Friday, June 13, 2014

“Afghanistan’s Survival” Post NATO Withdrawal

The US led NATO forces have been in Afghanistan for so long now that it is almost hard to remember why they went in. (Frank Gardner talks to former Afghan Intelligence Chief Amrullah Saleh) 28 January 2013 Last updated at 00:06 ET= However, the officials often justify by asserting that it was in direct response to Al-Qaeda's attacks of 9/11, planned from Osama Bin Laden's Afghan base. Surprisingly, there is no explanation as to why there have been more than 100,000 troops from 51 countries for more than a decade. And, despite the large number of highly trained army combatants, the insurgency remains a major threat.
Reportedly, by the end of this year, the NATO combat units will quit which means the Afghanistan's national security forces will be on their own when faced with the insurgency.

Initially, the U.S. led NATO forces went into Afghanistan to free the people from the allegedly oppressive regime and to stop terrorism worldwide, yet nothing worked as intended except the country ended up in a real mess. Consequently, there is heightening in the terror activity/insurgency in and around Afghanistan. The expensive “NATO forces’ stay” in Afghanistan reminds of Vietnam-like scenario. Thousands and thousands have been killed that includes the innocent, the elderly and the children. But the bloody conflict is still far from over and of course the financial strain is tremendous.

Wars can be partially won by first hitting the ‘command-and-control’ centre by the air force just to overpower the enemy through destroying its offensive/defensive/ capability. The combatants on the ground have rough time fighting an asymmetric warfare because of the the general population around. Trying to win the "hearts and minds" doesn't work either especially when the locals have suspicions about the intruders or foreign occupiers. The Afghanis are born fighters who love to fight to save each inch of their land. They never compromise when it comes to foreign dominance. Historically, in the past, no foreign army has ever been able to conquer Afghanistan. It’s the tough resistance that makes the attackers retreat. Having lost another war, the NATO is now in ‘retreat mode.’ Billions and billions of dollars have been wasted in Afghanistan.

Mr Obama finally is realising the gravity of the situation: "We have to recognize that Afghanistan will not be a perfect place, and it is not America's responsibility to make it one," Obama said. And, recently, he admitted the lengthy U.S. presence in Afghanistan is proof that "it's harder to end wars than it is to begin them." He outlined a plan to withdraw all but 9,800 American troops by the end of 2014 reducing the number to half by the end of 2015. A complete pull out would take place by the end of 2016.

The left over troops will have advisory role, train Afghan forces and help guide missions to weed out the remaining al Qaeda remnants The U.S. military presence beyond 2014 is conditional upon Afghan government signing a bilateral security agreement. In this regard, the outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai has already flatly refused to sign the said treaty. But, the two leading candidates in Afghanistan's presidential race, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, seem more than willing to sign the treaty quickly right after one of them wins in the second round of voting set for Saturday June 14.

Apparently, Pakistan is nervous adjusting to changes in Afghanistan after 2014. It wants its own influence in Afghanistan where India has little or no presence. The problem is the “non-Pakhtun Afghanis” view Pakistan suspiciously in its power struggle with “Pakhtun Afghanis.” Pakistan’s concern is the non-Pakhtuns’ friendship with Iran and India.
President Obama acknowledged Pakistan’s efforts to support an ‘inclusive reconciliation process’ in which Afghans can determine the future of their country. In this regard, both Obama and Nawaz Shareef are in agreement to let the Taliban join the political process and enter into dialogue with the Afghan government.

Furthermore, Pakistan’s policy depends on the ethnic division in Afghanistan. It seems as if Pak-Afghan relations will not undergo much change because Dr Abdullah or Ashraf Ghani will not waste time in correcting anti Pakistan feelings of Afghanis. The chosen president will surely work for stronger ties with India.

The war is still ongoing: Once a war on terror begins it never ends. Whether there is a treaty with Taliban is not clear. However, non-intervention is affordable medicine because that keeps everyone safer by not getting involved in foreign conflicts."We never signed up to be the permanent security force in Afghanistan to fight against the Taliban," the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told reporters. The United States now has about 32,000 troops in Afghanistan. U.S. military leaders had pushed for a force of at least around 10,000, saying it was the minimum required. Remaining U.S. and NATO forces will advise Afghan forces, focusing on functions such as budgeting, logistics, and support for security institutions. It’s claimed that the NATO countries have helped build Afghanistan’s military and other forces from scratch since 2001. The Afghan forces have progressed to independence level, yet they lack skills in intelligence collection and air power. Therefore, a small number of U.S. soldiers is expected to conduct counterterrorism operations against al Qaeda and other hardline militants, located mainly in remote areas along Afghanistan’s eastern border with Pakistan. (Re: presence in Afghanistan by 2016 by Steve Holland Washington Tue May 27, 2014 6:28pm EDT).

The partial withdrawal deadline nears, so does the need to regenerate “friendly environment” in the region. There is still a role for Islamabad; however, its ability to influence the outcome has been compromised a little due to the ongoing anti Pakistan propaganda. Nevertheless with passage of time, the Afghans would feel the reality of real love for them that actually stems from Pakistan. Certainly, Pakistanis and Afghanis are related and are sincerely in friendship in deed from the depth of their hearts. Pakistan can still be part of the solution; it can become a relevant and significant player provided it adjusts to the fast-changing situation in Afghanistan as well as in the region. There is strong belief that without Pakistan’s active involvement, Afghanistan will remain highly vulnerable politically, economically and militarily.

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