Response to Trump’s Afghan strategy

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Mirza Aslam Beg
Pakistan needs to develop a well-thought-out, cool and calculated response to “Trumps Strategy” on Afghanistan, which is a vague plan, and cannot be called a strategy, but the fact is that, Trump is on the back foot and on the wrong side of history. He doesn’t have to be pushed to fall, because he would fall in any case, under the weight of his lop-sided decisions:
* “Doubling down on an unsuccessful war is not an act of strength or persistence. It is a sign of insanity to do the same thing over and over again and expect different result.”
* “To make Afghanistan safer and more secure, this strategy ranges from bad to worse. It is a mess because it has no diplomatic component.”
* “Trump is now so enfeebled that Generals and Admirals are not just emboldened to ignore his orders with contempt, rather are dictating foreign policy, directly undermining his own support base.”
Pakistan therefore has to take some deliberate steps to challenge the consequences of ‘Trump’s anti-Pakistan Afghanistan strategy. Step One: Evolve a realistic Afghan Policy, because we have been acting as a rentier state following American dictates from General Ayub to Nawaz Sharif. During the 1950s, Pakistan joined the Cold War against the Soviets. In 1990 when the Soviets retreated from Afghanistan, America denied power sharing to the Mujahideen, and induced civil war. Both Benazir and Nawaz Sharif, treated Afghanistan as the back burner issue and purged ISI, to cut-off contacts with the Afghan freedom fighters, thus leaving space for India to establish its roots there. Musharraf took the worst decision of the time to join American war on Afghanistan, pushing Taliban towards Iran, Russia and China. Thus, for us there is no love lost in Afghanistan and there is a trust deficit, which must be corrected on priority.
Step Two: Trump’s ‘sign of insanity’ and the jingoism of his generals, such as Mad Dog Mattis, present a very serious unpredictable threat to Pakistan. Pakistan has been warned of dire consequences if it fails to meet the demands of eliminating terror from its soil. The punitive actions could be in the form of drone attacks, air strikes or the use of Dirty Bomb on suspected terror hide-outs inside Pakistan. Our armed forces have to be fully prepared not only to defeat such aggression, but also to respond with punishing blows at targets inside Afghanistan.
Step Three: The situation demands robust political and diplomatic initiatives to reach understanding with Iran and Russia for developing meaningful contact with the Taliban, who are the real arbiters of peace and have resolved “to make Afghanistan the graveyard of American forces.” They are prepared to talk only on one condition that, “the occupation forces, one and all, must leave Afghanistan to create space for peace talks.” There is no other way to peace, which Pakistan could follow. Pakistan, Iran, Russia and China, together could play the pivotal role in this regard.
Step Four: The Americans have been trying to build-up India as their proxy in the South Asian region, as the dominating force from Afghanistan to Bangladesh. For this purpose USA allowed India to establish a large spy network in Afghanistan, mainly focusing on Pakistan and in 2005, entered into Strategic Partnership with India, with declared objective to contain and curb rising Muslim extremism and the increasing Chinese economic and military influence in the region. And now it has entered into Strategic Defense Partnership, to provide India with high tech weapon and equipment, for maintaining India’s military domination in the region. This is a serious emerging security threat to which our armed forces are cognizant of, and are prepared to accelerate efforts to maintain balance, with full support from the government, and friends like China.
Step Five: Trump’s Strategy for Afghanistan is purported to create conditions for turning Afghanistan into Daeshtan, that would destabilise all the countries in the region including Central Asia, Russia, China, Pakistan and Iran. It is estimated that by holding-on to Afghanistan till end 2018, America would succeed in its sinister design. Literally speaking “there is no insanity in Trump’s design, in not leaving Afghanistan. His troops are staging in Afghanistan to achieve “the purpose” of destabilising the target countries, with means other than fighting a full fledged war, which is a clear example of a hybrid war strategy. What answer do we have to this madness?
The complex situation developing in Afghanistan demands that Pakistan must develop a meaningful system of study and evaluation of threat to national security and evolve strategies to meet the challenges. The adhocism, personalised decision making and relying on the so called NSC, which is more of a crisis management team, is taking us no where. The new team at the helm of affairs is the hope. They are engaged in deliberate consultations to evolve appropriate response to the impending threat. From “Friends Not Masters” to “Trust – Not Aid,” a period of six decades, should be good enough now for us to take the right decision. This is a good sign of reasoned exercise of sovereignty, by Parliament from decades of a petty rentier state of the United States of America. Thank you Mr. Donald Trump for providing that opportunity.
China and Russia now ‘are with us.’ Iran has rejected Trumps policy of “pressuring the regional countries” on the issue of war in Afghanistan. Now, we must reach-out to Iran, to complete the “Eastern Front,” to provide the much needed Strategic Depth of Security, against foreign ingress and intrigues.
— The writer, a retired 4-star General, is former COAS, Pakistan Army.
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