Saturday, September 20, 2014

Foreign Minister Spanta Addresses 4th Round of Government Accountability

Dr. Rangin Dadfar Spanta, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan, yesterday delivered an address before the 4th Round of Government Accountability to the Nation. The session was part of an annual review of activities of all Ministries and Government Departments whereby cabinet members and heads of departments brief the public on the work of their Ministries over the course of the year. The first round of accountability week took place in November 2005.

In his address, Foreign Minister Spanta delivered a comprehensive briefing on the activities and achievements of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs over the past year. Foreign Minister Spanta stated that since assuming the post of Minister of Foreign Affairs, he prioritized the following areas of activity:

Afghanistan’s foreign policy, including diplomatic relations and foreign security and economic policy;
Enhancing capacity of officials of the Foreign Ministry; and
Fundamental reform of the Ministry’s framework of activities.
Additionally, Foreign Minister Spanta noted that, among various accomplishments, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had consolidated its relations with the broader international community. In that regard, it was said that Afghanistan had expanded both bilateral and multi-lateral relations by establishing diplomatic relations with additional countries and up-grading its participation in various international forums and organizations.

To that effect, he alluded to the following: election of Dr. Zahir Tanin, Afghanistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, as Vice-Chairman of the 63rd Session of the UN General Assembly and his appointment as Chair of the Working Group on Security Council reform; election of Ms. Zohra Rasekh, Director of the Human Rights and Women’s Affairs Dept. at the Foreign Ministry, as an independent expert at the Committee on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW); Afghanistan’s membership in the Board of Governor’s of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA); election of Mr. Yahya Maroufi, Afghanistan’s Ambassador to Tehran, as Secretary General of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO); Afghanistan’s assumption of the post of Deputy Chair of the 15th Meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and continuation of the Vice-Chairmanship of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People at the UN.

Foreign Minister Spanta highlighted the role of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in facilitating Afghanistan’s participation in various international gathering on numerous issues. “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was responsible for the organization of 23 officials visits conducted by His Excellency President Karzai. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was responsible for preparation of draft statements, talking points and drafting of official declarations and international agreements, said Foreign Minister Spanta.” The Foreign Ministry undertook the aforementioned measures for official visits of Ministers and Deputy Ministers of other Ministries as well.

Furthermore, Foreign Minister Spanta emphasized the importance of good-governance at all levels of government, including government Ministries. He cited various measures initiated by senior officials at the Ministry aimed at improving governance at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Foreign Ministers also expressed the commitment of the Ministry’s leadership in promoting official appointments on the basis of merit and combating “a culture of nepotism.”

Holbrooke of South Asia

America’s regional envoy says Pakistan’s tribal areas are the problem.
His face tense and unsmiling, a young man from a village in Pakistan’s western tribal areas tells his story, mixing English, Pashto and Urdu. He is the only male in his clan to get an education, but can’t find a job, and blames a corrupt national government. Americans are bombing his neighbors, he says, tempting him to join the Islamist militants in his area. Across the room, another Pakistani turns toward his hosts at the U.S. Embassy and says, “You are hated.”
[The Weekend Interview] Ismael Roldan

The comments are addressed to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen and the new American special representative for the region, Richard Holbrooke. Seated alongside the highest-ranking U.S. military officer, Mr. Holbrooke asks a dozen or so men in the room about the presence of the Taliban in their villages. “We are all Taliban,” comes a response. The others nod in accord. All are or were “religious students,” or Taliban in Pashto. But the expression of solidarity with the various Pakistani and Afghan insurgents who go by the name is lost on no one.

After the meeting, Mr. Holbrooke looks shaken, out of character for a diplomatic operator who picked up the nickname “bulldozer” a decade ago in the Balkans. As he knows, these men who spoke so directly to him are the “friendly” types from the tribal areas — literate, ambitious and willing to risk the ire of the Taliban fighters to meet him and Adm. Mullen at the embassy.

Their home regions of North and South Waziristan and the Khyber agency are familiar place names in this long war: as the world’s sanctuary to al Qaeda’s leadership, as the launching pad for attacks on Western forces across the border in Afghanistan, and as the source of the Islamist challenge to the civilian government atop this rickety nuclear-armed state.

The Obama administration recently unveiled a new strategy to enlarge America’s military footprint in Afghanistan and press Pakistan to act against Taliban safe havens. Mr. Holbrooke and Admiral Mullen took the policy on a regional road show this week, and at every stop got a sobering earful. While Afghanistan’s troubles are monumental, the nightmare scenarios start and end with Pakistan.

Mr. Holbrooke, who leads the diplomatic charge, acknowledges the hardest work will be here. His airplane reading is Dennis Kux’s history of the U.S.-Pakistani relationship titled, “The United States and Pakistan, 1947-2000: Disenchanted Allies.” “Pakistan is at the center of our strategic concerns,” he tells me Tuesday night, flying from Islamabad to India’s capital, Delhi. “If Afghanistan had the best government on earth, a drug-free culture and no corruption it would still be unstable if the situation in Pakistan remained as today. That is an undisputable fact, and that is the core of the dilemma that the Western nations, the NATO alliance, face today.”

Take the dilemma a logical step further, I suggest. The terrorists who threaten America are in Pakistan, but the U.S. fights the Afghan Taliban, who don’t. “That’s a fair point,” says Mr. Holbrooke, “but the reason for fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan is clear: The Taliban are the frontrunners for al Qaeda. If they succeed in Afghanistan, without any shadow of a doubt, al Qaeda would move back into Afghanistan, set up a larger presence, recruit more people and pursue its objectives against the United States even more aggressively.” Public support for the expanded U.S. Afghan mission hinges on making this case stick.

In a Hillary Clinton White House, Mr. Holbrooke would almost certainly be in charge at the State Department. In this administration, he serves Secretary Clinton and brings a familiar mix of enthusiasm and bluster, charming and bullying the world’s difficult characters. In the previous decade, Mr. Holbrooke brokered the end of the Bosnian conflict, working then as now closely with the military. He went on to write a memoir titled “To End a War” and become something of a celebrity in the Balkans, even having a bar in Kosovo named after him. The 1995 Dayton peace talks “was 21 days and it was pass or fail,” he says. “This is more complicated even than that.”

The complications in Afghanistan start with an incubator state and mind-boggling corruption, from top to bottom. The past year saw a sharp spike in Afghan civilian as well as American casualties. A rural insurgency is fed by anger at the government and money from the Gulf states, as well as the booming poppy trade. The administration will send 17,000 additional combat troops to confront the Taliban, initially in the south. Mr. Obama also approved 4,000 military trainers, and plans are in the works to double the target size for the army and the police.

Mr. Holbrooke needs to walk a fine diplomatic line. On the one hand, he assures people who know their history that America won’t pull the plug early on this project. At a meeting with Afghan female legislators who have most to fear from a Taliban comeback, he says, “President Obama has made a commitment. We will not abandon you.” On the other hand, the U.S. must counter Taliban propaganda that America replaced Russia as the occupying force. With conservative Afghan religious leaders, Mr. Holbrooke shifts his emphasis: “We are not here as occupiers. We are here to help you. We will leave when you no longer need us.”

Though Adm. Mullen provides the plane on this trip and holds the senior job, Mr. Holbrooke takes the lead in meetings. He moderates discussions like a big-band leader, improvising as necessary. “Good to have a force of nature on the case,” notes a European diplomat watching one performance over dinner in Kabul. “You’re reminded that half of diplomacy is theater.” Holbrooke detractors tend to put the proportion higher.

America sits in the driver’s seat in Afghanistan, but not Pakistan. Here it’s far from clear who does.

Flying into Islamabad, Mr. Holbrooke and Adm. Mullen call on the civilian and military rulers to ask for action against the militants in the tribal areas. The Pakistanis press back. At a joint press conference, the foreign minister is prickly, denouncing strikes by unmanned U.S. Predators on Pakistani territory and noting an absence of “trust.”

In private, American officials report no better progress. The Pakistanis say their terror problems are Afghanistan’s fault. They resent American criticism of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the military’s intelligence arm that nurtured Islamist groups for decades, and rule out the deployment of any American troops on their territory.

Talking to the Pakistani press, Mr. Holbrooke says, “We face a common threat, a common challenge.” Pakistani civilians are concerned by the rising number of suicide bombings, now seen in once tranquil Islamabad and Lahore. Whether the army is as well is the question. The military struck a “peace” deal with the local Taliban in the Swat Valley. President Asif Ali Zardari didn’t sign the accord, but the military went ahead to implement it, turning a former tourist destination in the mountains into a Taliban redoubt beyond the reach of the Pakistani state. The resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan dates back to the previous regime’s 2006 truce with the militants in Pakistani border areas.

Among Pakistani politicians, Mr. Zardari speaks most clearly about the threat emanating from the country’s west, noting the assassination in late 2007 of his wife, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. But he is politically weak, and sounds disinclined to push the military to wage war against the Pashtun tribes in the mountains.

“Holbrooke is a friend,” Mr. Zardari tells me and a couple other journalists along for the ride on this listening tour. “But it’s a long walk. And in that long walk I am losing the people of Pakistan.”

Mr. Holbrooke says the Pakistani president “deserves credit for his personal courage” in holding the job. He welcomes the “statesmanlike” resolution of a recent political feud with rival Nawaz Sharif over the reinstatement of a supreme court judge. The fight could have resulted, he says, in “civil war on the one hand or assassinations on the other.”

With politics a sideshow, many observers, including in American intelligence, think the Pakistani military and the ISI play a double game. They make the necessary pledges to secure billions in American aid while keeping ties to Islamists. The calculation, a Pakistani analyst notes, is America will leave sooner or later and the military needs to hedge its strategic bets.

“We are well aware of these accusations,” says Mr. Holbrooke. “But our experience with [Pakistani Army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez] Kayani does not support them. We deal with him with respect and with the assumption that he is a serious person doing the best he can under difficult circumstances.”

As part of a “long-term commitment to Pakistan,” the Obama administration wants to lock in billions in aid for the country. Military officials also say the scope of Predator strikes will be broadened, against Pakistani official objections, and efforts to get the adversarial Pakistani and Afghan intelligence services to cooperate will be intensified. Mr. Holbrooke insists the U.S. will respect Pakistan’s “red lines” about American combat troops.

“Some people say to me, particularly after a few drinks, ‘Why don’t we go in there with our troops and just clean it up?'” he says. “First of all we can’t without their permission, and that would not be a good idea. Secondly, cleaning them up in the mountains of Pakistan’s tribal areas, as anyone can see from the search for al Qaeda in Afghanistan, is a daunting mission. It’s the same kind of mountains. A few weeks ago I flew up through the deepest and remotest valleys imaginable. You could see tiny villages in the crevices in the mountains. You don’t want American troops in there. So that option’s gone.”

Though only Pakistan and Afghanistan appear in his job title, Mr. Holbrooke isn’t one to think small. He helped court the Europeans to chip in more troops and aid — with no more success on the former than the Bush administration. He wants to press the Gulf states to cut the illicit flow of funding to the Taliban, involve India and reach out to the Chinese, who are close to the Pakistani military. Last month, at the donor’s conference on Afghanistan at The Hague, he was the first American official to engage an Iranian official since 1979. After Iran downplayed the encounter, so does Mr. Holbrooke. “I’m very much in favor of giving Iran a place at the table if it wants it to discuss the future of Afghanistan,” he says. “But they have not indicated whether they wish to participate or not.”

Mr. Holbrooke’s first posting was in Saigon in the 1960s. As Vietnam analogies for Afghanistan mushroom, particularly from inside his own Democratic Party, he doesn’t dismiss them outright. But he makes a case for continued engagement with a view, perhaps, toward firming up support on the Hill and among the public for a war about to enter its eighth year. “There are a lot of structural similarities” with Vietnam, he says. “The sanctuary [in Pakistan]. They even have a parrot’s peak in both countries, on the Pakistan-Afghan border just as there was in Cambodia. An issue of governance. The fact that the government was supporting a guerilla war. Counterinsurgency.

“But the fundamental difference is 9/11. The Vietcong and the north Vietnamese never posed a threat to the United States homeland. The people of 9/11 who were in that area still do and are still planning. That is why we’re in the region with troops. That’s the only justification for what we’re doing. If the tribal areas of western Pakistan were not a sanctuary, I believe that Afghanistan could take care of itself within a relatively short period of time.”
By MATTHEW KAMINSKI
Islamabad, Pakistan
Mr. Kaminski is a member of the Journal’s editorial board.

UNITED STATES, NATO STRATEGIC FATIGUE SPAWNS DANGEROUS ALTERNATIVES

Introductory Observations

Afghanistan my be passing through a critically testing military stage presently but what is disconcerting is that there seems to be an inspired campaign underway in the Western media and think- thanks to project that strategic fatigue has set-in in the United States and NATO policy establishments. Such projections would lead one to believe that the United States/NATO combine is exploring exit strategies from Afghanistan.

Available indicators suggest that while strategic fatigue may have set-in in some NATO participants in Afghanistan due to domestic pressures, the same cannot be said of the United States.

United States military operations in recent times have acquired added vigor after a review of United States operational strategy this year. The year 2008 marks the final denouement in United States – Pakistan military coalition (so-called) against global terror. While strategic analysts, including this Author, were constantly pointing out that Pakistan was double-timing the United States all along, it took the United States policy establishment six years to finally recognize it.

In fact what we are witnessing today in Afghanistan is not an Afghan civil war but a puny state like Pakistan (its nuclear weapons notwithstanding) challenging the military might of the global only superpower, namely the United States, through asymmetric war through its proxy insurgent outfit – the Taliban.

The aim of United States military intervention in Afghanistan in 2001-2002 was to evict the brutal medieval Islamic Jehadi regime from Kabul for its role in brutally converting Afghanistan into the Mecca of Islamic Jehad which acted as a magnet for the Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups from the Islamic world. At the time of its military intervention in Afghanistan, the United States was aware that Pakistan was criminally culpable for 9/11 events and the hosting of Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. The United States ignored all that and finds itself in the present strategic quagmire that Pakistan’s treachery generated for USA.

Post-9/11 and up till now, Pakistan nurtured and regrouped the Taliban within Pakistan hoping that with strategic fatigue eventually creeping in US-NATO combine the Taliban could be used once again as an instrument of its strategic objective to enslave Afghanistan.

The armed conflict turbulence in Afghanistan today is a violent contest between the US-NATO combine to stabilize Afghanistan and the Taliban (with Pakistani support) attempting to regain control over tracts of territory in Southern Afghanistan, more specificall, before a final push to Kabul.

With the Taliban unable to make major strategic gains, an inspired campaign is underway, exploiting the gullibility of highly paid Western journalists in Kabul and also some Western think tanks and intellectuals to over-hype and over-sensationalize Taliban gains in Afghanistan and minimize the tactical successes of US-NATO military forces.

This inspired campaign has spawned in its wake some dangerous alternatives detrimental to United States strategic interests, namely to explore an exit strategy from Afghanistan and secondly to co-opt the Taliban in a dialogue with the Karzai Government with the ultimate aim of Taliban sharing political power in Kabul.

While the first dangerous alternative is not being seriously considered, the second dangerous alternative of dialogue with the Taliban has made some tentative gains with Afghan-Taliban dialogue in Saudi Arabia engineered by Pakistan and British intelligence agencies with a grudging nod by USA.

It is amazing and the height of strategic naivety for the United States to have given a nod to the second dangerous alternative by pressuring Afghan President Karzai for Afghan participation in a dialogue with the Taliban in Saudi Arabia.

Can it be forgotten that 9/11 would have never taken place had “The Other Axis of Evil” of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were pre-empted by the United States from the creation of Taliban and ensconcing of Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan.

Can it also be forgotten that the inclusion of “moderate Taliban” in the Kabul Government in 2002 was mooted by Pakistan’s General Musharraf to ensure Pakistan’s hold in Kabul and was wisely rejected by USA. A Taliban has no shades; the Taliban are a fundamentalist Islamic armed insurgent militia believing in medieval brutality.

How come that the inclusion of the Taliban in an Afghan-Taliban political dialogue has been brought about? Reports indicate that this has been advocated by European countries, and particularly Britain.

The United States policy establishment should take this as a wake-up call and prevent such dangerous alternatives taking shape which are grossly in contradiction and capable if endangering United States global and regional strategic interests.

To highlight the dangers to US national security interests by advocacy of dangerous and defeatist alternatives, this Paper intends to examine the following perspectives:

  • * United States Strategic Interests in Afghanistan
  • * Taliban No Strategic Asset for United States
  • * Taliban is a Strategic Asset for Pakistan and Saudi Arabia
  • * Afghanistan is a Strategic Asset for United States and Not Pakistan
  • * Afghanistan Can be Reclaimed by United States as a Moderate, Democratic Islamic State
  • * US Intellectuals Must Disabuse Their Minds that Pakistan’s Sensitivities are Paramount in Solution of Afghanistan Conflict

United States Strategic Interests in Afghanistan

United States strategic Interests in Afghanistan should determine the centrality of all United States policies and strategies in the securement of Afghanistan as a stable state and its protection against Islamic fundamentalist onslaughts.

The United States when it entered Afghanistan in its military intervention and secured Kabul in 2002 with the assistance of Northern Alliance Forces had a two pronged strategy, namely (1) Regime change in Afghanistan by evicting the Taliban occupation of Afghanistan and (2) Dismantle the Islamic Jihadi terrorist infrastructure in Afghanistan of the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

The United States succeeded in both its strategic aims except that Pakistan pre-empted the capture of Taliban and Al Qaeda leadership and cadres by spiriting them away to sanctuaries within Pakistan, out of reach of US Forces.

In gross contradiction to US strategic aims the United States airlifted nearly 12,000 Pakistan Army operatives who provided the backbone of the Taliban from Kunduz away from retribution by Afghan tribesmen whom they had brutalized for nearly six years. This was a strategic blunder which is now costing heavily to the United States.

Notwithstanding the strategic blunders above, with the passage of time, United States strategic interests in Afghanistan today can be assessed as follows (1) Afghanistan’s emergence as a stable, democratic and moderate Islamic state contributing to regional stability (2) Afghanistan as a base for extension of American influence in Central Asia (3) Afghanistan as a possible springboard for neutralizing Iran (4) Afghanistan as a base for any future neutralization of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal (5) In any future confrontation with China, Afghanistan’s territory touching China and Afghan air bases can be crucial pivots for US military operations.

The United States therefore must cultivate and craft a long term strategic vision to ensure its presence in Afghanistan coupled with transformation and build-up of Afghanistan as a stable nation immune to Pakistani and Taliban covetous designs.

Taliban No Strategic Asset for United States

The strong advocacy of those favoring entering into a political dialogue with the Taliban and their inclusion in political power-sharing in Kabul would have been logical and understandable had there been even a remotest chance that the Taliban could be transformed into a strategic interest for the United States. The picture, however, is otherwise.

The Taliban are mercenary free-booters with no stake in the stability of Afghanistan. The Taliban are a creation and an instrument of the Pakistan Army tasked with the forcible subjugation of Afghanistan as a client state of Pakistan. Their operational strategies are pronouncedly medieval Islamic brutalism which is alien to the Afghan psyche

With such credentials the Taliban hardly qualify to be a strategic asset for the United States in any future US plans for Afghanistan. More frankly, the Taliban are the very anti-thesis of whatever the United States stands for in Afghanistan and their cooption would be an insult to all US-NATO lives lost in Afghanistan in defense of democracy and freedom.

Taliban is a Strategic Asset for Pakistan and Saudi Arabia

As a follow-up of the above, the United States needs to recognize that the Taliban and Al Qaeda were strategic assets of the “Other Axis of Evil” namely Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Both were instrumental in spawning the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and for 9/11 too. Please refer to the Author’s Paper No. 548 dated 12/11/2002 entitled “United State and the Other Axis of Evil”.

The above position continues today. Pakistan ensconced the Afghan Taliban hierarchy and the Taliban Shura under direct protection of the Pakistan Army in Quetta where it continues untouched till today. Surprisingly, the United States which has now become active in attacking Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda hide-outs within Pakistan in FATA has not touched Quetta where Mullah Omar and the Afghan Taliban are housed and from where all Taliban major operations in Southern Afghanistan are launched from.

Pakistan’s obsession with Afghan Taliban persists became it still remains as the only instrument to ensure Afghanistan’s subjugation as a client state of Pakistan subservient to its Pakistani strategic designs.

It needs to be recorded that Pakistan views the Pakistani Taliban as a threat to its security, but views and nurtures the Afghan Taliban as a strategic asset to be used for forcing the exit of USA from Afghanistan.

Is it not diabolical that the Pak-Saudi-sponsored Afghan-Taliban dialogue in Saudi Arabia should have the notorious Mujahideen leaders like Haqqani and Hekmatyar present there the same time? It does not augur well for the United States.

Saudi Arabia’s interest in the Taliban associated with the Al Qaeda as a strategic asset has been re-invented. In the words of Fareed Zakaria, Editor of News week: “Bin Laden began his struggle hoping to topple the Saudi regime. He is now aligned with the Saudi monarchy as it organizes against Shiite domination.”

Can it be over-looked that today Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are more closer to China than the United States. Can it be overlooked that both also are not on the best of terms with Iran.

Both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have plans to use the Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda in their future strategic blueprints. Convergence exists again between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to place a Taliban Government in Kabul.

Afghanistan is a Strategic Asset for Untied States and Not Pakistan

The United States today is at strategic cross-roads in Greater South West Asia. It has a stark choice in deciding what are going to be its priorities in the region.

Pakistan is once again headed for state failure or worse state-disintegration as a result of its internal contradictions, exploiting Islamic Jehadi impulses as a foreign policy and strategic instrument and divisive tendencies within Pakistan.

Afghanistan on the other hand is reeling under a proxy jihadi onslaught launched not only against Afghanistan but also against United States-NATO combine intent on stabilizing Afghanistan. The Taliban are the proxies.

The United States therefore is confronted with a fateful choice, namely to save Pakistan or Afghanistan. The United States cannot save both as was argued in this Author’s SAAG Paper No. 2585 dated 13 Feb 2008 entitled “United States Fateful Choices: Save Afghanistan or Save Pakistan”.

The major conclusion that was offered was that if USA chooses to save Afghanistan it has the chance of saving Pakistan as a follow-up. On the other hand if USA elects to save Pakistan at the cost of Afghanistan it could face the danger of losing both to disorder and fragmentation.

That Afghanistan is a prized strategic asset for the United States is even recognized by Pakistan. It is for nothing that Pakistan has persisted in the last six years to undermine the United States control of Afghanistan by utilizing the Taliban insurgency.

It is for nothing that Pakistan has audaciously dared to militarily challenge the United States as a global super- power through asymmetric warfare utilizing the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban insurgents. This is an ample indicator as to high the stakes are for Pakistan in Afghanistan.

A stabilized Afghanistan will share many strategic convergences with the United States. Pakistan if ever stabilized would never share any strategic convergences with the United States and moreso now with a growing US-India strategic partnership and its strategic alliance with China.

The new bogey raised by Pakistan Army against the United States is that it is intent on circumcising the only nuclear weapons arsenal in the Islamic world with the clandestine assistance of Israel. The United States is painted as a Christian power at war with the Islamic World.

It is amazing therefore as to how US intellectuals and strategic analysts discover strategic convergences with Pakistan where all indicators indicate otherwise.

Afghanistan Can be Reclaimed by United States as a Moderate, Democratic Islamic State

American analysts overlook many of the following indicators which suggest that Afghanistan can be reclaimed by the United States as a stable moderate, democratic Islamic state (1) The Afghan people are not anti-American like those in Pakistan (2) The Afghan people especially the Northern Alliance assisted and facilitated the
Taliban regime change by the United States (3) Following displacement of Taliban from Afghanistan there were no large-scale uprisings by Afghans against the United States (4) Afghan people took part in democratic elections to elect US-favored President Karzai (5) The Taliban has had limited successes in Afghanistan only in areas where US-NATO military presence in scarce. The major deduction here being that the Afghan people do not favor the Taliban.

More importantly, Northern and Western Afghanistan distantly located from Pakistan are relatively more peaceful, stabilized and have developed in the last six years. Southern Afghanistan was always troubled and become more troubled in the last six years as in the initial years after 2002, the United States militarily neglected it in the vain hope that Pakistan Army would play its part in controlling the Taliban on its behalf in this region. Pakistan however treacherously did otherwise.

In the last six years of US-NATO assisted Karzai regime, appreciable progress and reconstruction has taken place including in the social sectors like Afghan women emerging once again in the liberal mould.

Afghanistan and the Afghan people are ready to assist the United State to stabilize Afghanistan and re-build it into a progressive state, only if the United States does not display weakening of resolve in this direction and stops exploring dangerous alternatives like exit strategies and dialogue with the much Afghan-hated Taliban. The Afghan people look to USA for steely resolve in eliminating the Taliban threat to Afghanistan.

US Intellectuals Must Disabuse Their Minds that Pakistan’s Sensitivities are Paramount in Solution of Afghanistan Conflict

This Author has argued in earlier Papers on Afghanistan that the most glaring contributory failure of United States policy and strategies in Afghanistan was due to (1) Linkage of US policies in Afghanistan with Pakistan (2) Over-importance given to Pakistan’s sensitivities over Afghanistan (3) Over reliance on Pakistan by United States for intelligence and logistics support.

Sadly, this trend still persists as if the United States would collapse in Afghanistan without Pakistan. This trend has led to the acceptance of a dialogue with Taliban in Saudi Arabia. This trend leads to avoidable pressures, at times counter productive in Indian’s eyes that India must give concessions to Pakistan on Kashmir and keep the peace process going Suggestion keep surfacing that Afghanistan must not cozy up to India in deference to Palestinian sensitivities.

Similarly, there are pressures on President Karzai to recognize the Durand Line and talk with the Taliban.

All this talk is utterly ridiculous and especially when it comes from personages who have held important official positions in the US establishment.

Illustrative of this line of thought and which persists till today was a joint articles by Karl Inderfurth former US Assistant Secretary of State and Dennis Kux former US diplomat in the Baltimore Sun in December 2006. Main points made were

* USA and key allies should prevail over Afghanistan to recognize the Durand Line.
* Urged Washington to use influence with Karzai Government “to take greater account of Islamabad sensitivities in dealing with India”.
* “Even though India continues to provide generous economic assistance to Afghanistan, Kabul would be wise to address Pakistani concerns”.

Such wise men should have recommended otherwise, namely (1) USA should liquidate the Taliban from Quetta and its surroundings (2) US aid should be conditional on the same (3) US will militarily intervene in Pakistan to achieve the foregoing if Taliban continues to operate from Quetta and elsewhere (4) US will not enter into any dialogue with Taliban and nor will the Karzai regime.

In this connection one would like to quote the remarks of the Australian Defense Minister Fitzgibbon who was quoted in ‘The Australia’ December 17, 2007 that while NATO had been successfully “stomping on lots of ants, we have not been dealing with the ant’s nests”.

Need it be said that the ant’s nests are in Quetta area of Pakistan and it is only the Al Qaeda and Pakistani Taliban that are in FATA. Quetta Taliban are the major threat to Afghanistan.

Concluding Observations

Afghanistan is a prized strategic asset by virtue of its geo-political setting adjoining West Asia, Central Asia, China and South Asia. It is also of great strategic value to Russia.

With such a strategic setting it would be strategically disastrous for the United States to forego its strategic and political gains of the last six years in Afghanistan just to humour Pakistani sensitivities.

The United States must recognize that Pakistan aided by Saudi Arabia and with the tacit support of China, is the root of all strategic turbulence that afflicts Afghanistan. Pakistan therefore cannot be the part of the solution to stabilize Afghanistan.

The United States can only stabilize Afghanistan if America’s Afghan policies are delinked from Pakistan and America warns Pakistan of retribution if it persists in disruptive policies in Afghanistan through proxy use of the Taliban.

By Dr. Subhash Kapila
October 29, 2008

(The author is an International Relations and Strategic Affairs analyst. He is the Consultant, Strategic Affairs with South Asia Analysis Group.