Trouble in mission Afghanistan | By Sikandar Noorani 


Trouble in mission Afghanistan

AS the US troops withdrawal started, multiple reports have stirred sensational speculations about Washington’s strong desire to establish military bases in Pakistan or any neighbouring country of Afghanistan.

This sensitive issue needs deliberate analysis amid serious implications on Pak security.

It will be unfair to comment upon decades old blood soaked cycle of violence prevailing in Afghanistan without identifying those players who actually converted this land locked country in epicentre of regional crisis! While balance sheets are made to assess the successes or failures of the (erstwhile) Soviet Union and US, a need exists to deliberately ponder upon the bitter fact that why the innocent Afghans had to persistently pay the price of follies committed by the global players on their homeland.

Since the Biden stepped in the White House, matter of US pull-out from Afghanistan has remained in spotlight for many reasons.

After a deliberate review of Afghan policy, eventually US announced full withdrawal with the bitter flavour of an extended deadline falling in September this year.

Kabul government and Taliban have entirely opposite concerns over ongoing withdrawal; Ashraf Ghani regime needs foreign boots to survive in power corridors whereas Taliban consider all foreign elements as a hurdle in their advance to the throne of Kabul.

In post Doha accord scenario, Afghanistan is continuously bleeding with surge in violence and suffering in the hands of extremely incompetent rulers miserably dependent on highly ignorant withdrawing forces.

It is obvious that with a four months extended withdrawal, US cannot fetch what it has been striving for almost two decades.

Doha deal in 2020 with Taliban was an undeniable reflection of America’s real estimation of Kabul government.

In other words; Washington eventually realized that two decades long support for Kabul regime proved futile though the fact would largely remain unadmitted being contradictory to the status of sole global power.

For all understandable reasons, US is making all possible moves to snatch the optics of victory from Taliban.

After signing Doha deal, Taliban avoided attacks on foreign forces but no flexibility was shown towards Afghan forces.

Despite having serious concerns on brief extension in US stay ; Taliban have remained restricted to verbal condemnations.

Peace largely remains endangered due to multiple armed clashes between Taliban – Afghan forces, intermittent attacks by Daesh and various groups patronized by power hungry warlords.

Pakistan is also fencing the borders amid frequent terrorist attacks , infiltrations and presence of many TTP perpetrators in Afghanistan.

Ground facts are sufficient enough to prove that ‘Washington’s Mission Afghanistan’ has failed in achieving the stated objectives related to democracy, terrorism, peace, education, drugs control and capacity building of armed forces.

After persistent battering of two decades, Afghanistan is still polarized, instable, terror ridden and muddled.

Political turmoil is so deep that winner of presidential polls was forced to share the power by the runner up during past two elections.

Afghan forces and law enforcement agencies lack capacity and resources to meet the prevailing challenges.

USA, being the architect of this massive disorder, seems in no mood to shoulder the onus of responsibility.

An in-depth analysis undertaken by multiple intellectuals assembled in Afghanistan Study Group under United States Institute of Peace(USIP) did not identify the flaws of US strategy.

Analysis, conclusions and recommendations made in the paper (titled Final Paper-A Pathway for Peace in Afghanistan) revolve around the theoretical objectives without pointing out the grey areas which led to an enduring crisis in Afghanistan.

As evident from recent policies, Biden regime seems inclined towards the courses recommended by Afghanistan Study Group.

One of the recommendation was about linking withdrawal with enabling environment instead of specific time line.

Though, the US extended withdrawal deadline from May to September, yet could not present any viable plan to improve the ground situation.

US’ strong urge to establish military bases in neighbouring countries to maintain surveillance over Afghanistan against terrorist groups has added more complications to the existing situation.

Obviously, surveillance missions would eventually lead to drone strikes by US on the targets of its own choosing.

Senior US officials Antony Blinken, Loyd Austin, Jack Sullivan and General Frank Mackenzie have clearly divulged that troops pull-out should not be taken as if America has lost interest in Afghanistan.

Former Defence Secretary and CIA chief Robert Gates’ article published in New York Times on 13 June clearly spelled that the US would not turn its back from Afghanistan.

Being a global player, US might afford repeated blunders in a theatre like Afghanistan which is much away from its main heartland.

A country like Pakistan cannot bear the devastating consequences of such strategic misadventures on the behest of a player like USA.

Most obviously, major US policies now are China centric as evident from the latest developments surfacing on the forums of Quad and G-7.

Pakistan cannot over rule long term engagements with China, Taliban’s stance towards foreign interventions especially from the US, developing ties with Russia, Indian-sponsored proxies in Afghanistan and, above all, Indian deep strategic relations with the US mostly poised against China as well as projects like CPEC/ BRI.

Stance adopted so far on the issue of US bases by Pakistan seems appropriate but a consensus based policy formulation will be more effective to deal with future complications.

—The writer, a retired army officer, is contributing columnist, based in Islamabad.

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