777 solution to Afghanistan
Posted by Faheem Belharvi
The fatigue factor in the war making machine is becoming more pronounced and visible in the long drawn war in Afghanistan as the timelines to Dec 2014 (end of combat) are getting shortened. The complexities of exit strategy are haunting the military minds and the post- 2014 Afghanistan is the nightmare of policy makers.
Apparently peace is the objective of all the stakeholders but everyone wants it at his own terms. There exists a silver lining towards peace, a common objective; but the ray of hope gets obscured in the process of reflection, deflection and attenuation as the stakeholder’s individual approaches crisscross each other. The solution lies in the realization, identification and recognition of ground realities to be taken cognizance by all the stakeholders as constants. After having reconciled with the constants as sin- qua non to the solution, the problem areas be prioritized according to the key issues and tackled in a way to facilitate the solution. The ground realities identified as seven constants are briefly described in the bullet form:
· The eleven years long Global War on Terror (GWOT) has factually turned into a trench warfare and under the present environment can best be described as a stalemate. The war has gone cost prohibitive, lost popular support and is heavy on attrition.
· The US,Isaf and Nato forces are contemplating a draw down and undergoing a thinning out process with a foremost concern to secure orderly withdrawal and safe passage.
· The Karzai Government writ is restricted to few urban centers and ineffective in southern and eastern Afghanistan. It is on lease to the US patronage and Nato protection. The present political dispensation is short on real representation and the constitution lacks consensus.
· The Afghan security forces are structured on the fault lines of ethnic and demographic complexion. They are not yet ready to conduct independent major military operations and pursue the war goals.
· Taliban have survived the combined military onslaught of US, Isaf, Nato and Afghan security forces and under the obtaining environments is a force to reckon with. Al-Qaeda is no more a cohesive body and its strength stands diluted in Afghanistan but budding in the Arab spring.
· The Northern Alliance is politically and financially more composed being the main beneficiary of the GWOT. It enjoys better logistic stamina and sustainability as compared to the pre-GWOT ground conditions.
· Afghanistan is like a hot potato in this point in time. The international community cannot hold it, the regional players cannot swallow it and the inland ethnic groups cannot digest it singularly.
After having reconciled with the ground realities as constants, the stage is set to prioritize the problem areas into seven thorny issues leading to the roots of viable solution. The scope and gravity of the problem areas could be summarized as under:
· The trust deficit amongst the stakeholders is eating the very vitals of peace and stability. The blame game is at the central stage; polluting the minds of peace brokers and war mongers alike. It is more prevailing in the allies rather than in the warring factions.
Trust deficit must be replaced by confidence building otherwise the whole exercise of peace making will be futile.
· The present constitution of Afghanistan is the consensus of a select majority. It was framed under the occupation environment and not the product of a representative body elected under fair and free environments. It must be tailored to the Afghan suiting.
· The post- 2014, US presence under any pretext in Afghanistan is a strategic concern of all the stakeholders. Any further steps towards this end will be counterproductive. It may stall any peace initiative before takeoff. It may be left to the peace brokers to tackle it during the peace process.
· The Taliban -Al Qaeda nexus is a serious concern of the allies. This issue cannot be left unattended to and a disconnect resulting into parting of ways be crystallized to the satisfaction of all warring factions. In the presence of this issue peace may get a chance but not a life to live longer.
· The reconciliation followed by re-integration of Taliban and Northern Alliance is the most problematic area to be traversed by the peace makers. The application of indigenous tools, tribal code and mutual ethnic bondages or grounds to be explored towards peaceful coexistence in the post -2014 Afghanistan.
· As peace in Afghanistan is indispensible for durable peace in Pakistan and vice versa, therefore there is a need to remove reservations and fulfill their respective obligations for narrowing down on the common goals of peace and stability. The element of non-state actors and non interference in each other’s internal affairs must be kept on the front burner.
· The regional players in general and the neighbours of Afghanistan in particular are to be brought on the same page regarding the need for sustainable peace. The divergent interests are to be relegated and the common interests need to be promoted through a mutually agreed platform.
The road map to peace must be traversed at a bracketed time frame to facilitate transition and ensure the consolidation of the gains. A multi facet approach may be adopted by navigating all avenues and leaping forward on common ones. To this end, the seven steps recommended are:
· Recognition of all Afghan ethnic groups according to the demographic complexion of Afghanistan and facilitating them to choose their representatives to the grand peace council on proportion representative basis.
· The grand peace council shall be divided in to three working groups on proportion representative basis to find solutions to internal political and security issues and post -2014 Afghanistan external relations.
· After having narrowed down on the common objectives; the respective working groups shall be facilitated by three Muslim countries i.e. Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar to interact with the neighbouring countries and international stakeholders.
· The peace facilitator countries shall provide international guarantees to the agreed upon accords to be implemented in accordance with the already chalked out road map.
· The interim political, administrative and security set up be put in place to shape the environment and facilitate smooth transition to a permanent dispensation according to the agreed modalities.
· The neighbouring countries shall facilitate all the working groups in their endevour towards peace and sign an accord for mutual peaceful co-existence with Afghanistan.
· The international community shall provide all out assistance to the countries facilitating the peace efforts. The US,Isaf/Nato countries in particular and the international community in general shall dedicate diplomatic, economic and technical support towards a stable, peaceful and progressive Afghanistan.
The above steps shall address the concerns of all warring, political and ethnic groups. Forgive and forget, general amnesty, prisoners release/swap over, cessation of hostilities, de-weaponization and disowning/de-linking with all the non-state actors shall remain the rider clause in all stages of the peace process.
This process is neither captive to the will of a single stakeholder not impinging on the image, status and standing of any group, faction or power in the mosaic of Afghanistan. It is a no winner and none looser approach with face saving for all the stakeholders and hate for none. It is an Afghan rooted, routed and mooted approach by the Afghans for the Afghans. Let the history shall pass the verdict in the hindsight.
(Brig Said Nazir Mohmand retd)