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A strategy for Afghanistan

  • Published at 06:15 pm January 6th, 2018
  • Last updated at 01:50 pm January 7th, 2018
A strategy for Afghanistan
Analysts are identifying a gradual decline in the assurance of security within Afghanistan due to increased attacks being carried out by the Taliban and IS. This is creating greater uncertainty within its paradigm, while the latest Trump tweet regarding Pakistan has also fostered more complexities. After losing occupied territories in and around Mosul, IS is now slowly enlarging its presence in neighbouring countries, particularly Afghanistan. It is now targeting mainly the Shias and the Hazara minority, joining forces with the Taliban thereby changing the dynamics of the war in Afghanistan. This process is provoking Iran, particularly because Shia Hazara have close socio-economic ties with the country. Russia is also following the evolution within Afghanistan with great interest. This is understandable given the fact that some of the Central Asian republics -- formerly part of the Soviet Union -- share a long border with Afghanistan. It may also be recalled that, last April, Russia proposed an international conference on Afghanistan with the participation of all neighbours of Afghanistan including Iran, Pakistan, and India, but the US did not attend citing possible growing Russian military association with the Taliban. Afghan President Ghani is not only facing a difficult evolving situation with regard to national security within Afghanistan but also from three former strongmen demanding security reforms. A bad influence? Initially, President Trump remained deeply sceptical about the notion of a continued presence in Afghanistan, but this time round, the POTUS’s approach and policy review on the continuing crisis in Afghanistan, and US’s approach to South Asia, appears to have been influenced greatly by US Defense Secretary James Mattis. These elements finally led US President Donald Trump to come forward with his administration’s strategy on Afghanistan. Analyses of Trump’s speech have revealed several key elements with regard to Trump’s Afghanistan plan. Broadly, they are: (a) Pentagon has been given authority to ramp up troop levels, but US military as yet is not willing to reveal specific numbers; (b) the military has been given greater autonomy to attack Taliban and other groups; (c) the end goal is to find a political solution to the Afghan war; (d) Pakistan has been called upon to stop providing a safe-haven for terrorists; (e) Pakistan’s regional rival India has been asked to help more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development.
Neighbouring countries will now need to be patient and see whether peace and stability can emerge from a format of regional strategic diplomacy that forgot to take note of or mention China
In setting out what was described as a new approach to the 16-year campaign, Trump had harsh words for US ally Pakistan, saying Washington could “no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organisations.” The US defense secretary has already indicated in a statement that several US allies have already committed to increasing their troop numbers. His UK counterpart has also said that America’s commitment in Afghanistan was “very welcome,” adding: “We have to stay the course in Afghanistan to help build up its fragile democracy and reduce the terrorist threat to the West.” Negotiating with terrorists Strategic analysts have, however, underlined that Mr Trump has refused to be drawn into clarification as to how many extra US troops, if any, would be deployed. He had been expected to say another 4,000 would be sent to Afghanistan -- the number General John Nicholson had requested for -- but this has not been confirmed. Nevertheless, Trump has stressed that there would be an escalation in the battle against groups like al-Qaeda and the IS. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid has already dismissed Trump’s strategy as “nothing new” and has expressed that the US should think of an exit strategy “instead of continuing the war.” Despite the many existing uncertainties, the latest Trump initiative has been welcomed by Afghan officials who have been complaining that their government had suffered due to pre-determined numbers and datelines. This has enabled the “enemy” to always know what to expect, and for how long they needed to be patient and adjust their policy. This time the dynamics would be different and the situation on the ground would dictate what kind of military support would be required. Neighbouring countries will now need to be patient and see whether peace and stability can emerge from a format of regional strategic diplomacy that forgot to take note of or mention China -- another pivotal player -- even once, during the Trump speech. Muhammad Zamir, a former Ambassador and Chief Information Commissioner of the Information Commission, is an analyst specialised in foreign affairs, right to information and good governance, can be reached at [email protected]