Afghanistan: beyond 2014

By Nazea Jabeen

On January 11, 2013 President Obama and his Afghan counterpart Karzai reached key agreements regarding the future of Afghanistan. The salient features of this agreement are as follows: the troops of US and NATO allies will be replaced by Afghan forces during Spring, the whole transition will be completed by the end of next year 2014 but the residual forces will remain in Afghanistan with the condition that U.S forces will have legal immunity and economic transition will be focused on developing human capital growth based on private sector, entrepreneurs and Afghan’s natural wealth. It also includes that the process of reconciliation will be continued with Taliban with support from regional countries including Pakistan. Pakistan being the primary stakeholder is very important as far as the future of Afghanistan is concerned.

The Pak-Afghan saga is an old one. In this story there are two constants (Pakistan and Afghanistan) and a changing variable. The variable is always strong which always plays significant role in determining the rules of game and future of the region.  This variable is destructive, dominant and a key player in the global power politics that disturbs the balance of power in the whole region. In international politics, the disturbance of balance of power leads to shuffling in existing power structure creating unfavorable conditions not only for the citizens of the subject country but also for the neighboring country. USSR and US have been disturbing the balance of power in the region for their own interests and as a consequent have created turmoil in the region. Afghanistan has been their battlefield and Pakistan being the neighboring country has been affected drastically. In the Afghan game, field is always leveled with the help of Pakistan. USSR in1979 and USA since 2001 is playing its war game leaving Afghanistan in a state of pariah. It is said that cold war lasted a long time; and the War on Terror is something that is not going to end.

The question is not when the troops are vacating Afghanistan but the relevant question is in what condition and state, is the US leaving the country it has been lording over well over a decade now? Is the war won by US? What is the future of beleaguered Afghanistan and what are the future prospects for its neighboring country Pakistan. What role Pakistan can play in the smooth transition of power from US and its allies to the Afghan people?

As far as the view point of Americans is concerned, some of them believe that Afghanistan is now in a far better condition as compared to when US forces took over. As per the US claims the country has been totally transformed demographically, economically, politically and socially. Women are free to move and about 2 million girls are going to school. The process of reconstruction and democratization is almost complete. This beautiful picture may charm few but reality is sharply different than that painted by the Americans leaving all the questions unanswered.

The world history shows that war is never a solution of problem rather it breeds number of problems. How can the longest running war in the American and global history can bring development? The flowers cannot bloom in the war torn area of Afghanistan where millions of dead bodies are buried. How this  tragic version of ‘sesame street” comedy can be produced to bring smile on the face of people whose young innocent kids like buds were smashed with ‘Toy Bombs’. The death of innocent civilians including children is not the story of past rather it still continues.

CNN reported “In January 2012, video footage emerged of U.S. soldiers apparently urinating on Afghan corpses. In February, Afghans rioted after it was discovered that copies of the Quran had been burned in violation of Islamic custom at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Last month, an Army staff sergeant allegedly went on a rampage and shot to death 17 Afghan civilians, including numerous children”. Isn’t it the defeat of the biggest civilization of the world? Isn’t it the failure of well thought out strategy? It means there is less to celebrate and much to worry.

Many Americans think that this war has been a waste of resources in contradiction of what American government is stating. They view it as another Vietnam War producing no positive end result. Robert Baer is a former CIA agent who spent most of his career in Middle East. His book “See No Evil” has been lauded for its first-person look inside the agency and for its analysis of events leading up to the war on terror. He said, “I think the situation there is going from bad to worse. Its incidents like these which are dividing American troops from the Afghans. I just don’t see it getting better. Of course, this is an isolated event. It’s not the end of the world, but if it continues on like this — more or bad news we’re going to have a very, very difficult time stabilizing this country before 2014.”

On the whole, the major issue for Pakistan is how to establish a stable and secure Afghanistan. It is not only in the interest of Pakistan but harmony in the whole region depends on stable Afghanistan. Terrorism and extremism is the common enemy of both countries. Significant leaders of Pakistan like Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and Senior Minister Bashir Ahmed Bilour and countless innocent people have fallen victim to terrorist activities. Both countries need to focus on areas of common interest. It is hoped that Pakistan and Afghanistan will sign strategic agreement by the end of 2013. Successful dialogue and bilateral agreements are imperative especially when the 2014 deadline is approaching near. Again the problem of Afghan refugees holds much importance. According to an estimate 1.7 million Afghanis are living legally while 1 million are living illegally in Pakistan and their safe return to their homeland is in Pakistan’s interest. It is only possible if stability is maintained in Afghanistan for long times to come.

Af-Pak region has undergone huge turmoil since the so-called war on terror began in 2001. Despite the massive expenditures and superior technology employed by the best trained armies of US, NATO and ISAF, the clear winners and losers are yet to be identified after the passage of 12 years. Afghanistan remains as much volatile as ever with the writ of the Karzai administration not extending beyond Kabul with the prop of international security assistance forces. History bears witness to the fact that solutions imported from outside have failed in Afghanistan. It is about time all parties supported peace and reconciliation process in the war-torn country. After all, all great wars come to an end through dialogue and engagement.

This article is viewpoint of the Writer that may be different than viewpoint of Dispatch News Desk (DND)