On the US’s Afghanistan-Pakistan Policy

Original source: People’s Democracy (India)

Terrorist attacks are taking place in Pakistan with alarming rapidity. The vulnerability of the US's Af-Pak policy is clear. The conflict in Afghanistan is engulfing Pakistan. India has not been spared either: the attack on our embassy in Kabul proves that. New Delhi's assistance of over one billion dollars may have generated goodwill among the people but it has also generated a backlash from the Taliban. But it would be naïve to hope that Pakistan's pre-occupation with the Taliban means that India will not be targeted again. An approach towards terrorism that sees it bounden in national territories is faulty. Patronizing anti-India outfits while cracking down on the Taliban by the Pakistan government will not work since these outfits are only loyal to terror.

The commander of the US forces in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, has asked for an additional 40,000 troops. US President, Barack Obama, has not yet endorsed this, but has indicated troop augmentation. The US's NATO allies, however, are wary.

On the eighth anniversary of the US-led invasion of Afghanistan, the Taliban issued a statement: 'We announce to all the world, our aim is obtainment of independence and establishment of an Islamic system. We did not have any agenda to harm other countries including Europe nor do we have such agenda today. Still if you want to turn the country of the proud and pious Afghans into a colony, then know that we have an unwavering determination and are braced for a prolonged war.'

This statement is being interpreted differently.

Some are interpreting this to mean the Taliban's readiness to be a part of future governmental structures in Afghanistan. President Hamid Karzai has been talking about this for a while. Will the US treat the Taliban as separate from al-Qaeda and permit such a possibility?

The US has indicated favouring a ‘unity government,’ whatever that means. Britain and Germany have called on the UN secretary-general to convene an international conference on Afghanistan. One former foreign minister of Afghanistan has proposed to replace the US-led forces with troops from Islamic countries under the UN leadership. This difference in approaches leaves little hope of the US Af-Pak policy succeeding.

Given India's long links with Afghanistan, we need to take a clear policy direction. These areas eluded control by imperial powers for many centuries. The Mughals made such efforts, with Akbar shifting to Lahore for over a decade to control these lands. His absence, incidentally, led to the desertion of Fatehpur Sikri. Centuries later, the British waged three Indo-Afghan wars between 1838 and 1918. Subsequently, the former Soviet Union supported a progressive regime there. To combat this, the US gave birth to its Frankenstein's monster --- the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Afghanistan occupies a central position in the US strategy for the economic control of the oil and gas resources in West Asia. The US government's Energy Information factsheet on Afghanistan in 2000 said: 'Afghanistan's significance from an energy standpoint stems from its geographic position as a potential transit route for oil and natural gas exports from Central Asia to the Arabian Sea.' This potential includes proposed multi-billion dollar oil and gas export pipelines through Afghanistan. Hence this US-led war to control Afghanistan.

Unless the US abandons the pursuit of these interests through military means, no possible solution to this imbroglio is possible.