Is peace in Afghanistan possible ?

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NEWS & VIEWS
Mohammad Jamil
ADDRESSING a ceremony at the General Headquarters to pay tribute to the martyrs of the 1965 war on Pakistan’s Defence Day, COAS Qamar Javed Bajwa said that Pakistan was ready to help the US and NATO for peace in Afghanistan; but Pakistan’s security concerns must also be addressed. For the last four years, Pakistan has umpteenth time offered its help to the US in bringing peace in Afghanistan, but the moot question is as to whether the US wants peace in Afghanistan? In fact, the US and Afghan government want peace on their conditions vis-à-vis the Taliban should lay down arms and accept the Afghan Constitution as it is. Referring to the recent criticism by the US President Donald Trump, Army Chief Qamar Bajwa said: “Despite all our efforts, our countless sacrifices and over decades of war, we are being told that we have not done enough against terrorism.”
Indeed, Pakistan, Russia, China and Iran wish to see peace and stability in Afghanistan, whereas the US, Afghan government and even the Taliban are opposed to it for different reasons. Last year, the Taliban had declared that it would not take part in peace talks brokered by representatives of Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, and the United States until the foreign occupation of the country ended. Donald Trump in his speech at Virginia in regard to foreign policy for Afghanistan and South Asia declared to send at least 5000 more troops to Afghanistan with the hope to win the war. If more than 130000 NATO troops, 150000 Afghan National Army (ANA) and about 100000 police and other law enforcing agencies could not win the war in 15 years of occupation, how an addition of 5000 troops could win back about 50% of space already lost to the Taliban.
It is too well known that promotions in the Afghan army are given on the recommendations of influential elements of the formerly known as Northern Alliance. Reportedly, direct appointments of hundreds of high ranking officers including generals belonging to ethnic Tajik other ethnic groups were made. How that sort of army could help win the war against the Taliban. Since President Ghani embraced his position as Commander-in-Chief, he directed the mandatory retirement of 47 ineffective and elderly general officers. This action helped remove generals who had long exceeded the mandatory retirement age to make room for the next generation. In addition, he suspended numerous general officers involved in the fuel and other scandals. Although, the US and NATO forces had trained the ANA, but it could not become a cohesive fighting force, and there have been many desertions in the ANA.
In October 2015, President Ashraf Ghani had nominated 61 new general and senior ranking officials for Ministry of Defence positions. Moreover, there are direct appointments of Brigadiers, Major Generals and Lt. Generals on the recommendations of those in political hierarchy. There are reports that the ANA leadership cadre has at times led to ineffective officers being transitioned from one position to another. According to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction’s latest report, the majority of the ANA is made up of ethnic groups such as Tajiks and other groups from the north, whereas the Pashtuns have little representation. Therefore, the ANA is essentially an ethno-tribal army and not a national army like the one that Afghanistan once had until the late 1970s, when the Afghan army was drafted from every corner of the country and consisted of all tribes and ethnic groups (Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks, and Turkmans etc).
It is against this backdrop that Afghan government does not have control over 40 to 50 per cent of Afghanistan. Apart from other regions, the Taliban dominate the region of East Afghanistan like Kunar, Nooristan and Khost, which is a safe haven for TTP chief Mulla Fazlullah and his colleagues. In fact, the situation in Afghanistan is very complex, as there are many paymasters for the same group simultaneously. RAW, NDS and other anti-Pakistan elements are united in creating problems for Pakistan. The US and the West blame Pakistan for ensconcing Haqqani network, whereas all of them have crossed over to Afghanistan when Pakistan conducted operation Zarb-i-Azb. Instead of accepting their failures, the US and Afghan government want to make Pakistan a scapegoat. In fact, elements from former Northern alliance do not wish to see peace with the Taliban, as they will have to share power with it.
On the other, hand the US is interested in the continuation of instability in Afghanistan to justify its existence and its military bases to oversee Pakistan, China and Central Asian states. While Washington verbally supported the negotiation process, in reality it aimed to derail it, as peace can diminish the American influence and increase the Russian and Chinese influence. Having all said, Pakistan had captured the maximum Al-Qaeda operators than all countries combined, and lost 70,000 citizens including 6000 military personnel. It has cleared 48,000 sq kms of its soil; secured 3,500 kms of lines of communication; re-established writ of the govt in these areas, allowing people to return home. The cost of war to Pakistan has been enormous, as it devastated the infrastructure and affected the economy to tune of $ 100 billion. But Pakistan’s foreign office has not been able to convince world about sacrifices made by Pakistan.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.
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