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Daily Jung , Pakistan

Difficult Path


By Doctor Maliha Lodhi

Translated By Farina Abrejo

7 November 2012

Edited by Eric Schallock


Pakistan - Daily Jung - Original Article (Urdu )

Apart from counter terrorist activities, America has no significant purpose left in Afghanistan. Is America looking for a secure withdrawal from the country? Or is Washington, D.C. interested in finding some political solutions to save Afghanistan from destabilization after 2014? Does America have sufficient tolerance and flexibility to bring peace through discussion, or will this matter be left to the Afghan nation to solve on its own? The answers to these questions are crucial for regional peace and the future of Afghanistan, and will be visible through future actions in Afghanistan, the success of which depends on the strength of the obstacles against keeping peace in the region.

The future strategies for the upcoming government will become clear with the conclusion of the presidential election. At the moment, there seem to be a few aspects to this point of concern for Washington’s government: securing the withdrawal of the American military from Afghanistan and finding a solution to ending the war through discussion before 2014. Both solutions are two sides of one coin. The presidential debates indicated that both candidates are optimistic about meeting the deadline for the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. The decision also reflects the anti-war position of the American nation. The recent "Pew Poll" indicates that 60 percent of Americans want the immediate withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. Mitt Romney insisted that “we don’t want another Iraq or Afghanistan.” It was clear that he wanted to keep himself away from the policies of President Bush, which he indicated through his discussion to end the Afghan war. Vice President Biden’s speech on Oct. 11 was very clear in this regard, when he said “we are leaving Afghanistan in 2014, period. There is no ifs, ands, or buts.”

Here, the goal was to defeat al-Qaida. Biden’s opinion is the first explanation of this position. It is predicted that, if Obama is elected again, America will begin the removal of its troops in 2013. On the other hand, the operation under American supervision is going to end in the middle of next year which correlates with the removal of military forces. Unlike in the past, no conditions have been attached to the omission of troops in the presidential debates or the speeches of American army commanders. This indicates the American army’s point of view toward accepting the 2014 deadline for withdrawal, but this could also be the result of increasing attacks from Afghan troops on the American military. These attacks put in jeopardy the agreement to leave some army representatives and troops in Afghanistan after 2014.

On the other hand, the recent attacks by Afghan militants on American forces challenge the American policy of withdrawing its forces. These are signs that the initial resistance of the Pentagon to the withdrawal of the American military is weakening. In this regard, the Oct. 13 issue of the New York Times points to another aspect that suggests planning logistical withdrawal, which specifies that America’s only goal is to secure an exit from Afghanistan. Of course, it does not reflect American policy, but this view may get more supporters after the elections. In an article in the New York Times titled “Time to Pack Up,” a schedule was demanded for withdrawal, based on the "security of the troops" because "prolonging the war," according to the article, "will only do more harm." It was argued that no development has been working in Afghanistan, even Obama’s short term goals are beyond reach and America needs to leave the country as soon as possible. The need for post war talks was not mentioned in the article. The main point was that America can leave the country even before the proposed deadline. It is not the government’s declared intention, but if the situation gets worse in Afghanistan there would be a surge in attacks on coalition forces, which would weaken U.S. support for Afghan policy. Such a development would weaken the default position of the U.S. government.

However, there are strong indications that the Obama administration is taking a keen interest in building an Afghan peace plan before the political and military changes of 2014. The purpose of the visit of U.S. Ambassador Marc Grossman to Islamabad and Kabul was to find ways to reach some agreement regarding a peace plan. American officials agreed that any political change can jeopardize military withdrawal, which is expected to be completed by December 2014. In that situation, the Afghan security forces would be incapable of taking up the burden of maintaining security. If the political system is disturbed then it can destabilize Afghanistan before withdrawing forces. It is important to reach some agreement to reduce terrorism. Toward that end, America needs to include the Taliban in the political process and peace talks. In the case of Obama’s reelection, such a reaction can convince the administration to take realistic measures to bring peace. The deadline of 2014 is only 24 months away, while the time for talks is even shorter. At the moment, political and military developments do not bode well for peace in the region, but this is the only viable way left, through which the secure withdrawal of forces can be made possible. The hopes are not very high in the current situation. There is insufficient preparation for political changes. President Hamid Karzai’s violent behavior, his opposition to talks with the Taliban, and his wavering stance on Washington and Islamabad make him a difficult companion. One fears that the election process would end the peace building process long before peace could be brought to the region. The recent report from the International Crisis Group warns about many obstacles to the 2014 deadline. There is especially a need for a clear and honest presidential election in Afghanistan. However, Karzai does not take the threats seriously. Many clues from different incidents indicate that the government will face instability after 2014. Therefore, the promise of improvement on the political form is hard to fulfill.

Another important question is what can Washington offer to the Taliban to become part of the peace process, especially when the Taliban leaders know that the majority of international forces will leave the country in a year or two? The Qatar Process, which was initiated by America to include the Taliban, was expected to bring peace but was unsuccessful as the Taliban did not cooperate.

There is constant uncertainty about the future of Afghanistan, but it is clear that there is little time left for meaningful efforts to bring peace in Afghanistan, and failure to do so would decrease the chances of a safe withdrawal of American troops. Such a scenario would also add to the difficulties of Pakistan and the result would be worse than that of the 1990s. Therefore, it is better for Pakistan to help as much as it can to bring peace to the region. Given their recent conflicts and mutual distrust, can Pakistan and America work together to achieve this goal? The answer will be clear after the election in America.



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