If a free press, freedom of expression, disclosure of government secrets and discussion of different ideologies and points of view made a country vulnerable, the United States would not have become the world’s superpower, but rather would have been broken by now. Nowadays, it is often seen that the day a general retires, he or she ends up writing a book the next day, immediately following retirement and even before they resume civilian life, the generals publish their books.
In contrast, writing a book is a crime in our country. The disadvantage of this is that the nation is deprived of the facts about their country. Furthermore, Pakistan’s statements about Afghanistan, Kashmir and other important issues also do not get published. The latest example of this trend in the United States is a book by Donald Trump’s former National Security Advisor John Bolton, “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir.”
Bolton has clearly and rigorously described what he saw, heard and felt in detail as Trump’s national security advisor. In line with what he has said publicly, Bolton’s book severely criticizes Trump’s thought process on many sensitive issues ranging from China to North Korea, Iran to Afghanistan.
Bolton is a hardliner, and his thinking reflects the views of the American establishment. However, his book has been beneficial for people like us beyond the establishment in that we can now better understand Trump’s thoughts, as well as the American establishment’s viewpoint regarding China, North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Europe, Afghanistan and Pakistan
As soon as I managed to get hold of the book, I skipped most of the chapters and went straight to the discussion about my area of interest, Afghanistan. Here, Bolton provides details about Trump’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, along with details about the many stages that took place in formulating a deal with the Taliban. In the same context, the minutes of meetings between Trump and his team alone suggest that his entire team from (vice president to secretary of state to defense secretary to national security advisor) were neither in favor of Trump’s withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan nor the deal with Taliban. But Trump, by virtue of his position alone, convinced his team to withdraw from Afghanistan.
After each meeting, members of Trump’s administration would gather and describe their president’s policies as senseless, but still ended up following along. The arguments between Trump and his team make it abundantly clear that even if there were to be no reasonable deal with the Taliban, Trump was still in favor of withdrawing the American forces from Afghanistan. He scolded his associates as well as his generals and repeatedly insisted that even if the Taliban, al-Qaida or the Islamic State were threats to Afghanistan, Russia or Afghanistan’s neighbors would know the situation best, and Trump questioned America’s need to give the lives of its soldiers and spend billions of dollars pursuing problems in Afghanistan?
In contrast, Trump’s team tried to convince him that the war in Afghanistan was for America’s own security and if the U.S. left without winning or by compromising over reasonable terms, then Afghanistan could again pose a threat to the United States in the future.
Ultimately it is obvious that the country in question here is not Pakistan, but the United States, and the president is not Arif Alvi but Trump. Trump imposes his will on everyone and orders Zalmay Khalilzad to pave the way for a deal with the Taliban by any means. As a result, Khalilzad began by making concessions to the Taliban in a way that surprised the Taliban itself, and upset Ashraf Ghani and others.
The present situation is such that even after months of the U.S.-Taliban deal, the war in Afghanistan is far from over and inter-Afghan talks have not even begun. Although under the former leadership of Hamid Karzai, Afghan politicians like Hajji Din Mohammad and others did a great job negotiating a deal between Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, Ghani did not completely resolve the issue of prisoners as the Taliban expected, which resulted in the Taliban refusing to agree to a ceasefire and in turn, delaying the inter-Afghan talks.
Khalilzad keeps wavering, but the United States establishment no longer situation favorable enough for inter-Afghan talks. The military leadership of Pakistan has assured the United States as well as the Afghan government of full cooperation in the inter-Afghan dialogue, and Mohammad Sadiq’s appointment as a special representative of Afghanistan, have expedited and further coordinated efforts. But unfortunately, the actual parties in the two-way negotiations, the Afghan government and the Taliban, have not made the environment conducive for negotiating.
Simultaneously, Ghani’s opponents are also objecting and saying that he has deliberately prolonged matters and hopes for a change of leadership in the United States. As I see it, it is this very thinking by Trump that has provided a unique opportunity for various groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan to seize the moment.
Had it not been for the fact that a lunatic like Trump is president of the United States, America would have never entered into such a deal with the Taliban, and if Trump loses the election, then there is an imminent risk that the whole deal will be reversed. The reason is that it’s not just the Democrats who object to the deal and to a full withdrawal from Afghanistan this way, but Trump’s entire administration, the State Department, the Pentagon and the CIA.
For the same reason, the interested parties and Pakistan should capitalize on this opportunity and ensure that the process of inter-Afghan reconciliation happens as soon as possible. Otherwise, if Trump loses the election, the whole peace process will be rolled back, and consequently, Afghanistan could go to hell, which would force Pakistan to endure a great deal of damage as well.
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