By Qasim Raza
December 23, 2018
From his persistent argument in the favor of justifying freezing of millions of dollars to Pakistan by saying that “I ended it because they don’t do anything for us, they don’t do a damn thing for us” and levelling of allegations to the effect that the Pakistani Government was familiar about the fact that Osama Bin Laden was living in Pakistan before he was killed by US forces in 2011 to an official letter sent by White House to Pakistan “requesting Pakistan’s full support for the U.S.-led Afghan peace process” and to assist the Zalamay Khalilzad a special envoy for Afghanistan, which is on tour to the region. And reaction of Pakistan’s Prime Minister, after the early bombardment of words by Donald Trump, regarding loss suffered by Pakistan on War on Terror to the effect that, “Pakistan suffered 75,000 casualties in this war & over $123 bn was lost to economy. US ‘aid’ was a miniscule $20 bn” to the official statement of Foreign Ministry of Pakistan to the effect that Islamabad would help in facilitating any talks “in good faith”, one may analyze US policy towards Pakistan is confused.
Same is the case with Afghanistan, whereby we could see the bullish and bearish fluctuations in US policy. For instance, the shadow Taliban’s Governor and Military Chief for Helmand province Mullah Abdul Manan Akhund, who was, as quoted by provisional officials, killed by US airstrikes on Saturday night in Nawzad district in reaction to the killing of three American’s service members near the central city of Ghazni. US and Afghan governments are terming this and other such airstrikes as highly successful. According to Najib Danish, an Afghan interior ministry spokesman, “His death will lower the morale of the enemy, and result in the improvement of security in Helmand and other southern provinces”.
Keeping in view the unclear US policy, few questions of high import arises:-
Why do US want rapid dialogue after the so-called successful airstrikes?
Is US adopting defensive approach after the death of American service members?
Will Afghan Taliban listen to Pakistan especially when Taliban are of the view that they do not share any ideology with Pakistan?
Will Afghan Taliban listen to Pakistan especially when the government of Pakistan is terribly engaged in stabilizing its deteriorating economy (that is largely caused due to long standing engagement in war on terror and further augmented by stoppage of US aid)?
Is this bearish and hawkish fluctuation in US strategy shows confused USA regarding Afghanistan?
It is believed that due to the continuous war in Afghanistan, US is losing resources as well as strategic direction and there are many more serious threats to it’s national security like climate change, rise of China etc. Now the time has come to find a solution America’s war in Afghanistan, with clear path. Further, recent happenings in Afghanistan have also grabbed the attention of American’s public, as quoted by Prof. Stephen Biddle of Columbia University, a keen analyst of Afghan War from its launch. During an interview to Washington post on Tuesday, Trump also showed his grief about the recent deaths and further said the only reason of keeping troops in Afghanistan is due to necessary policy requirement by the experts. According to Gen John Nicholson, “It is time for this war in Afghanistan to end”. He further stressed, after he handed over the command, that no theory of success exists to justify U.S. cost and more killing in Afghanistan.
The emerging threat is the presence of Islamic State alliance in the eastern Afghanistan is another factor that is posing threat to US in terms of cost and more killings. The Taliban and Islamic state appear to have similar intentions for Afghan Government i.e to overthrow Afghan Government and to impose Islamic ideology in Afghanistan. However, both are divided over leadership and strategy. Hence, we can conclude that may be US has panicked due to the tremendous loss of US costs and human lives especially U.S forces. From recent hawkish comment that “that they don’t do a damn thing for us” to bearish one letter, in which U.S authorities are requesting Pakistan to play a role in Afghan peace talks clearly indicates the confusion and panic of U.S regarding their faltering situation in Afghanistan.
It is now believed that next phase of Afghan peace talks depends upon Pakistan’s action and on Taliban’s reaction after the request letter by White House. But there are a number of factors that may affect role of Pakistan in bringing Taliban’s to negotiation table. For instance, Afghan Taliban are of the view that they does not share any ideological and cultural similarities with Pakistan. In 2014 Abdul Hakim Mujahid (ambassador of Taliban’s at United Nations in 1990) said in an interview that, there is no similarity of ideology between Pakistan and Afghan Taliban, conflict is the only shared interest between two parties. Such views of Taliban may prove to be a hindrance for Pakistan in playing its role in peace process.
Further, the government of Pakistan is constantly struggling to stabilize its economy, which is largely suffered due to its involvement in war on terror for a period of almost two decades. The situation was further worsened by stoppage of US aid by the Trump administration. To enable Pakistan to play an effective role in bringing Taliban’s to negotiations, US should consider providing financial / economic comfort to Pakistan by restoring the said aid. However, the role and influence of Pakistan in bringing Taliban’s to negotiations would be clarified in the upcoming days.
It seems that US has decided to use every card to stabilize conflict in Afghanistan and the myth of Pakistan’s necessity for Afghan peace process would be clear after the current move of U.S.