WITH Biden in Washington, objections to Afghan peace deal now seemed to have crystallized into firm opposition.
Instead of preparing for complete withdrawal of US troops by stipulated date; 1 May, other alternatives are being spelled out in sarcastic and authoritative tones.
Two statements out of the series, clearly tell about what is being cooked. Pentagon spokesperson has said “Taliban have not met their commitments.
It is hard to see a specific way forward for the negotiated settlement”.
NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, said at a meeting of Defence Ministers that we will not leave before time is right. This amounts to saying a last word.
Such cordite stuff could serve nothing but a cause of discord/conflict especially, in a land where these germinate instantly, blossom quickly and yield bitterly for long.
Instead of a loving tender care, an abrasive blade is being used though professed motive is virtuous; sustainable peace in Afghanistan and continuation of an urbane and progressive Afghan society under construction by them since 2021.
This makes one apprehensive about what possibly lies ahead for Afghanistan in reality than being talked ostensibly.
On the appearance, it is homed in on a responsible withdrawal than leaving chaotic conditions behind arising out due to non-compliance of Feb 2020 peace agreement by Taliban.
Under the agreement, Taliban were obligated to reduce violence, faithful participation in peace negotiations and severing their ties with other international terrorist organizations.
The US and its allies allege that Taliban have not disavowed Al-Qaeda as also reported by the UN that relations of both are as close as ever.
Though Taliban have refrained from attacking US troops, however, have escalated violence against Afghan forces and civilians. No headway has been made in negotiations for peace within.
They have also shown haste in drawing conclusions for staying indefinitely in Afghanistan or delaying the withdrawal of troops.
It is argued that withdrawal as agreed upon may result into fall of Afghan government and pave the way for eventual takeover of Kabul by Taliban.
This would embolden Jihadist groups on run to recoup and revert to terrorism as before including reconstitution of threat to American homeland security within 18-36 months.
An abrupt withdrawal would also carry risks to reputation of US as leader of the world against terrorism thus, shaking confidence of its allies in fight against terrorism. The takeover of Kabul by Afghan Taliban, would roll back all gains made for human rights and empowerment of women since 2001 at great cost.
All this sound music to Afghan Government and it hastens to show its determination too not to let half of the generation get paralyzed again. With all this in view, withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan is most unlikely by 1 May.
Basically, it would be no change in US policy about Afghanistan and globally but a course correction to what Trump did to woo his voters before presidential elections.
Probably, he muscled his way through to get a peace deal with Afghan Taliban despite his administration was opposed to it.
With his departure, US South Asia policy is back which he himself announced in 2017 albeit apparently under pressure.
He declared that the US would stay in Afghanistan because consequences of a rapid exit are predictable and unacceptable, leaving a vacuum that terrorists would instantly fill.
An effective military effort against Afghan Taliban was considered an imperative to create a conducive environment for political settlement. Given conditions, it was widely viewed then that the US policy would give more way to violence and instability than peace because few thousands US troops cannot achieve what over 140,000 NATO troops could not achieve in 16 years.
It would only prolong agony, harden attitude and pose more serious hazards to peace. No earth- shaking development has taken place since then which may persuade people to change their earlier view rather, escalating the cold war particularly, between the US and China feeds on this view.
Peace in Afghanistan is more in the interests of China than the US. Pakistan, Iran, Russia and CARs would also reap its dividends. Arguably, all this is against the interests of the US in the region and globally.
The instability serves its interests more than peace. Terrorism is no more Number One threat to US. It now stems from China.
The containment/neutralization of China is its Number One priority. The flagship project of Chinese BRI; CPEC passes through Pakistan, bordering Afghanistan.
The countering terrorism/stabilization of Afghanistan is mere an excuse to stay there nevertheless, this would set Taliban and US on colliding course.
Taliban deputy leader, Mullah Baradar, has already warned in the above backdrop that they would not allow continuing interference in Afghan affairs. It is said in the US that Trump conceded too much to Taliban to conclude the deal however, in reality, Taliban showed more flexibility than expected.
It ran contrary to the genesis of Afghanistan. Afghanistan has the reputation of a graveyard for foreign occupation forces and the US was given a face saving with a peace deal despite the fact that Afghan Taliban controlled 70% of Afghanistan and had no constraint of time.
The calendar is on their side. The US has lost war in Afghanistan in the light of what his famous former Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger once said, “A conventional Army loses if it does not win, the guerrilla Army wins if it does not lose”.
In spite of the above, why does the US intend to stay in Afghanistan? It is a difficult question to answer if its intent is not other than what it states.
— The writer, a retired Lt Col, is a senior columnist based in Islamabad.