Afghanistan’s future: looming shadows

When the US-led NATO forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks, the world community put its weight behind the invasion and occupation and vowed to help bring democracy to the country. The foreign forces were able to get rid of the Taliban government and install in its place a democratic dispensation, but the pledges made at Bonn I and other such international conferences never materialised. Now the world community is regretting its decision not to implement a Marshall Plan in Afghanistan. Economic help aside, there were no measures taken for capacity building in the war-torn country. Now when the Afghan endgame is looming, these shortcomings are haunting the world. The world community has gathered in Bonn to discuss the future of Afghanistan. Pakistan decided to boycott the conference to protest the NATO attack that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. It is very unlikely that the Bonn Conference will deliver any results, with or without Pakistan’s presence. At the recent Istanbul Conference, despite Pakistan’s participation — or maybe due to it — the regional players were not successful in mapping out a new regional mechanism vis-à-vis Afghanistan. It would not be wrong to say that Pakistan sabotaged the conference by digging in its heels on various key issues. Such conferences are usually an exercise in futility and there is much sound and fury signifying nothing. The Bonn Conference without the presence of Pakistan and the Taliban is like playing Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark. How will the world community achieve anything when Pakistan’s military establishment and the Afghan Taliban are on the one side and the rest on the other?

Afghanistan needs the world community’s support pre- and post-2014, otherwise Afghanistan can collapse once the foreign troops leave. “If we lose this fight, we are threatened with a return to a situation like that before September 11, 2001,” Afghan President Hamid Karzai warned at the Bonn Conference. Mr Karzai was referring to a Taliban comeback in case the world abandons Afghanistan post-2014 troops withdrawal. He is right. The Taliban could roll them over in no time. An actual settlement in Afghanistan is difficult under the circumstances, especially when the Taliban are not on board and waiting in the shadows to come to power again. Iraq and Libya are prime examples of how direct or indirect foreign invasion leads to devastating consequences for a country’s future. Iraq is in a precarious situation after the withdrawal of foreign troops. Despite General Petraeus’ somewhat successful strategy of engaging local tribes to quell the Sunni uprising in Iraq, the country lies devastated with a dysfunctional government in place. In Libya, the west unleashed brutal forces in its obsession to get rid of Colonel Gaddafi. The chaos in Libya is now even more intense than that in Iraq. What the foreign troops are leaving behind in Afghanistan is also chaos.

If Pakistan is not onboard, particularly now when it has adopted a confrontational policy, there will be a new civil war in Afghanistan post-2014. The only way to avoid such a scenario would be if the west stays the course by supporting the Afghan government and its people. The mistakes they made in 1989 must not be repeated. Afghanistan does not deserve to be left at the mercy of medieval zealots. The Afghan Taliban, if and when they come back to power, will be more than happy to host al Qaeda again. Thus, it is pertinent that the world community stays the course and also stops Pakistan from pursuing its strategic depth policy. The task is tough but not unachievable.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

Comments

Pegasus said…
Mehmal,
You have flagged imprtant issues in your article...very logically argued.

I guess the quagmires the US and NATO countries are creating are going to drag us into the cesspool of uncertainty over the next decade. This will also result in lack of progress and growth of all the affected nations in ME, Libya and Afghanistan.
Anonymous said…
Karzai has no real support in Afghanistan. Afghans know he is not only corrupt but also a toothless tiger. He won the last elections in Afghanistan purely by fraud, backed by NATO.
You should be ashamed of lending legitimacy to such a farcical "government" with a straight face by not condemning it.

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