Gen Mirza Aslam Beg
Sunday, August 22, 2010 – The indomitable will to preserve freedom, is the distinctive feature of the psyche of the Afghan nation, which has been misconstrued by foreign aggressors as ‘terrorism,’ during the last thirty years. Under this misconception, the Soviets manipulated entry into Afghanistan during the seventies, promising social equality and freedom, but ended up with forced occupation of the country. This was the First Betrayal. The Americans and the Pakistanis joined hands to defeat the Soviet aggression and promised freedom, but turned their back on the Afghans, when the Soviets retreated, and created conditions of a civil war. This was the Second Betrayal. The Taliban resistance, grew out of this deceit and gained control over 90% of Afghanistan, when the Americans and their allies, joined by Pakistan, struck Afghanistan to avenge the 9/11 massacre, although not a single Afghan was involved in this dastardly action of 9/11, yet they were found guilty of harbouring Osama and were so brutally punished. This was the Third Betrayal. The Americans and the allies, cheated them, the Fourth time at Bonn in 2002, when the Taliban – the Pakhtun majority were denied their due share in the so called national government, formed at Kabul. The Afghans, having learnt the bitter lesson of one deceit after another, are not prepared to be hoodwinked again in the name of freedom. The crafty deception now being worked-out by the aggressors is worth examining.
The rule of game is indeed ironic that, the winners, lay down the conditions for peace, yet the loosers – the Americans and their allies are trying to determine their own rules for peace. The Maldives Plan was hatched and the declaration was made from Washington, that they would prefer “a peaceful non-Talibanized Afghanistan”, which was also endorsed by Pakistan. Therefore, it was decided to induct thirty thousand more troops in Afghanistan in order to gain “a position of strength to be able to negotiate peace.” The Taliban, however, responded to the surge, causing heavy casualties, thus denying the “position of strength” to the adversary. Out of sheer desperation, therefore, the Americans tried to throw the blame on Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence, supporting the so called ‘safe havens in the tribal areas.’ Hillary Clinton charge sheeted Pakistan, which General Mullen also endorsed. The new Prime Minister of United Kingdom Mr. Cameron, joined the chorus, and going a step further, demanded that such havens in Pakistan must be bombed-out. But desperation doesn’t help in such conditions, such as, General Petraeus statement that “I am not here to seek a graceful exit,” while the Afghan militants are “fighting back at this very pivotal moment to outclass us through this fighting season.” General Petraeus may be sounding brave, but Americans and the allies, having realized that they cannot win by force, have ultimately commissioned Karzai to seek peace with the Taliban.
Karzai has played his cards well. During the last peace conference at Kabul, attended by seventy countries. Karzai succeeded in gaining acceptance of the two demands of the Taliban, that: ‘the occupation forces will leave by mid 2011; the Taliban leaders declared as terrorists be de-listed, and Taliban prisoners get released.’ The two follow-up demands related to cease-fire and calling a Loe-jirga, to decide the formation of the future broad-based national government.
These developments have had a demoralizing impact on India and Russia, who saw their game in Afghanistan, as lost and are feverishly working towards forming a coalition, together with Iran, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to prop-up the Northern Alliance, as they did in 1992 under Ahmad Shah Masud. But the ground realities are very much different now. The Northern Alliance will not be able to ride the American or Russian tanks to achieve victory in Kabul and Kandahar, as both the super powers have faced defeat at the hands of the Afghans. The Taliban of today are a different breed altogether. Thy have thirty years of experience of hard fighting. They enjoy unity of command under Mullah Omar. The hard-core of their fighting strength mainly consists of young fighters, born during the last thirty years and having grown under the shadows of war, know nothing but to fight for their freedom, against the occupation forces. These hard-core fighters symbolize the ‘unshakable will of the Afghan nation’, to fight and continue fighting till they achieve the final victory. They have, in fact written new doctrine of war, the asymmetric war, by defeating two super powers in a short period of thirty years, which indeed is a miracle of the century.
Those, who are now planning to disrupt the peace process, initiated by Karzai and accepted by the Americans, argue that: “The US must not withdraw from Afghanistan and continue to occupy the pivot of three Asias for geo-strategic gains and world domination. Though the apparent logic and hindrance in this policy may be Pakistan’s fixation with India, it actually boils down to the growing strategic partnership between Pakistan and China. This is what makes the present crises ‘A Long War.” This is a myopic perception of reality, which needs renunciation to determine a strategic new-look, because the world has yet to device a strategy to win against the Afghans, who have developed the ‘asymmetric war techniques,’ to perfection, by defeating the high-tech superiority of weapon and equipment of the most powerful nations of the world.
Reintegrating the Pashtuns into the society would be the key to ensuing a viable Afghanistan. This would spare USA, the indignity of another Vietnam like retreat and would shift the perspective for a “global game” where USA’s soft-power would harmonize with the opposing ideology, giving the call of Allah-o-Akbar from Ground Zero, Islamic Cultural Centre, to be established under the momentous decision by President Obama, thus “removing one of the many paradoxes at the heart of the increasing passioned controversy.”
The lurking fear, that, once the Taliban are in power in Afghanistan, they would export their ideology and would threaten regional peace, is totally unfounded. In fact, having suffered so much in the last thirty years they are yearning for peace, which can be ensured only through maintaining friendly relations with all their neighbours and keeping away from regional intrigues and global power politics of competing powers. Despite all the sufferings at the hands of the Soviets, the Americans, their allies and the neighbours, the Afghan desperately need the support of all of them to rebuild the devastated country. And yet they would reject, interference, intrigues and efforts to play a dominating role in Afghanistan, by the neighbours in particular and the regional powers engaged in their “New Great Game.”
Afghans became, a victim of the Great Game of the twentieth century and now they desire to live in peace, protecting their core values, traditions, and the Islamic ideology – the raison detre’ of the nation. Afghanistan does not nourish any territorial ambition, but would jealously guard the dignity and pride of the nation. “It would not fear to negotiate peace, but will not do it out of ‘fear’”, as the charismatic leader of USA, John F. Kennedy said in his famous inaugural address: “Having being subjected to several deceits and distortions, no one can distract us from unearthing the reality and truth.” George Orwellendorsed the idea: “In time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary step.” This is what modern Afghanistan symbolizes.
—The writer is Former Chief of Army Staff