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Afghanistan: Fight, Talk, Build

November 1, 2011 by  
Filed under Analysis, geopolitics

The ParadoxUS Secretary of State Ms Hillary Clinton announced a three track strategy for Af Pak on 27 October 2011. Summarised it means, Fight the Haqqani and other belligerent groups, Talk to all the stake holders wanting a stake in post pull out Afghanistan and Build the state to make it attractive for local residents. All at the same time to test whether these organisations have any willingness to negotiate in good faith. We have heard such strategies being churned out from Iraq to Afghanistan over the last two decades. However, US still seems to be embroiled in both these countries intricately.

There was nothing wrong theoretically with the earlier strategy of clear, hold and build either. The US announced clearly articulate strategies but erred on strategy execution because it failed to take stock of ground realities. The term Af Pak was coined after eight years of US floundering in Afghanistan. By the time it realised that Pakistan was the main cog in the wheel, a lot of water had flown down the Kabul river. This late realisation by US enabled Pakistan to dig its heels firmly in the present and future dispensation in Afghanistan. It gave Kayani and his ilk the temerity to blackmail US on supply routes, build credible alliances with the terror modules in Af Pak and double cross US by running with the hares and hunting with the hounds.

Kayani is shrewd. He does not want to relive the legacy of US dumping Pakistan post pull out the first Afghan War way. To that end he has maintained a tight grip on the insurgents as his best strategic bet. Whether he will succeed will largely depend which way the Taliban sits across the negotiation tables, if it does.

This latest strategy announcement seeks cooperation from Pakistan as the principal route to success of the strategy. The Washington Post quotes State Department narrative that, “elements of the strategy already underway include escalation of military pressure on the Haqqani network of insurgents in eastern Afghanistan — along with an open door for the network, and other Taliban groups, to hold direct talks with the United States. Pakistan, where the groups are based, has been offered a principal role in the negotiations in exchange for curtailing its support for them and helping bring them to the table, where the Afghan government will also have a seat”.

According to a story in New York Times, the Haqqani group and Pakistan military enjoy a symbiotic relationship. “The Haqqanis need a haven to train fighters and receive financial and material support, which they get from Pakistan, especially in North Waziristan, part of the tribal areas. Pakistan’s military, for its part, needs a proxy to extend its influence in Afghanistan after the Americans leave; that is what the Haqqanis give them”.

America is also trying its best to seek active participation of neighbouring countries in finding a political solution to Afghanistan. These include India, China, Central Asian Republics and Iran ( through EU countries). It also promises a new Silk Road signifying investments in Afghanistan’s prosperity as Asian crossroad.

Dreams these!

The Pakistani rebuff to US with the Nuclear weapons statements of Kayani “think ten times” are a reminder as to who rules the roost in the government buildings of Kabul and the mountains astride Durand Line. Kayani’s shrewd manouvres have left US flustered, while he claims being a reliable ally of US in the war on terror. He can bid his time while Obama is clearly running out of it. That is where the Pakistani strategy of “waiting America out” is running ahead of US. After ten years of constant meddling in Afghanistan to gain the ill perceived strategic depth against India, Kayani is willing to weather US down some more by holding most of the aces close to his chest. According to James Farwell, the author of the recently released book “The Pakistan Cauldron: Conspiracy, Assassination, and Instability:-

“Pakistan’s duplicity further weakens the decaying US-Pakistan relationship. It also lessens chances for a successful outcome in Afghanistan and erodes the internal security of both the US and Pakistan.”

Among various scenarios that could unfold post 2014, the most probable seems to be a political dispensation in Afghanistan led by Taliban which in turn is propped up by Pakistan by proxy. THAT is the scenario Kayani is working towards. This, against fears of a strong central Afghan government which might lay claims to a Pashtunistan across the Durand Line. US frustration to meet the time deadline by announcing such strategies only gives him the added leverage to play his double game. That would be Pakistan’s second honeymoon in Afghanistan.

For the strategy to work US may have to “Fight” in Afghanistan (not Pakistan), “Talk” to Kayani above all others and “Build” Pakistan more than Afghanistan. Then probably the Istanbul and Bonn summits might have some meaning.

In all these calculations the Indian initiatives of “build” Afghanistan appear to be thinly supported. The Indo Afghan strategic alliance, the extraction of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth, the Chabahar – Bamiyan rail link among other initiatives may all turn out to be paper projects unless India also finds a way to talk to the Taliban and help build Afghanistan their way. A tough ask which will be met with heavy resistance from Pakistan.

Fear of India also helps bind Pakistan to insurgent groups like the Haqqani network.

Kayani is currently focused on post US dispensation in Afghanistan and has hence kept the violence in Jammu and Kashmir(and India) below India’s tolerance threshold. Should India “interfere” in Af Pak, he would be too pleased to open the taps of terror to divert Indian attention.

 

Comments

12 Responses to “Afghanistan: Fight, Talk, Build”
  1. sultan geelani says:

    General Kayani has put his boot on the “Super Power” tail of USA in the American game playing in Afghanistan. The only option for the super clever think tankers of USA –who caused it all –is to “think ten times of attacking Pakistan” and then squirm under the Kayani boots, to fall in line with what the General dictates. USA is like a woman, in this instance, who resists rape but settles down to enjoy rather than be beaten into co-operation.

    This is a poorly concealed truth in Afghanistan. The trailer has already been run in Iraq, which situation was described in one of his columns by the learned Bhadrakumar as ‘Americans have been reduced to begging the Iraqi prime minister to allow their forces a limited space to stay on in Iraq.’ They are now leaving Iraq lock, stock and barrel. It will be worse in Afghanistan, since there is no Kwait like place for them to maintain a strategic presence.

  2. Gautam Dev says:

    Pakistan and some arrogant Pakistanis are happy chewing their own tails to see others unhappy. This time around the geopolitical tango being played by using terror as its strategic hedge will backfire on Kayani. He may hold the harried Americans for the time being but in the long run America, India, Iran and Russia would get the upper hand in this regional geopolitical game.

    There will be an Afghanistan free from Pakistan’d demonic terror tactics if US decides to form a strategic alliance with India against Pakistan. In the meanwhile Pakistan is content with blowing up the neighbour’s house even if it falls on its own head. Indirect Harakiri Sultan Ji

  3. Alfred Jones says:

    I am more convinced with your earlier piece, ” Pakistan is Helpless”. I think Pakistan has bitten more than it can chew and ascribing total domination of Taliban to Kayani is a myth. In fact Kayani is being told what to do by the Taliban lest they blow Pakistan apart. The Haqqani and other Taliban groups are deeply linked to Pakistan terror groups like TTP and have surfaced like Frankenstein’s monsters in Kayani’s own backyard.

    If Kayani doesn’t watch his step, Afghanistan will burn but so will Pakistan.

  4. SR Wakankar says:

    Whole AfPak is Old Hindustan.Delhi should be the place to solve this problem.But because we are not that strong, even ideologically-thanks to our masters and strategists-, they talk in Istanbul.

    Afgans are basically Indians like Tamils or Asamese or Gujratis.We never understand this vital fact.

    Main problem is Pakistan and its pathetic obsession with Medieval anti-Indian Arab/Muslim Imperialism of which Pakistan is the fallout.Pakistan is a product of terrorism.So its support to the forces of Global Terror is quite natural.//Pakistan has to change, like B’desh.It must renounce the very word “Pakistan” like B’desh.It will have to become “Muslim India” or “Islamic Republic of India”.It will have to shed away anti-Indianism as its core ideology and enter into a new era of friendship and cooperation with India.Land route access to Afganistan is needed. This can only happen through a friendly Pakistan.The old lines drawn by British Empire must go.Durand Line or the more foolish line in Punjab-the Redcliffe Line.//PM Manmohan Singh’s dream is to see a new sub-Continent where people can have breakfast in Amritsar, lunch in Lahore and dinner in kabul.This is possible only when Pakistan changes.It will have to accept and develop Hinduness instead of Arabness.Pakistan is not Arab, it is non-Arab, ie Hindu.From Iran to Indonesia and Mongolia to Australia including all “stans” of Central Asia and the Buddhist Far-East of China/Japan/Korea is the Great Hindu (non-Arab) World.It is spread over upto the Pacific Rim.The Indian Ocean Basin.Asia is in two parts-1.Arab Asia 2. Non-Arab(ie Hindu) Asia.Unfortunately we don’t understand this.We have an ill-founded allergy towards the Hindu word, thanks to Congress and its peculiar interpretation of Secularism which is an alien/Western idea.Hindus have always been secular. No Hindu was ever killed for not being Hindu.Hindu word denotes historic “RESISTANCE” against Medieval anti-Indian Arab/Muslim Imperialism.All non-Arab Muslims and Christian Asians are Hindu. They may not be Hindu-dharmmis, but ethnically they are Hindu, not Arab.We have failed to understand this. We have mixed up the Great Hindu word with Hindu-dharmmi.There is great need to de-link it and understand it with the word Arab.In Arab word, all are included ie Jews, Christians, Muslims. Like wise,in non-Arab Asia, all come into the fold of Hindu word, they may be practising or following any religion.
    This is why ONAA (Organization of non-Arab Asia is so much necessary.India is the SOUL of non-Arab Asia.Thanks.

  5. Rajiv Sharma says:

    Americans are good at coining new terms and theory but when it comes to strategy management and execution they lack the requisite depth. This is especially true when they cannot distinguish between friend and foe. Pakistan is at best an unreliable partner in resolving Afghanistan. The sooner America learns to live with this fact the better. While the appetite for war at home may be running low, playing into the hands of ISI to manage Taliban is a paradox they cannot be satisfied with in the long term. Who sits at the table may not decide the bill of fare – not in the graveyard of empires!

    Let’s wait for Bonn Conference to study strategy execution by NATO.

  6. S R Wakankar says:

    Like NATO, SATO is needed ie South Asia Treaty Organization. All SAARC nations including 9th member Myanmar should form SATO.Myanmar has not yet become member, but it should also be there. It will bring her into the mainstream of South Asia.
    In AfPak, the job to curb terrorism and defeating radicalism posed by Arab Islam, should be entrusted to this combined force of SATO. NATO is taken as foreigners, but this SATO force would be local one and would solve the problem.// SAARC has immense promise of further expansion and development. Like European Parliament,SAARC Parliament can emerge giving the SA Idea further boost.// The main problem is Pakistan and its deadly obsession with medieval anti-Indian Arab/Muslim imperialism.If Pakistan converts itself into a sober/normal state of “Muslim India” or “Islamic Republic of India”,a lot of good sense would prevail and it can then become a role-model also of South Asian Liberal Islam in contrast to the desert Islam which has become so much problematical today particularly after 9/11.Pakistan has to decide what it has to do.It is now a question whether Pakistan opts for Hinduness of which it is the part and parcel, or Arabness which has always been an alien factor with it.This is the reason, name-change is also necessary. Instead of Pakistan, it must become “Muslim India”, like B’desh.It must become what it was originally.Pakistan is a misnomer, an absurdity.It carries no meaning at all.It encourages terrorism and global jehadi mind-set.
    For permannent peace and security what is needed most is ONE Punjab, ONE Bengal, and ONE Kashmir.In the present situation, this can only happen through mutual good faith and understanding.Let independent sovereign govts function as they are doing; people should meet with each other and come together.They should trade, commerce, exchange.Whole SAARC should be a visa/passport free travel zone.Only then PM Manmohan Singh’s dream of a New sub-Continent where we would be able to have b/f in Amritsar, lunch in Lahore and dinner in Kabul, can come true.Let us not forget Gandhiji’s immortal comment on Partition-”Sarkaren do ban gayin hain, Dil to ek hai”.

  7. Nishant Arya says:

    US and Pakistan are at best enemies over Afghanistan. The day America understands thia and treats Pakistan as one rather than an ally they would be able to put their cards on the table with theeir minimum expectations from each other. Till then Pakistan would continue to support the Taliban and the Haqqanis at the detriment of peace in the region. This narrative from Anatol Lieven a professor in the department of war studies at King’s College London and the author, most recently, of “Pakistan: A Hard Country.”sums up all:-

    In the case of Pakistan, a mixture of U.S. aid and U.S. threats has produced limited but often effective cooperation against Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups targeting the United States and its allies in Europe. The Pakistani military has also put effective pressure on its own militant allies not to launch attacks on American soil.

    Since the Mumbai attacks of 2008, American, Indian and other pressures have also persuaded the Pakistani military to suspend such attacks against India, though militant groups believe that one day they will be allowed to resume. And, of course, the Pakistani military is acting strongly against Islamist rebels within Pakistan, whom it now sees as a real threat.

    As far as Afghanistan is concerned, however, Pakistan is acting to all intents and purposes as an enemy of the United States — though the motivation of the top Pakistani generals is hostility not to America but to India, which they fear will dominate Afghanistan (through India’s local Tajik allies) after U.S. forces leave.

    There is no prospect at all of the Pakistani military abandoning its support for the Afghan Taliban or the Haqqani network. The most that U.S. aid and pressure can achieve will be to keep Pakistani support fairly covert and limited.

    Instead of pushing at a Pakistani door that will never open, the Obama administration instead should treat Pakistan as a sponsor of the Taliban and on that basis involve Pakistan in talks on Afghanistan.

  8. Girish Pant says:

    It appears that US has no option but to finally enter into a strategic alliance with India and Iran(???) to checkmate Pakistan in its dubious games in Afghanistan. If Pakistan is more worried about India to use terrorists as it strategic hedge in Afghanistan a strong Indo US alliance would effectively prevent them from continuing on this suicidal path.

    As promoters of terror globally, Pakistan needs to learn from its own lessons that terror will finally engulf it the most. For a country with no industry and engines for growth this is a sure recipe for disaster. If US aim is to fight terrorists in Afghanistan, they will first have to defang Pak military more than anything else. A regional alliance will surely help where India can play a major role. China’s reaction to this ofcourse would have to be managed through shaping world opinion against Pakistan.

  9. Girish Pant says:

    Just add this to my write up – a Farid Zakaria take on US Iran relations which may pave the way for better coordination to resolve Afghanistan…and Pakistan

    http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2011/10/30/time-to-re-engage-iran/

  10. Sambu says:

    The creation of Pakistan itself is to have a separate country for Indian Muslims.Some how the tribal dominated areas of Pakistan do not seem to be under the rule of the country. The gun wielding tribals of Af&Pk were never under control from time immemorial. the feud and domination among these tribes is well known. This is also true with Arab world. Indian traditional relationship with Af is very much recognized by the Arab world as well as Af tribals. Pk knows that India has completely dominated Af economically and politically. India has to play a dominant role in the sub continent by showing the military involvement in Af. In fact it would be wise for India to have a Asia based multinational troops including Pk in Af to stabilise democracy.This would fill the vacuum on withdrawal of NATO forces. It is also in the interest of American strategy to involve Asian countries militarily.

  11. Halley says:

    Main problem is Pakistan and its pathetic obsession with Medieval anti-Indian Arab/Muslim Imperialism of which Pakistan is the fallout.Pakistan is a product of terrorism.So its support to the forces of Global Terror is quite natural.//Pakistan has to change, like B’desh.It must renounce the very word “Pakistan” like B’desh.It will have to become “Muslim India” or “Islamic Republic of India”.It will have to shed away anti-Indianism as its core ideology and enter into a new era of friendship and cooperation with India.Land route access to Afganistan is needed. This can only happen through a friendly Pakistan.The old lines drawn by British Empire must go.Durand Line or the more foolish line in Punjab-the Redcliffe Line.//PM Manmohan Singh’s dream is to see a new sub-Continent where people can have breakfast in Amritsar, lunch in Lahore and dinner in kabul.This is possible only when Pakistan changes.It will have to accept and develop Hinduness instead of Arabness.Pakistan is not Arab, it is non-Arab, ie Hindu.From Iran to Indonesia and Mongolia to Australia including all “stans” of Central Asia and the Buddhist Far-East of China/Japan/Korea is the Great Hindu (non-Arab) World.It is spread over upto the Pacific Rim.The Indian Ocean Basin.Asia is in two parts-1.Arab Asia 2. Non-Arab(ie Hindu) Asia.Unfortunately we don’t understand this.We have an ill-founded allergy towards the Hindu word, thanks to Congress and its peculiar interpretation of Secularism which is an alien/Western idea.Hindus have always been secular. No Hindu was ever killed for not being Hindu.Hindu word denotes historic “RESISTANCE” against Medieval anti-Indian Arab/Muslim Imperialism.All non-Arab Muslims and Christian Asians are Hindu. They may not be Hindu-dharmmis, but ethnically they are Hindu, not Arab.We have failed to understand this. We have mixed up the Great Hindu word with Hindu-dharmmi.There is great need to de-link it and understand it with the word Arab.In Arab word, all are included ie Jews, Christians, Muslims. Like wise,in non-Arab Asia, all come into the fold of Hindu word, they may be practising or following any religion.
    This is why ONAA (Organization of non-Arab Asia is so much necessary.India is the SOUL of non-Arab Asia.Thanks.

    +1

  12. Team SAI says:

    This op ed by By Sarah Chayes in LA Times of 23 Nov reinforces the point made by the article – Focus on Pakistan and its proxies.

    “The notion that there are three separate entities in this equation — the government of Afghanistan, the government of Pakistan and the insurgents — has been revealed as a fallacy. The insurgents are an instrument of the government of Pakistan.

    So let’s stop pretending. The talks the U.S. government should be facilitating are between two sovereign nations, Afghanistan and Pakistan. If the government of Pakistan has concerns or aspirations regarding its neighbor, it should address them directly, through facilitated negotiations. It should spell out its concerns through this process, and the U.S. should help guarantee that the legitimate ones are properly addressed in a binding treaty. But turning your neighbor into a client state is not a legitimate aspiration and should not be facilitated.

    A second set of talks could address the well-founded grievances almost all Afghans, insurgents included, have against their government. But that process should involve Afghans alone. No outside power, least of all Pakistan, should interfere.

    Such a two-track approach might still save Afghanistan. And it would at least not reward Islamabad for its long-standing policy of financing, harboring, training, equipping and often directing violent extremists.
    This article form Ahmed Rashid focuses on Talks

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