More than just the end of a war | By M Ziauddin


More than just the end of a war

AS soon as China announced $31 million in aid to Taliban government, the US came up with its own claim of having provided hundreds of millions of dollars of humanitarian aid to the people of Afghanistan.

“In June, the US provided over $250 million to Afghans, which doubled to $500 million in July.

Some of this is intended for internally displaced persons inside Afghanistan,” said State Department spokesperson Ned Price at a Thursday news briefing in Washington.

Reports have indicated China is also planning to broaden its $60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a spoke of the BRI, to include Afghanistan via a Peshawar-Kabul motorway.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said in a recent briefing that the Afghan Taliban believed that the BRI was good for the development of Afghanistan and broader cooperation between regional countries.

There are already reports suggesting that China is trying to gain access to the Bagram airbase recently abandoned by withdrawing US troops.

Beijing would likely need a bigger and well-equipped air facility than Kabul airport for its trade and investment activities in Afghanistan.

Perhaps reacting to these reports the US said it would engage with the Taliban when it’s in America’s interest to do so, although it’s not yet ready to recognize the Taliban government.

At the same Thursday afternoon’s news briefing, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said that Pakistan shared concerns of the international community on Afghanistan and wanted to protect the gains of the last 20 years.

Asked to comment on Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan, Mr. Price said Islamabad conveyed its position on Afghanistan at a recent ministerial meeting co-hosted by the US and Germany.

Both Pakistan and India participated in the meeting along with a dozen other countries and international groups, like the European Union, NATO and the United Nations.

Secretary Blinken used his speech to urge unity in mitigating a potential humanitarian crisis and on holding the Taliban accountable on counterterrorism, safe passage for foreign and Afghan citizens and on forming an inclusive government that respects basic rights.

Secretary Blinken said that the United States would continue to “use economic, diplomatic, and political tools to support the rights of the Afghan people, especially women and girls, and to ensure that Afghanistan does not become a safe haven for terrorism”.

Last Tuesday, in remarks at the White House, the US president made it clear that the withdrawal from Afghanistan was more than just the end of a war. Biden presented a whole new era in foreign policy.

“The world is changing,” he said, adding that “endless military deployments” are not the right approach to promote human rights and democracy on the other side of the world. America’s rivals, Biden said, are in Beijing and Moscow, and that will be his focus.

“There’s nothing China or Russia would rather have, would want more in this competition, than the United States to be bogged down another decade in Afghanistan.”
But what if Afghanistan returns to being a playground for terrorists and Biden is once again pulled into the region’s chaos? His government has made clear that it may continue drone strikes in Afghanistan.

A week and a half ago, an airstrike carried out by the U.S. struck a vehicle in Kabul that was allegedly carrying Islamic State-Khorasan terrorists.

According a number of American political pundits Biden did not make the decision to withdraw in a fit of momentary pique. Ten years ago, as vice president, he tried to convince Obama to bring the war to an end.

Obama listened to the advice of his military leaders instead. This time around, Biden had the power to override the Pentagon, which again had warned against pulling out.

In his recent remarks at the White House, Biden said that he had to decide between sending thousands more troops to Afghanistan or pulling out completely. “I cannot and I will not ask our troops to fight on endlessly in another country’s civil war,” he said.

US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Milley said last Wednesday that he believes cooperation with the Taliban was possible.

“In war, you do what you must in order to reduce risk to mission and force, not what you necessarily want to do,” he said.

According to Fareed Zakaria(The Islamic world has changed over the past 20 years. The Taliban is about to feel it, published in Washington Post on Sept.

10, 2021)if you want to understand what ‘Islamist militancy’ today is really about, pay attention to this statement by the Taliban’s spokesman last week:

“China is our most important partner, and represents a fundamental and extraordinary opportunity for us.”

Fareed recalls Osama bin Laden’s original fatwa of 1996 in which bin Laden explaining reason to go after the “far enemy,” the United States, said it was because the US supported governments such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which were the “near enemy” and the true focus of bin Laden’s strategy.

Fareed said bin Laden’s strategy was based on a fantasy — specifically, that hundreds of millions of Muslims in their dislike of dictators such as Saddam Hussein and Hafez al-Assad extended support for the mullahs who opposed their regimes.

“In fact, while much of the Arab world was ruled by unpopular tyrants, what their people really wanted, it turned out, was greater openness, more democracy and an accommodation with modern life, not a rejection of it

Even when Islamist parties have won, they tend to be the ones that work within the democratic framework, are reasonably moderate.

“Then came 9/11 and, more importantly for the Saudis, the terrorist attacks of 2003 and 2004 in Saudi Arabia itself.

Soon the monarchy began changing course, a process that David Petraeus described to me as “one of the most important, least reported positive developments in the war on terror.” That development has continued.

In 2001, the United Arab Emirates was, along with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, one of the only three governments to recognise the Taliban government in Afghanistan.

Today, the UAE has not yet recognized the Taliban, but it has established diplomatic relations with Israel and is building stronger economic and social ties with that country — without facing great fallout in the Muslim world.”

— The writer is veteran journalist and a former editor based in Islamabad.

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