future of Afghanistan in Kabul, the current US counter-insurgency strategy (Coin) is likely to fail. The Taliban cannot be sufficiently weakened in Pashtun Afghanistan to coerce it to the negotiating table. America cannot win over sufficient numbers of the Afghan Pashtun on whom Coin depends. President Hamid Karzai’s deeply corrupt government shows no signs of improvement. The Afghanistan army cannot stand up to the Taliban for many years, if ever. Pakistan’s military continues to support its Afghan Taliban proxies. And the long-term Coin strategy and the far shorter US political timeline are incompatible.

    President Barack Obama has promised to review the administration’s Afghanistan policy in December. After this review the US should stop talking about exit strategies, and accept that the Taliban will inevitably control most of the Pashtun south. Instead Washington should move to ensure that north and west Afghanistan do not fall too, using for many years to come US air power and special forces – some 40,000-50,000 troops – along with the Afghan army and the help of like-minded nations. Such a de facto partition would be a profoundly disappointing outcome to America’s 10 years in Afghanistan. But, regrettably, it is now the best that can realistically and responsibly be achieved.

    This week media reports suggested another approach gaining favour: negotiation. But as CIA director Leon Panetta said recently about Taliban behaviour, why would they negotiate in good faith, if they think they are winning? Some instead think the US should withdraw all of its military forces over the next year. But that would be a major strategic defeat for the US and its partners, with negative global repercussions for many years to come.

    Equally wrong-headed are those arguing the US should stay the course, no matter how long it takes. The CIA now thinks there are barely 50-100 al-Qaeda fighters left in Afghanistan, facing 100,000 US troops. The original Afghan objective was to destroy al-Qaeda, not fight the Taliban. That has largely been accomplished.

    Even if the Afghan Taliban invited al-Qaeda to join them in greater numbers, the estimated 300 or so al-Qaeda fighters in Pakistan moving across the border would not substantially increase the threat. Is it worth an indefinite ground war, and thousands more US and allied casualties, to try to prevent that happening? The US can attack al-Qaeda on both sides of the border in any case.

    Others worry the Taliban would not adhere to the rough boundaries of such a de facto partition, and would seek to reconquer the entire country. But US and allied military might and growing Afghan army capabilities could stop that from happening. Indeed, without such a long-term US military presence, a renewed civil war is probable. With such a commitment, it is unlikely. Small islands of non-Pashtuns in the south and east would be an unfortunate but unavoidable consequence, as would the comprehensive violation of women’s rights in Taliban territory. But the US could still assist those Pashtun tribal forces that wish to resist the Taliban.

    Wider threats to the region should be taken seriously. An irredentist “Pashtunistan”, and perhaps the fracturing of Pakistan, could happen. Ironically, the Pakistan military is making such a development more likely through its support for the Afghan Taliban. But why should the US be more concerned about the territorial integrity of Pakistan than the country’s General Ashfaq Kayani and his colleagues? Indeed, the spectre of de facto partition in Afghanistan might even produce the change of heart in the Pakistani military’s attitude to the Afghan Taliban that successive US administration have failed to achieve.

    Henry Kissinger has observed that: “For other nations, utopia is a blessed past never to be recovered; for Americans it is just beyond the horizon.” With its many flaws, de facto partition is hardly a utopian outcome in Afghanistan. The overriding virtue of this concept is only that it is better than all available alternatives.

    The writer was US ambassador to India, and a deputy national security adviser under George W. Bush
  13. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

    Oct 2, 2009
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    So the partition of Afghani people has started along ethnic lines before the land partition......

    Minority leaders leaving Karzai's side over leader's overtures to insurgents

    By Joshua Partlow
    Washington Post Foreign Service
    Friday, July 23, 2010; A01

    PANJSHIR VALLEY, AFGHANISTAN -- The man who served as President Hamid Karzai's top intelligence official for six years has launched an urgent campaign to warn Afghans that their leader has lost conviction in the fight against the Taliban and is recklessly pursuing a political deal with insurgents.

    In speeches to small groups in Kabul and across northern Afghanistan over the past month, Amarullah Saleh has repeated his belief that Karzai's push for negotiation with insurgents is a fatal mistake and a recipe for civil war. He says Karzai's chosen policy endangers the fitful progress of the past nine years in areas such as democracy and women's rights.

    "If I don't raise my voice we are headed towards a crisis," he told a gathering of college students in Kabul.

    That view is shared by a growing number of Afghan minority leaders who once participated fully in Karzai's government, but now feel alienated from it. Tajik, Hazara and Uzbek politicians have expressed increasing concern that they are being marginalized by Karzai and his efforts to strike a peace deal with his fellow Pashtuns in the insurgency.

    Saleh's warnings come as the United States struggles to formulate its own position on reconciliation with the Taliban. While U.S. officials have supported Afghan government-led talks in theory, they have watched with apprehension as Karzai has pursued his own peace initiatives, seemingly without Western involvement.

    NATO's senior civilian representative in Afghanistan, Ambassador Mark Sedwill, cautioned recently that "any political reconciliation process has to be genuinely national and genuinely inclusive. Otherwise we're simply storing up the next set of problems that will break out. And in this country when problems break out, they tend to lead to violence."

    Still, with war costs and casualties rising, U.S. policymakers are increasingly looking for a way out, and a power-sharing deal between Karzai and the Taliban may be the best they can hope for. One senior NATO official in Kabul described Saleh as "brilliant." But the official said Saleh's hard-line stance against negotiations does not offer any path to ending the long-running U.S. war.

    Saleh, 38 and a Tajik, began his intelligence career in this scenic valley north of Kabul working for the legendary guerrilla commander Ahmad Shah Massoud. He said he is not motivated by ethnic rivalries with the majority Pashtuns or by a desire to undermine Karzai, whom he describes as a decent man and a patriot.

    Rather, Saleh said he wants to use nonviolent, grass-roots organizing to pressure the government into a harder line against the Taliban by showing that Afghans who do not accept the return of the Taliban are a formidable force. Saleh resigned last month as director of the National Directorate of Security after he said he realized that Karzai no longer valued his advice.

    "The Taliban have reached the gates of Kabul," Saleh said. "We will not stop this movement even if it costs our blood."

    Proceeding carefully
    Karzai spokesman Waheed Omar declined to comment on Saleh's analysis. Karzai's government has made reconciliation a top priority, and officials say they are proceeding carefully. Karzai has invited Taliban leaders to talk, but he has said insurgents must accept the constitution, renounce violence and sever their links to foreign terrorists before they can rejoin society.

    Those conditions do little to mollify Afghan minority leaders, many of whom had backed Karzai in the past but are now breaking with the president. Some are concerned that a deal between Karzai and the Taliban could spawn the sort of civil war that existed in Afghanistan prior to the U.S.-led invasion in late 2001.

    "The new political path that Karzai has chosen will not only destroy him, it will destroy the country. It's a kind of suicide," said Mohammad Mohaqiq, a Hazara leader and former Karzai ally.

    With the defection of Saleh and the transfer of another Tajik, Bismillah Khan, from his position as chief of army staff to interior minister, Karzai critics see an erosion of strong anti-Taliban views within the government. Khan, many argue, was more important to the war effort in his army post than at the interior ministry, which oversees the police.

    "Now Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks, they are not partners in Karzai's government, they are just employees," said Saleh Mohammad Registani, a Tajik parliament member from the Panjshir. "Karzai wants to use them as symbols."

    To spread his message, Saleh has sought out young, educated students and university graduates. Through them he intends to form groups across the country to apply grass-roots political pressure. His aims are nonviolent, he said, and not intended to further ethnic divisions, but he has said they must prepare for the worst.

    Saleh was born in the Panjshir Valley before the family moved to Kabul. He joined the armed opposition, or mujahideen, rather than be conscripted into the Afghan army and in 1997 started as an intelligence officer with Massoud's forces.

    Saleh was appointed to run Afghanistan's fledgling intelligence service in 2004, and developed a reputation among U.S. officials as one of the most effective and honest cabinet ministers.

    In Saleh's view, Karzai's shift from fighting to accommodating the Taliban began last August. The messy aftermath of the presidential election, in which Karzai prevailed but was widely accused of electoral fraud, was taken as a personal insult, Saleh said.

    "It was very abrupt, it was not a process," Saleh said of Karzai's changing views. "He thought he was hurt by democracy and by the Americans. He felt he should have won with dignity."

    Frayed relations
    After the election, Afghan relations with the United States plunged to new lows, as Karzai railed against Western interference in his government and threatened to join the Taliban. Saleh said Karzai believes that the United States and NATO cannot prevail in Afghanistan and will soon depart. For that reason he has shifted his attention to Pakistan, which is thought to hold considerable sway over elements of the insurgency, in an attempt to broker a deal with the Taliban.

    "We are heading toward settlement. Democracy is dying," Saleh said. He recalled Karzai saying, "'I've given everybody a chance to defeat the Taliban. It's been nine years. Where is the victory?'"

    In his speeches, Saleh recounts Taliban brutalities: busloads of laborers lined up and executed, young men chopped in half with axes, women and children slain before their families. His rhetoric is harshly critical of Pakistan.

    "All the goals you have will collapse if the Taliban comes back," he told a gathering of college students under a tent outside his house in Kabul. "I don't want your university to be closed just because of a political deal. It will be closed if we do not raise our voices."

    Saleh believes the Taliban will not abide by a peaceful power-sharing deal because they want to regain total authority. Despite a significant U.S. troop buildup this year and major NATO offensives, he estimated that insurgents now control more than 30 percent of Afghanistan. He said the Taliban leadership -- about 200 people, many of them in the Pakistani city of Karachi -- are financed, armed and protected by Pakistan's intelligence agency. "The inner circle is totally under their control," Saleh said. Pakistan has long denied it supports the Taliban.

    The second ring of Taliban leadership -- about 1,700 field commanders -- oversees a fighting force of 10,000 to 30,000 people, depending on the season, Saleh said. Under former NATO commander Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, 700 of these Taliban commanders were captured or killed, Saleh said, only to be replaced by a new crop.

    "The factory is not shut," he said. "It keeps producing."

    Special correspondent Javed Hamdard contributed to this report.
  14. Welcome

    Welcome Regular Member

    Jul 22, 2010
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    Gorakhpur (U.P.)
    i think partition of Afghanistan is not a solution of afghan problem...situation became blunder if they do it...if u give part of Afghanistan to Taliban..at the beginning they(Taliban) will not do any thing, but slowly they will again captured the Afghanistan...
  15. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

    Oct 2, 2009
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    Ill-wind blows for a 'neutral' Afghanistan

    By M K Bhadrakumar

    Maybe there is an air about the brooding Hindu Kush mountains that lends inscrutability to politics and history. It touched Tuesday's Kabul international conference on Afghanistan, where the subtext was of far greater interest than the open agenda. In fact, when it comes to the Afghan problem, it is almost inevitably the case that the surreal takes precedence over the real.

    Thus it was surreal that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is still not quite done, after failing to win in Afghanistan, with its first "real" war in its six decades of history as a military alliance, and it is certainly not contemplating a return to its natural habitat. NATO seems to have fallen for the adrenalin rush of the primeval tumult that people of the Hindu Kush live with and seems to loathe the dull prospect of returning to the predictability of a settled life in Europe.

    NATO's longing for adventure seems to have been a key subtext of the Kabul gathering on Tuesday, which was attended by 60 countries. The big players at the conference danced around it, poking a finger or two at it to test how real it is or could be in the coming days and weeks in a setting like Afghanistan where nothing is quite certain until it physically arrives.

    The statements made by the foreign ministers of the US, Russia and China at the Kabul conference assume significance in this regard.

    Rasmussen's shot in the air
    The stage for the shadow play was duly set by none other than the NATO secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen. In an extraordinary "curtain-raiser" on the eve of the conference, exuding a high degree of optimism about the war, Rasmussen wrote that NATO was "finally taking the fight to the Taliban" aimed at the "marginalization of the Taliban as a political and military force ... [which] will encourage many who joined the Taliban to quit their ranks and engage in the reconciliation effort."

    But tucked away more than halfway down in his highly-publicized article was a curious sub-text: BLOCKQUOTE> Starting the transition does not mean that the struggle for Afghanistan's future as a stable country in a volatile region will be over. Afghanistan will need the continued support of the international community, including NATO. The Afghan population needs to know that we will continue to stand by them as they chart their own course into the future. To underline this commitment, I believe that NATO should develop a long-term cooperation agreement with the Afghan government.
    Very little ingenuity is needed to estimate that Rasmussen would never venture into the public airing of such a profound thought regarding NATO's future in the post-Afghan war Central Asian region - the hidden agenda of this Clausewitzean war all along - without checking out in advance with Washington, nay, except at the bidding of the Barack Obama administration.

    By a coincidence, Rasmussen's idea has appeared on the eve of the expected award of a contract by the US Defense Department to build a sprawling US Special Forces base in northern Afghanistan near Mazar-i-Sharif. The US is undertaking the project on a priority footing at a cost of as much as US$100 million. The base, in the Amu Darya region straddling Central Asia, will become operational by the end of 2011, or at the latest by early 2012.

    According to available details, the 17-acre (6.8 hectare) site of the new American military base is hardly 35 kilometers from the border of Uzbekistan and it seems set to become the pendant of a "string of pearls" that the US is kneading through Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan along the "soft underbelly" of Russia and China's Xinjiang.

    How would the countries in the region size up the startling prospect that the US and NATO are possibly quitting the Afghan war by 2014 and yet preparing to settle down for a long stay in the Hindu Kush?

    Moscow reacts
    The only forthright reaction so far has come from Moscow. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pointedly underlined in his statement at the Kabul conference the importance of recognizing Afghanistan's future "neutral status", which would preclude any sort of permanent foreign military presence. To quote Lavrov:
    The restoration of the neutral status of Afghanistan is designed to become one of the key factors of creating an atmosphere of good-neighborly relations and cooperation in the region. We expect that this idea will be supported by the Afghan people. The presidents of Russia and the US have already come out in favor of it.
    Indeed, what is surprising is that Obama not merely seemed to favor the idea of a "neutral" Afghanistan but explicitly referred to it as a "commitment" as recently as last month when he received Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Washington. The US-Russia Joint Statement of June 24 on Afghanistan, in fact, began with the following opening statement:
    The United States of America and the Russian Federation confirm our commitment to Afghanistan becoming a peaceful, stable, democratic, neutral and economically self-sufficient state, free of terrorism and narcotics, recognizing that further significant international support will be needed to achieve this goal.
    Has Obama backtracked? The point is, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton uttered not a word about a "neutral" Afghanistan in all of her intervention in the Kabul conference on Tuesday, whereas she seemed to deliberately circle around Rasmussen's thought process, preferring to dilate on issues such as the importance of upholding women's rights in a future Afghanistan.

    Interestingly, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi chose to visit the idea of a "neutral" Afghanistan, but somewhat tangentially. He said on Tuesday:
    The international community must give continued attention to Afghanistan and follow through on the commitments made in London [conference in January] and the previous international conferences on Afghanistan. We should respect Afghanistan's sovereignty and work together towards the early realization of 'Afghanistan run by the Afghans'. We want to see a peaceful, stable and independent Afghanistan ... [Emphasis added.]

    US holding breath
    At the end of the day what really matters is Clinton's silence. It needs to be carefully weighed.

    It indicates the US seems to be wary of a rebuff from the region and is gingerly going about with the unveiling of the idea of setting up permanent US/NATO bases in Afghanistan? Of course, it has been fairly well known for quite a while among regional observers that the Pentagon has been feverishly beefing up the US military bases in Afghanistan, including construction of some new ones, at the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars and equipping them with facilities that enable the American troops to maintain a familiar lifestyle far away from home, which is of course conducive to the presence of long-staying GIs into a distant future among people famous for their hostility toward foreign occupation.

    This was exactly what the US has done in Iraq, too, despite the end of the "combat mission" as such by September.

    The US diplomats have been gently persuading capitals in the region in recent months that, contrary to what Afghan history might suggest, the idea of a "neutral" Afghanistan isn't all that good for regional security and stability in a milieu where violent Islamist radicals are at large. Washington hopes to capitalize on the visceral fears in those capitals of a radical Islamist avalanche once the Taliban is co-opted in the power structure in Kabul.

    New Delhi, for instance, has explicitly used the term "neutral" Afghanistan in its past policy pronouncements, but the Indian minister S M Krishna used a noticeably milder variant in his statement on Tuesday - and that too, rather as a barb aimed at Pakistan than as a well-thought out stance regarding Afghanistan's neutral status - by merely observing that "India is committed to the unity, integrity and independence of Afghanistan underpinned by democracy and cohesive pluralism and free from external interference."

    The idea of concluding a Status of Forces Agreement with President Hamid Karzai's government, which the US officials have been considering with the active encouragement from London, now seems doable. Compared with the past year or two, the Afghan leader nowadays gets on fairly well with his Western patrons. And he may even find physical advantages in having the US and NATO provide him with a security umbrella to safeguard against any nasty surprises that the Pakistani intelligence may spring on him in the downstream of the "reconciliation" with the Taliban.

    The fact of the matter is that despite exuding confidence regarding a future beyond 2014, by when he wanted the foreign troops to end the combat mission and withdraw, in his heart of hearts Karzai cannot be having the sort of requisite faith in the performance of the Afghan Army - indeed, whether the army would even hold together as an entity in the foreseeable future - if there is a determined, well-crafted putsch by the Taliban with the able backing from its Pakistani mentors once Western forces withdraw from the battle field in 2014.

    Significantly, Lavrov appealed to the "Afghan people" - and not to Karzai's government, which hosted the Kabul conference - to voice the demand for the neutrality of their country and the rejection of long term foreign military presence.

    Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.
  16. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

    Oct 2, 2009
    Likes Received:

    For the Night of 23 July 2010

    Russia-Afghanistan: Russia and NATO have mutual long-term interests in Afghanistan, Russian Chief of General Staff of the Armed Forces General Nikolai Makarov said following talks with Chairman of NATO's Military Committee Admiral Giampaolo Di Paola, Interfax-AVN reported.

    Both commanders are interested in NATO's success in Afghanistan, Makarov said, adding that Russia will provide assistance by ensuring the transit of military property and personnel through Russian territory.

    Comment: Makarov's is the latest in at least a half dozen recent comments professing Russian support to the US effort in Afghanistan. The cumulative significance is that they prove that the Russians smell the US end game in Afghanistan and are determined to be a part of it and the new game that begins when the Americans depart.

    Diverging from US policy, the Russians do not intend to transfer to Pakistan responsibility for stability in Afghanistan. They do not expect and will not rely on Pakistani good will. They also do not intend to allow US decisions to go unchallenged. The US Secretary of State's public tilt to Pakistan could not have done more to galvanize Russian and Indian interest and opposition to US schemes. An ascendant or even a healthy Pakistan suits no Russian or Indian interests and does not promote stability in South Asia.

    Thus the Russians appear to be sincere in offering assistance by providing a secure, northern, railroad route alternative to the porous over-the-road supply route through Pakistani which appears to be a major source of supply for the Taliban. The Russians are sincere in the sense that helping the US serves Russian long term interest in influencing events in northern Afghanistan, if not in Kabul, and keeps the costs low for now. The new railroad bridges across the Oxus River are major assets in the Russian scheme for supporting the northern tribes.

    As for Pakistan, the Pakistanis have made it abundantly plain that Afghanistan remains a secondary and minor concern for Pakistani leaders, provided India has no foothold. For Pakistanis, like General Kayani, they have been raised to perceive India is an existential threat to Pakistan. Thus, no matter what they have promised, US aid will be diverted, substituted and repackaged to support the confrontation with India.

    When Afghanistan degenerates into its second civil war, Russia and India will again side with the northern Alliance tribes against Pakistan and the Pashtuns. In that scenario, ten years of US investment, deaths and involvement will have counted for little, but history will have resumed a more normal path. The Carter administration discovered that Afghanistan is just two oceans too far to sustain a US commitment. Astonishing how short some memories can be.
  17. parijataka

    parijataka Senior Member Senior Member

    Oct 15, 2011
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    Controversial plan to split up Afghanistan

    Seems Britain has the same idea again - divide and scoot... :)

    Controversial plan to split up Afghanistan

    A Tory MP proposes dividing the country into zones, some of which could involve the Taliban.

  18. Blackwater

    Blackwater Veteran Member Veteran Member

    Jan 9, 2012
    Likes Received:
    Akhand Bharat
    Re: Controversial plan to split up Afghanistan

    plan is to cut Baluchistan and merge with south Afghanistan, gawadar is more imp for western world. due to this fear pakistan gave gawadar to china..

    lets see when and how it happens but according to his holiness it is another 6 months game
  19. Bhadra

    Bhadra Defence Professionals Defence Professionals Senior Member

    Jul 11, 2011
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    Re: Controversial plan to split up Afghanistan

    Last edited by a moderator: May 10, 2015
  20. Bhadra

    Bhadra Defence Professionals Defence Professionals Senior Member

    Jul 11, 2011
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    Re: Controversial plan to split up Afghanistan

    Last edited by a moderator: May 10, 2015
  21. blank_quest

    blank_quest Senior Member Senior Member

    Aug 4, 2012
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    Re: Controversial plan to split up Afghanistan

    Tories are useless diplomats .. they have lost all their shine/...

    for the country like Afghanistan they are devising a strategy that will make Afghan a lame country. With no Strategic depth over International boundary that it shares now.. it will be bounded by the mercy of other countries and again a new structure superimposed will create more apprehensions among divided tribals.it will weaken the Afghanistan and more and more feuds will rise... I bet.
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2012

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