Can US Strategy Stabilise Afghanistan

Sequel to the policy speech on Afghan strategy, various opinions and comments have appeared in the US press indicating that Pakistan needs to expand war against terrorists and extremists to other areas in Pakistan. The New York Times reported in its edition of 8 December that the US has warned Pakistan that its forces would chase Taliban forces in Pakistan if Islamabad does not Then there have been other reports with some acknowledgments of the Pakistani Army’s efforts in confronting the Talibans in South Waziristan. All the reports tantamount to increasing US pressure on Pakistan to expand its efforts against terrorism and extremism elsewhere in Pakistan also.

The proponents of US military venture into Pakistan lack foresight in calculating grave risks that such a venture would pose for both Pakistan and the United States from all angles and that the bilateral relationship might never be able to resurrect itself again. Last time when the US committed such mistake to raid a village inside Pakistan where they thought that the militants were hiding, there was such a political furore in Pakistan that the US was forced to promise never to use boots on ground in Pakistan again. Pakistan Army is very much capable of tackling head on impediments that threaten its sovereignty and security and as such is successfully battling the insurgents in Waziristan and Swat. While doing so, it has the complete backing of its people who sustained numerous merciless bomb killings as Taliban retaliated.

Recently, the Prime Minister of Pakistan Yousuf Raza Gilani while talking on militancy said that “his government did not distinguish between one militant and the next. That is one half of the picture”. The other half obviously is the strategic threat that Pakistan faces from India. Despite its handicap of the latest technology vehicles and other equipment, provision of which has been promised by the US for long, the Army continues to successfully achieve its aims wherever it is deployed. The sacrifices made by the valiant Pakistan officers and soldiers must not be forgotten when judging Pakistan’s sincerity in eradicating the menace of extremism and terrorism. Still Pakistan is being pushed to a corner where its sovereignty may be compromised to a dangerous level.

It is now off and on being lectured by the Americans that India is no threat to Pakistan and as such Pakistan needs defocusing on its eastern borders and look the other way. The rhetoric tantamount to appease India to earn a massive share in the Indian market that it offers to American business. How can Pakistan look the other way when a country that is several times larger in its size as compared to Pakistan, a country that has already gone to war three times with it, the one which covertly alienated the East Pakistanis and dismembered the country, the one which is not interested in negotiations over various issues including the core issue that is Kashmir and a country which has engaged itself in war over water resources, has destabilizing agenda against Pakistan.

It was in July 2007 when Obama had prepared his first foreign policy paper as a presidential candidate wherein he declared that,

“I will encourage dialogue between India and Pakistan to work towards resolving their dispute over Kashmir,”

focusing on long standing tensions over the contested territory that has led to two wars between the nuclear-armed nations. If the US President really desires to solve the problems in Afghanistan then he will have to work on Kashmir, the main regional issue, longevity of which has produced a culture of extremism and militancy in the area. Solving the Kashmir issue will achieve far more for Afghanistan – and the war against militants – than unlimited number of military boots on ground. Once resolved, militancy in the region would loose support. There will be an added benefit, it will raise American image in Pakistan and the development would free up vital trade routes to Central Asia that would also pay rich dividends to the Afghan economy.

India’s escalating presence in Afghanistan, as General McChrystal accurately analysed in his report runs contrary to the peace efforts being made by the United States and its allies. Indian involvement in Afghanistan from where it continues to covertly help the Taliban for carrying out terror activities inside Pakistan needs to be diagnosed carefully for other wise it will add to non stability rather than stability in Afghanistan as the conflict therein has taken a centre stage for international stability and security as well.

Apart from Kashmir, India is shaping up another issue in Afghanistan that would remain unresolved too like the earlier one and therefore would add to the long list of irritants with Pakistan. At both the scenarios, India continues with its artificial clinging to the issues that would do no favours to either India or the region except providing another base for breeding violent culture in South Asia. Time has come for the international community to recognize that compromising on Kashmir and Afghanistan by India will reap greater benefits rather than holding on to the core issue of rivalry between India and Pakistan. The challenge before the international community and the United States itself, therefore, is to become involved in resolving the Kashmir issue in accordance with the relevant Security Council resolutions and in checking Indian interference in Pakistan from across the border in Afghanistan in accordance with international norms. India must be forced to show its good faith by eschewing hegemonic designs, abandoning bellicosity and brinkmanship and sincerely joining Pakistan in resolving the regional conflicts. South Asia has had enough of chaos and violence and now is the time that it gets stabilized. To achieve this aim, the international community must not look the other way for if it does, it would jeopardize international peace and security as well. | Bassam Javed

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