Modified objectives of USA in Afghanistan
Today the US is looked down upon as the most ruthless and biggest terrorist state in the world that has fuelled uncertainty, insecurity and chaos in the world. It is hated because of its unjust and dual faced policies and going to any extent to achieve its strategic and mercantile interests. Its wholehearted support to Israel and India and its penchant to topple regimes and plunder resources has lowered its esteem.
The sole super power which was prancing like a wild elephant at the dawn of new millennium is currently in thick soup since the war on terror it had initiated in the aftermath of 9/11 has not proceeded in accordance with its chalked out plan. US-NATO forces claiming to be invincible have got bogged down in the quagmire of Afghanistan and things have gone topsy-turvy. The rag-tag Taliban living up to their past reputation, have taken the steam out of the elephant by pushing it against the wall and have left it dazed and helpless.
Despite their massive superiority in men, material and technology, and having applied all kinds of covert and overt techniques with the help of Israel, India and ANA, the US-NATO have not only utterly failed to hold back the surge of Taliban, but also have no road-map for safe and honorable exit. Since stalemated position suits the Taliban and disfavors the occupation forces that are pressed for time and are deeply concerned about battle casualties and financial drain, the Taliban are showing little interest in proposed peace talks and that too on US terms.
The sorry plight of USA has not evoked sympathy from any quarter except for fair-weather friends like India, Israel and Karzai regime. The trio values their selfish interests and care little if the Afghanistan becomes a graveyard for the US. Pakistan is the only country which has fought the war with total commitment and sacrificed the most. It still stands by the side of untrustworthy and ungrateful USA despite getting humiliated time and again.
George W. Bush led team of neo-cons is solely responsible for the mess. They had masterminded the destruction plan of the Muslim world and had craftily strategized ‘global war on terror’ as a means to eliminate anti-US Islamists dubbed as extremists and terrorists present in each Muslim state. Subsequently, the 57 Muslim states were to be neo-colonized after redrawing the Middle East boundaries and controlling its resources. In his eight-year inglorious rule, the US and its allies destroyed Afghanistan and Iraq and pitched Muslims against Muslims. This macabre game resulted in deaths of two million Iraqis and one million Afghans.
There was unprecedented excitement all over the world when Barack Hussein Obama took over power in January 2009. He had promised to bring a change and to heal the wounds of the Muslims and to settle the two chronic disputes of Palestine and Kashmir. Shockingly, he proved to be worse than his predecessor. Rather than wrapping up the senseless war, he further ignited and expanded it. The whole military weight was transferred to Afghanistan with the help of two troop surges. Kill teams were activated and drone was made into a choice weapon of war. The covert and overt war was extended to Pakistan through Af-Pak policy. Pakistan was forced to launch series of major operations in Swat, Bajaur and South Waziristan which resulted in heavy casualties.
In 2011, President Barack Obama and other high officials had repeatedly claimed that Al-Qaeda network in Afghanistan had been smashed and up to 100 or so of its disarrayed activists were left to deal with. He and other senior American leaders had acknowledged the role of Pakistan in emasculating Al-Qaeda’. Obama is also on record having said that Al-Qaeda and not Taliban were USA’s foe. Most wanted Osama Bin Laden for which a massive hunt had been launched in 2002 was finally killed on 02 May 2011 and with his death the main purpose for which Afghanistan was invaded and occupied was accomplished. Thereon, there was no plausible reason for foreign troops to stay on even for a day.
The draw down plan announced in December 2010 has been unnecessarily stretched up to December 2014 because of Pentagon, CIA, India, Israel and Kabul regime’s insistence. Opponents of exit plan want the US-NATO troops to stay put till 2024 and Obama who had promised to put an end to war on terror as soon as possible agreed to leave behind a counter-terrorism force till 2024 to provide back up support as well as to train ANSF. Notwithstanding Obama’s approval, he and his challenger Mitt Romney remained on one page as far as final date of withdrawal of troops is concerned. Divergence in perception of Pentagon-CIA backed by Indo-Israeli lobbies and Afghan regime versus Obama administration-State Department and American public is one of the major reasons which has failed Doha initiative and made the endgame dicey and highly vulnerable. Other reason is the tug of war between Karzai and Northern Alliance hawks over peace talks with hard-line Taliban and dealings with Pakistan.
Taking into account that 70% of American public is against the war and want early repatriation of troops and same is the case with European countries, together with sudden surge in green-on-blue attacks, chances are that frontline security duties are wholly handed over to ANSF by mid 2013 and pullout is advanced by one year. In order to induce the Taliban to renew talks, the US no more talks of conditions and is prepared to release the five detained Afghan prisoners in Gitmo Prison at one time. Continuing inside attacks by ANSF members against foreign troops including their trainers and now the after effects of Sandy storm in USA which wrought havoc coupled with sex scandals of Gen Allan and Gen Petraeus resulting in latter’s resignation have added to the worries of Obama administration. Even the hawks in Pentagon and CIA seem to have mellowed down and are no more raising objections against the exit plan. Having lost the war and with no hope of winning, prolongation of war would be harmful for the occupation forces, but would benefit the resistance forces. The government controlled US media that has all along advocated continuation of war and adoption of harsher methods to degrade the Taliban is also favoring timely withdrawal.
Ambassador Marc Grossman is exploring all possible avenues to restart peace process and in this regard Pakistan has been asked to render all possible assistance. Negotiations with Taliban leading to a negotiated political settlement is considered extremely essential in the backdrop of weak, corrupt and unpopular Kabul regime, slim chances of survivability of Karzai in 2014 presidential election, continued resurgence of Taliban power, frailties within ANSF and now their dependability being doubted as a result of continuing inside attacks, and growing demoralization of occupation troops suffering from homesickness and acute sense of insecurity. In order to meet the demands of obtaining environment, original objectives have been suitably modified which are as follows:
• Pullout main body of US-NATO troops preferably by end 2013 and latest by end December 2014.
•Leave behind a friendly government in Kabul.
• Continue training ANSF till 2017.
•·Retain five military bases and a counter terrorism force till 2024 to provide backup support to ANA in its fight against Taliban, avert civil war and keep Taliban out of power.
• Make maximum use of drones and gunship helicopters to degrade Afghan Taliban and anti-US groups in FATA.
• Continue working for a political settlement failing which divide the country on ethnic lines.
•Facilitate India to fill the power vacuum in Afghanistan in 2014.
• Induce Pakistan to help in facilitating safe and honorable exit of occupying forces and once all troops are out, sideline Pakistan.
In the light of USA’s exit plan, Pakistan should also devise its strategy to remain relevant in the endgame.
The writer is a retired Brig, former Defence Attaché and a defence analyst. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org