AF-PAK: The Upcoming London Conference
In early 1990s, a British General, Andrew Skeen wrote a guide to military operations in Afghanistan. His first piece of advice was, “When planning a military expedition in Pashtun areas, the first thing you must plan is your retreat. All expeditions into this area sooner or later end in retreat under fire.” In the later half of 2009, president of United States of America commented that, "What we can’t do is think that just a military approach in Afghanistan is going to solve our problems……There’s got to be an exit strategy." Thus, It took the super power nineteen years to figure out what the English ascertained so much earlier.
After invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, Americans announced the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reconstruction (DDR) program which was aimed at encouraging former warlords and gunmen to surrender their arms for cash incentives, employment opportunities and vocational training. After a time, they left the program uncompleted, and opted to raise their own militias under the name of Campaign and Security Guards. These so-called security guards escort American and other NATO member countries military and logistical convoys from one province to another, particularly to Uruzgan, Helmand, Farah and other provinces in the south. Some militias are used to detain suspected Afghans. Recently, New York Times disclosed that following the American invasion of Afghanistan, Wali Karzai created the Kandahar Task Force which is involved in various human rights violations. According to the Times Weekly, Wali Karzai frequently used the Kandahar Task Force against his opponents and on one occasion, they killed police chief of Kandahar province. Similarly, Americans pay tens of millions of dollars to private militia annually for escorting their convoys. The private militias extort money from common people and levy agricultural tax on farmers named Ushar. They are involved in burglary, kidnapping and other unscrupulous activities. All these are overlooked by the invaders as the militia supports them in their fight against so-called terrorism. Applying The Sons of Iraq replica to Afghanistan, the invading Americans have created militia from among the Afghan minorities in the north of the country. Recently, they created such militia in Qazal Qila and appointed a Turkmen as commander. The Turkmen and Uzbek are ethnical minorities and their militias are notoriously known for human rights violations during the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. And now finally on January 28, representatives of no less than 43 countries from around the world will fly to London for an international conference on Afghanistan. The contradicting programs and policies being adopted and then followed by the Americans and its allied forces are greatly contributing to the chaos and corruption now rampant in Afghanistan.
According to the western world, the international conference on Afghanistan in London will provide an important opportunity for the U.S. and other nations to galvanize support for Afghanistan. But what I fail to understand is that what the allied forces as well as America could not solve in eight years, how they can achieve the needful through one international conference. Under the garb of reaching a solution on Afghanistan, America along with India is playing another great game and the target or must I say the victim appears to be Pakistan once again.
The great game hypothesis behind the International Conference on London with special reference to Pakistan may be three pronged. To begin with, after more than 5000 allied forces causalities in Afghanistan, there is arising difference of opinion and discontent among the allied forces. There is great pressure being built up on America for an early withdrawal to control the causalities which are surging strong public reactions in the host countries. To control the discontentment rising among the coalition partners, President Obama hpw came up with the new strategy of Exit and training afghan forces. However, to the European countries particularly, UK, France and Germany, President Obama’s declared date for drawing down U.S. forces is the kind of deadline that President Clinton repeatedly imposed on the U.S. military mission in Bosnia in the mid-to-late 1990s to reassure Congress that he had an "exit strategy" . Thus to supress the public reaction and to reassure themselves of the hard reality that they have badly failed in Afghanistan as did Russia once, the poor western world is desparatly looking for oppertunities to save themselves of the embarrasment. In simple words, they are looking for ways and means to escape from aAfghnaistan. Secondly, this conference is mostly conevened to build up pressure on Pakistan that they are not doing enough to control the menace of terrorism. As British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, on 21 Jan 2010 testified to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the heads of Taliban are hiding in North Waziristan province of Pakistan. By mounting such pressures of “Do More”, they will finally demand Islamabad to launch operation in North Waziristan as they did when Pakistan Army successfully completed its operation in Swat, they asked for Operation in South Waziristan. It seems that America should provide Pakistan with a wish list to fulfill for once and for all so that they are left with no more complaints. Last but not the least, through this conference; the western world can attempt to increase the influence of India in the region which is again a big threat to Pakistan. Regarding the training of Afghan Force, K. Subrahmanyam, the dean of India’s strategic community, asks in Indian Express how the United States can possibly hope to train sufficient Afghan security forces to begin drawing down in only 18 months. After reading between the lines, it becomes evident upon fact that how much keen and tempted Indian government is that Washington may look to New Delhi, which has vital equities in preventing the return of the Taliban by strengthening the Afghan state and to help train and equip Afghan security forces, just as India has been training Afghan civil servants, building roads, schools, hospitals, and other infrastructure as the country’s fourth-largest bilateral donor. Thus, by inviting india for assistance in training of Afghan army, they are leaving the door open for the Indians to do what they are itching to do.
In short, how considerate of America that assuming the links between the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban and the resulting spread of violent extremism in Pakistan’s heartland, at the end of the day a Talibanized Afghanistan would destabilize and endanger Pakistani security more than would a minimal Indian security presence thus simply ignoring the pakistani paranoia about encirclement by the Indian adversary. On one hand, the west are assuring Pakistan about its inevitability for peace while on the other, they are leaving no stone unturned to make paksitan irrelevant in regional security paradigm. The solution to Afghanistan issue doesnot lye in any such confrence rather it hinges upon the sincerity of purpose by the concerned governments. The Government of pakistan instead of being a centre of a blame game should take a firm stand and tell the western world that we have and still are playing our due role in the war against terrorism and that the west should realize the sacrifces of pakistan government, people and the Army. After all GWOT is America’s main concern and Pakistan is just helping and assisting the allied forces. During the London Conference, Pakistan instead of entertaining the wish list of the west should convince the coalition forces of their apprehensions of not linking the problems of Afghanistan and Pakistan together. Moreover, we should clearly notify the participants about our sensitivities regarding India. Its about time that we should put our foot down and enlighten the world that we are a sovereign state which needs not to be dictated like Afghanistan.