Created on Thursday, 11 January 2007 04:19
Written by Ehsan Azari
by Ehsan Azari
The two-day NATOâ€™s heads of government summit in the Latvian capital, Riga,
on November 28-29, has ended with incremental progress, as its first-ever combat
beyond Europe in Afghanistan is facing an increasing Taliban insurgency.
The 26 member states for the first time have agreed to scrap some of their caveats
on the use of their combat troops outside their bases in the war-torn country
when the 2008 deadline for a gradual rendering of security responsibility to
the Afghan government was made. Under mounting pressure from the US and Britain,
Spain, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Poland, and Macedonia agreed to commit additional
troops to the current 32,800-strong NATO-led International Security Assistance
Forces in Afghanistan.
The lessons of the five years since the US-led forces have overthrown the Taliban
regime reveals that a solely military might from outside could do little in
Afghanistan unless it muster sufficient local support for change and democracy.
Pursuance of military path has so far failed to knock out the Taliban, largely
for Pakistanâ€™s covert support for the Taliban leaders and for allowing its soil
to be used for Talibanâ€™s training and re-supplies. In the face of the deteriorating
security situation, and the realisation that the Taliban cannot be defeated
militarily, Pakistan seems to have stopped hedging its bet. Its press and foreign
office have already begun a propaganda campaign about the â€œdefeatâ€ of the NATO
forces in Afghanistan. It will be the Westâ€™s strategic mistake if it leaves
Afghanistan, once again, at the mercy of Pakistani generals and mullahs who
are currently trying to play a power broker in Afghanistan in a bid to bring
their proxy, the irreconcilably anti-Western elements among the Taliban back
Simultaneously, besieged by parasitic warlords from the Northern Alliance, the
government of President Hamid Karzai is rapidly failing to deal with a revitalised
surge of Taliban insurgency. His governmentâ€™s share in the counterinsurgency
combat and consolidating security in the country is shrinking. Most importantly,
his own fellow Pashtoon tribes in the south and east of the country are losing
faith in his government, in whose eyes he is seen largely as a cover for the
warlords representing Afghan ethnic minorities. This year alone, 4000 Afghans
diedâ€”the highest number since invasion began, while thousand more were left
internally displaced in the Pashtoon dominated south and east. Afghanistan
is harvesting 92% of the world narcotics.
The war in the south and east of the country has mostly affected Pashtoons.
Every civilian killed or home bombed fuels the cycle of Afghan vengeance, expands
space for the Talibanâ€™s recruitment and regenerative capacity. It also strengthens
the driving force for their extremist ideology. The situation is worsening
and Karzai is losing the power and credibility to shape events in his country.
The beneficiary of the status quo is Pakistan that continues to regard the Taliban
as a vital tool for the countryâ€™s foreign and domestic policies. With the supervision
of the Pakistani intelligence service (ISI) and radical mullahs, the Pashtoon
Taliban espoused a perverted extremist ideology, misogyny, and cultural barbarity,
unprecedented even by Afghan standards. The same thing was done in Karshmir,
which in Nehruâ€™s vision was â€œthe sub-continentâ€™s laboratory of secularismâ€.
For Pakistan, the Taliban is an insurance policy against Indian regional influence
and more importantly, to pulverise emerging nationalism in the country, which
is regarded a serious threat to its existence. However, Pakistan is experiencing
a separatist aura in its Baluchistan province where Pakistani generals and mullahs
failed to flourish a Taliban-style religious ideology. That is why Pakistan
is doing everything in its power to keep Talibanâ€™s explosively religiosity,
and prevent a spell-over of nationalism into the Pashtoon communities in both
sides of the Durand line.
Pakistanâ€™s new trump card in the Afghan game is its nuclear arsenal that is
being used as an excuse for compromise with its homegrown Islamic militants.
To attract awards and blandishments from the West, President Pervez Musharaf
tries to convince the West that a hard push against radical mullahs will mean
the nuclear arsenal falls in their hands. The Western pleading tone is read
in Pakistan in this very context. The best way in Musharafâ€™s eyes, to deal
with Afghanistan, therefore, has to be his signing of a lucrative contract with
the West over the Taliban.
So the military reality and political rationale suggest that a change in direction
of NATOâ€™s fight in Afghanistan is necessary. For a start, Karzai with help
from the West has to open a political front in order to moderate the Taliban
and detach them from the ideology of terror. The West can win in Afghanistan
provided it overcomes Pakistanâ€™s insidious resistance to civilising and moderating
The final verdict on whether NATO has salvaged Afghanistan and promoted democracy
will hinge on its ability to implement a comprehensive policy, re-order its
strategic priorities in the country, and shift its focus towards winning the
hearts and minds of the majority of the Afghan people.