Afghanistan focus! nation
Published: January 10, 2011
It is not an active fighting season in Afghanistan because of the cold weather. But fighting would pick up to its tempo somewhere in the spring. Then there will not be much time for the drawdown to begin. The open-ended statements made during the Lisbon Summit have since continued to add confusion to the withdrawal methodology, its attached conditionalities, and varied attendant interpretations by the US, NATO and other stakeholders.
Senior Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, in an interview with NBC’s programme Meet the Press, has recently called for “permanent US military bases in Afghanistan”, as part of the move that would also give a signal to Pakistan that the Taliban are never going to come back. “We have had air bases all over the world and a couple of air bases in Afghanistan would allow the Afghan security forces an edge against the Taliban in perpetuity,” said the Senator. There are many like Graham offloading their pearls of wisdom wherever and whenever convenient. Likewise, the Adviser to three US Presidents, Bruce Riedel, has recently stated to BBC that 2011 is the year for Obama to break linkage between Islamabad and Taliban. Such neo-strategists are busy diluting the focus from withdrawal, thus making the Afghan scenario difficult to plot and predict.
Meanwhile, last week the members of an Afghan peace council, led by the former President Burhanuddin Rabbani have held talks with leaders in Pakistan to resolve the drawn out and costly war. The delegation from Karzai’s High Peace Council wanted to seek help from Pakistan and keep its leaders abreast of the developments. Since Pakistan has influence over the Afghan Taliban and anti-government elements who are Afghans, it can be productive in the peace process. Hence, the US policy in Pakistan is now stuck in a Catch-22. Without Pakistan, there is no solution to the Afghan war.
Although the Washington urges Pakistan’s military to engage against the Taliban, the US needs Islamabad to help bring them into an Afghan coalition government much earlier than 2014. A decade-long stalemated war has set-in perpetual war weariness among the Afghan, American and Pakistani people. A commoner is turning more and more indifferent to the war. For direct sufferers in combat zones, it means more deaths, more displacements and more misery. As for Obama, some progress is desperately needed to win the second term; at least a major flip must be avoided at all cost.