Asif Haroon Raja
Start of Joe Biden’s innings
After the change of guards in Washington, a media campaign has been unleashed to compel Joe Biden’s administration to review the Afghan peace deal and delay the departure of troops from Afghanistan. The Taliban are projected as irreconcilable, treacherous and blood thirsty. A powerful lobby in the West with expansionist aims is not in favor of troop withdrawal from Afghanistan for a variety of reasons.
A study mandated by the US Congress has called for a delay in the pullout, warning it would effectively hand the Taliban a victory. Gen Kenneth McKenzie, head of the US Centcom, declared the Taliban as “clearly” being responsible for violence in Afghanistan, but agreed that no attack came on the US-NATO. The Pentagon also accused Taliban of not fulfilling promises that include reducing attacks and cutting ties to insurgent groups such as Al-Qaeda.
The spoilers like India, the unity regime in Kabul, Pentagon and CIA are playing their negative role to block the withdrawal of occupation troops. They are painting a gloomy picture that complete exit would lead to bloody war and ruin the reputation of the sole superpower. They blame the Taliban for the violence and bloodshed, and are exerting extreme pressure upon Joe Biden urging him to rescind or modify the Doha agreement.
The accusers fail to mention the role of ISIS that have carried out gruesome attacks against Afghan forces and targeted assassinations of journalists, politicians, judges and activists, and machinations of RAW-NDS against Pakistan. Orbaki Militias, Khost Protection Force and some other armed groups support ANSF and are guided by the CIA. Reported presence of 20,000 Blackwater operatives at Bagram airbase has also been eluded. Moreover, in violation of the terms of agreement, the US airpower has been coming to the rescue of ANSF.
Brutalities of the NA warlords, of over half a dozen anti-Pakistan terrorist groups based in Nuristan, Kunar, Nangarhar, Paktika undertaking terror attacks in Pakistan and playing football with slit heads of Pak soldiers are acceptable as long as they play ball with the occupiers. Good Taliban are also acceptable. Not a word is uttered on infamous torture dens of Bagram and Guantanamo Bay jails, or the ruthless night raids by US Special Forces.
Biden is inclined to review the peace deal and delay the departure and make another effort with the help of Pakistan to force the Taliban to relinquish violence, cease fire permanently, agree to share power with the Kabul regime as a junior partner and accept the US tailored constitution.
The Taliban denied escalating violence and not abiding by the terms of peace agreement. To put weight to their argument they said that spring offensives in 2019 and 2020 were not carried out. The Taliban have urged the US to honor their commitment of withdrawing all troops by May 1, 2021 in exchange for security guarantees and are averse to the idea of residual force.
Shear ego stops the US from conceding defeat and to hide its embarrassment, it blames Pakistan, or reinforces failure in its bid to salvage some pride.
With an eye on unexplored mineral wealth of Afghanistan worth $ 1-3 trillion of iron ore, lithium, chromium, natural gas, petroleum etc., and also the mineral resources of next door Central Asia stretching up to Caspian Sea, the US would make strenuous efforts to maintain a toehold in country and at least recoup the huge financial losses it incurred in fighting the longest war if it cannot reclaim its soiled repute.
Why does the US need Pakistan?
The reason why Pakistan has not been discarded despite so much of distrust bordering hatred is that the US cannot ignore its key role in Afghan affairs. Pakistan is the only country which has some influence over the Taliban, and will still have an important role to play both in reaching a political settlement, and in its implementation.
Though Washington might wish to quickly disengage from its troubled relationship with Pakistan, it will be difficult to do so until a comprehensive political settlement to the Afghan conflict has been reached and at least partially implemented.
Pakistan which played a key role in the Doha agreement and in starting the intra-Afghan dialogue, will be needed by the US in further negotiations as well as in helping the US troops to exit with their bag and baggage since the Northern Network is not available.
Washington will need the support of Pakistan for any of its options of continuing talks with the Taliban for a revised political settlement, or renewing a counter offensive, or pulling out. It will remain tied to Pakistan till the final political settlement to the Afghan imbroglio has been reached and implemented.
Reasons why the US failed?
Reasons of the US failures were megalomania, relying wholly on massive resources and ignoring intangibles, underestimating the enemy, military commanders failing to introspect and reappraise their weaknesses at strategic, operational and tactical levels, and correcting them by revising plans and tactics how to fight insurrectional war, or making an effort to win the hearts and minds of the Afghans. The invaders used a huge hammer to kill a fly and adopted extremely brutal methods to tame their foes.
The US intervened in Afghanistan militarily on false charges and never had a genuine cause and justification to keep it under its occupation for two decades. Conversely, the Taliban had a superior cause, and were ideologically motivated to fight the invaders and free their country.
More importantly, relying heavily upon morally corrupt India which has failed to quash any of the 37 insurgencies raging in India since very long and the freedom movement in IOK, and its failure in Sri Lanka against the Tamil Tigers; and trying to give india a lead role in Afghanistan with which it doesn’t share border or has any cultural/religious affinity.
The US made Pakistan a frontline state to fight terrorism and a non-NATO ally, but never trusted it despite its outstanding performance. It forgot that Pakistan had played a key role in ousting Soviet forces from Afghanistan in 1989 and paving the way for the US to become the sole superpower. It was due to Pakistan’s all out support that the US captured Afghanistan within a month in 2001. But for the NATO supply routes, NATO couldn’t have fought the longest war.
Reliance on corrupt and inept Afghan regime and upon corruption ridden non-Pashtun ANSF and not holding them accountable were other reasons for its failure.
The Taliban having seized sufficient space, gained moral and military edge, and with plenty of funds in hand earned from toll tax and opium trade to cater for their war expenditure, and with bolstered strength after the release of prisoners, they will never accept the unreasonable demands of the defeated USA and discredited Ghani regime. They have expressed their resolve to recommence their offensive with full vigor in case the deal is broken. For them time, fatalities, injuries, lack of logistics and hardships do not matter. They have nothing more to lose and time is on their side. They won’t accept anything short of restoring their Islamic Emirate.
The US invested over a trillion dollars in Afghanistan, spent 19 years and sacrificed over 3000 soldiers with injuries to 20,000, and large numbers suffer from post-stress-disorders, and many committed suicides. Over half a million Afghan civilians were killed or injured in indiscriminate bombings, drone attacks, suicide bombs/IED attacks, and 60,000 ANSF soldiers died in combat. And yet the US failed to accomplish any of its objectives and in the endgame earned nothing but ignominy and infamy.
The key of the Afghan tangle is with the Taliban and without their concurrence peace will remain a forlorn hope. Occupiers and spoilers can prolong the agony but cannot convert defeat into victory or restore the damaged image.
China, Russia, Iran and Pakistan are important pegs on the chessboard of Afghanistan and should be encouraged to join peace missions and play their role in the final political settlement.
Irrespective of Pakistan’s significance and its wholehearted cooperation, the US will not reward Pakistan at the cost of jeopardizing its own and Indian interests as well as that of its puppet regime in Kabul.
While CPEC and 05 August 2019 Indian act in IOK has welded Pakistan and China into strategic relationship with common security interests, India and the US remain steadfast strategic partners and the duo view China as their chief rival. For Pakistan, India is the arch rival and hostility of the two nuclear neighbors is perpetual. Although the US has helped in defusing tensions between the two antagonists and in averting conflicts, however, Pakistan’s closeness with China irritates both India and the US. Pakistan and China regard India as a threat, whereas the US sees India as a partner and a bulwark against China. There will be no change in these converging and diverging interests in near future.
Indo-China relations have soured in the aftermath of recent scuffles in the Himalayas due to border dispute and are not likely to normalize in near future. Same-way, the US-China relations which dipped to their lowest point during Trump’s rule are not likely to normalize due to clashing geo-strategic and geo-economic ambitions.
Much that the US would like to get back Pakistan into its fold, its history of betrayals inhibits Pakistan from getting duped once again and losing the support of trustworthy China. It irks Islamabad to see Washington failing to acknowledge Pakistan’s staggering losses (83000 human fatalities and $ 126 billion financial loss) in fighting war on terror, and refusing to validate its concerns about India abetting terrorism in Pakistan.
There are too many divergences and few convergence of interests between the US and Pakistan. The US is not likely to change its views against China and CPEC, and will continue to give preference to Indian security concerns over Pakistan’s concerns. These constraints will prevent the US-Pakistan…