Sentineling not so enduring freedom | By Syed Nasir Hassan


Sentineling not so enduring freedom

TWENTY years of war and more than $2trillions have been flushed to settle Afghanistan.

Yet still the United States seems to be perplexed and uncertain about the future of Afghanistan.

The deal between Taliban and the United States has set the future course but didn’t seal the fate of Afghanistan.

After much deliberations and speculations regarding Biden government, Washington bought some time to pull out her troops by September 11, setting the epilogue of this tale of chaos on the same date when it began.

However, it is yet to be seen that this dramatic setting of the end would reap any benefit to Washington or not.

Around 2500 troops are still in the battle-ground with approximately 6,300 contractors. Mostly they are kept to assist and train the Afghan security forces until the full withdrawal.

Moreover, they will also be withdrawn fully irrespective of any progress in intra-Afghan dialogue or Taliban not holding pledge to engage in violence.

The path chosen by Washington is ushering some ramifications in terms of surge in violence.

Recent attacks on the civilians are creating some doubts among the analysts as the Taliban have openly waged war against the Afghan security forces but apparently denounced the violence on civilians.

Recent incidents implicate more complexions in the conflict hierarchy and reflect a stark outcome after full withdrawal.

Dissidents accuse the Ghani government for propagating such attacks in order to prolong US stay in Afghanistan. The argument gets strength when economic metrics are analyzed.

The United States spends around $4.8 billion annually on Afghan government. 80% of the aid goes to Afghan Government’s Security expenditure.

Moreover, as proposed, the political settlement in post withdrawal has no place for Ashraf Ghani.

Without any political party and electoral footing, he is the one of those losing the most. For most of the people in Kabul Afghanistan remains a money mine.

A rational could be drawn from this regarding the unwillingness of the Afghan government to let go of American forces.

The United Sates cannot stay forever in Afghanistan. But the question about Afghan peace still revolves around how to create enduring stability? Nevertheless a speculation is that, should the future of Afghanistan be looked in retrospect? It is necessary to understand that last time the US abandoned Afghanistan; its strategic hangover was paid by Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The US seems to be once again leaving the ground and abandoning the mess it has created on foreign soil. A sense of ambivalence is surrounding the post-withdrawal.

Similarly back in 1979, the US came in used Pakistan as a patsy. CIA itself drafted manuscripts promoting jihad to be proliferated in religious seminaries.

Within a decade the objective was complete, there remains no US interests in Afghanistan, so leaving Afghanistan in the rubble was the only viable option for Washington.

Irrespective of what ideological idols one stands with, it was a miscalculated war by the American authorities.

Oblivious to the fact that such wars are never won, US will look into turning this into an emasculated victory and probably a PR stunt for President Biden.

It is of foremost importance to understand that Afghan conflict is not restricted to just fewer parties.

The conflict is so much convoluted that there are parties within parties and have different interest to serve. Confining it to only some parties would be oversimplification.

Once again the withdrawal will leave Pakistan and Afghanistan with an uncomfortable strategic and political environment.

Both Pakistan and Afghanistan need to understand that the key divider is not any strategic issue but Western policies.

In this regard the first and foremost need of time is to build an environment of trust between the two countries.

Islamabad needs to understand the importance of Afghan public opinion is of disdain towards Pakistan and there is a need to clear the air first.

There is a need to build confidence especially between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Pakistan needs to assure the people of Afghanistan that the only strategic depth Pakistan can have in Afghanistan is with peaceful and stable Afghanistan, like earlier advocated by Gen Kayani Islamabad needs to counter the stigma in Afghan conscience against Pakistanis.

It has no benefit in destabilized and imbalanced Afghanistan rather it would have to cater another nuisance on its western border.

The trust deficit between the two neighbours has topped to a level where it is not restricted to just policy makers or state authorities.

It has been seeped to the common conscience which would have a long lasting impact if Afghanistan takes any political future course.

In all this intricacy which has been deployed by Washington and has brought not fruitful results for the people of Afghanistan, leaving it militarily may or may not be a good option but abandoning it from teeth to feet is not a sane one. Afghanistan needs organic solution rather a rubric imposed and compelled to accept it.

Washington’s strategic and diplomatic palpitation is implicit vs a vs Afghanistan. Some political pundits are sketching a grim picture for Afghanistan.

There has been no clear and comprehensive post-withdrawal US policy towards except April 21’s White House briefing which says that the US will no longer stay in Afghanistan but assistance to Afghan government and humanitarian work will continue.

If one examines it more the statement is subject to many unclear outcomes. It seems that after Bay of Pigs, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan would be another unfinished business of the US.

—The writer is an Islamabad-based Researcher and working as a Program Coordinator in Islamabad Institute of Conflict Resolution.