Harebrained US exit strategies

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M Ziauddin

The Pew Research Centre, Washington which conducted a survey from September 18-24 had found that more Americans are now saying that despite 17 years of war, the US has failed to achieve its goals in Afghanistan.
True enough, pressure seems to be mounting on the US administration to get out of Afghanistan as soon as possible. Earlier President Trump had attempted to reduce the cost of Afghan war by trying to lure India to send its troops to the war torn country. India did not take the bait.
Next, to the utter global consternation the administration reportedly seriously considered a proposal by the now-defunct Blackwater fame Erik D. Prince to privatize the Afghan war as it did in parts the Iraq war.The proposal is still said to be on the table.
Also on the table is another harebrained idea that suggests inviting China to take over the task of taking Afghanistan back to a permanent peace mode.
The urgency in trying to get out of Afghanistan is said be dictated by the enormous global and regional strategic challenges the US is said to be facing from China and Russia from which, according to Robert Manning(The United States needs an Afghanistan exit strategy—published in Foreign Policy on Oct. 5, 2018), it cannot afford to be distracted by continuing its presence in Afghanistan.
Robert A. Manning is a senior fellow of the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He has served as a senior counselor to the undersecretary of state for global affairs from 2001 to 2004, as a member of the U.S. Department of State Policy Planning Staff from 2004 to 2008, and on the National Intelligence Council’s Strategic Futures Group from 2008 to 2012.
Manning said any plausible exit strategy must involve handing over U.S. military and political roles to the countries most directly impacted by turmoil in Afghanistan.
China, it is presumed, faced with the reality of U.S. withdrawal, could assemble a group committed to securing Afghanistan—including Russia, India, Pakistan, and Iran—operating under a U.N. Security Council mandate.
Under U.N. auspices, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, perhaps in cooperation with NATO, could convene a peace conference in Geneva, suggests the proposal.
The participants would primarily focus on setting the terms and conditions for the Taliban to take on a primary position in a national unity government—on the condition that it holds free and fair elections within 12 to18 months of assuming power.
“In return, a Taliban-majority government would have to agree to deny safe haven to the Islamic State or other Islamist militant groups; to support the inclusion of major non-Pashtun ethnic groups (Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek, Turkmen) in a de facto federal system that grants autonomy to non-Pashtun districts; and to solemnly promise to protect women’s rights, especially to education and to participation in social life—something the Taliban now claim to accept, although the facts on the ground tell a different story.
“One major incentive for the Taliban would be the creation of a $25 billion multiyear reconstruction fund jointly managed by the Asian Development Bank and Beijing’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. The fund would operate on principles similar to those of the U.S. Millennium Challenge account created by the George W. Bush administration; grants and loans offered through the fund would require fully vetted business plans. And assistance would be conditioned on the Taliban abiding by the terms of the peace accord: that is, no safe havens for terrorists and political tolerance.
“China, through its massive Belt and Road development strategy and long-standing alliance with Pakistan, has far more leverage with Islamabad than the United States does. Beyond its large-scale investments in Afghan mining, China’s counterterrorism policies also overlap with the United States.”
Taliban are expected to accept the solution because its evolution from an insurgency tasked with destruction to a governing political party will undoubtedly change its decision-making calculus.
Manning further says: “In 2018, even a Taliban regime in Afghanistan would have little incentive to open the country’s doors to the Islamic State or any of a plethora of Islamist militant groups to undo a fragile peace. Indeed, the political incentive of becoming not only a legitimate political party but the dominant one should not be underestimated, especially in combination with the economic benefits such an agreement would unlock.”

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