Jan Achakzai |
Pakistan, Afghanistan and the world waits for the US to spell out clearly as to what their impending troop “mini-surge” aims to achieve and what is its anatomy. It is quite evident that a military-heavy strategy in Afghanistan has not delivered the goods in the past, raising doubts on the rationale of a paltry surge at a time when the security profile in the country is rapidly deteriorating. If the US doesn’t clarify, it will allow stakeholders to point fingers at its vision of an end-state in the country.
If the past is anything to go by, then the US must expect a very tough time in Afghanistan as they are not only faced with a resurgent Taliban but also a proliferating ISIS Khorasan faction. The US forces will have their work cut out.
The US’s Afghan counterparts will be ecstatic over the prospects of the surge in the US troops, as more troops mean more funds, more sub-letting of jobs to be done by the US and more of the same status-quo which will drive the war economy.
In Afghanistan, those against whom the US is fighting, have nothing to lose after 40 years of constant devastation. US military high commanders give their panacea for Afghanistan in terms of “give me more troops, tanks, bullets and equipment, and we will solve the issue of Afghanistan.”
The US’s Afghan counterparts will be ecstatic over the prospects of even the mini-surge in the US troops, as more troops mean more funds, more sub-letting of jobs to be done by the US and more of the same status-quo which drives the war economy.
The Taliban’s response
In turn the troop surge will make Taliban more ferocious. They will get more tactical targets to attack, and hence continue with a very cheap war with the US and Afghan forces, causing a huge loss to the latter. Counter-insurgency operations are not successfully carried out by the employment of massive firepower; this would favor the insurgents in Taliban.
One fails to understand how such mini- surge will stem Taliban battle-wins or combat ISIS when at one point in time, more than 180,000 US and NATO troops could not bring the Taliban to the talking table from the position of strength. Even this modest goal (what to talk of the defeat of the insurgency) is unlikely to be achieved by the modest increase in troop numbers in Afghanistan.
Pakistan’s possible role
What role Pakistan is likely to play in all of this after the statement of US Secretary of Defence last week in which he said, “political reconciliation…” remains the US overarching objective?
Of-course, the long-held US Administrations’ demand that Pakistan should stop supporting the insurgency, assuming as if Pakistan is the main responsible actor for the US and Afghan woes, will neither cut chase with Islamabad, nor it will make the US objective any easier.
Pakistan continues to be concerned about what is likely to happen as more areas in Afghanistan are coming under the direct control or influence of the Taliban whereas, the Afghan Government and various exogenous factors like India, Iran and perhaps the US remain aloof to see it through. The only option left is to co-opt the Taliban or some elements within them, so that the insurgency is delegitimized, something that can be done by Pakistan.
Of-course, the long-held US Administrations’ demand that Pakistan should stop supporting the insurgency, and assuming Pakistan is the main responsible actor for the US and Afghan woes, will neither cut chase with Islamabad, nor it will make the US objective any easier. Ultimately, the responsibility will fall upon the US to do the heavy-lifting for peace. The sooner Washington realizes this, the better it will be for stakeholders in the Afghan conflict.
Implications for Islamabad
Will the impending troop surge help the US attain its target? What will be the ramifications of the new strategy on Islamabad? These two questions need to be answered.
Pakistan must be concerned of new season of intensified fighting as the US foot prints get relatively deeper. More body bags for the US, mean more likely pressure on Pakistan by Washington to “stop sponsoring the Taliban”, as if the Taliban need Pakistan’s help to continue their tactical victories and to increase cost of the war for the US and Afghan forces.
Pakistan’s internal security matters might be dealt with a severe blow, whereas more territory in Afghanistan will slip out of the government’s control and go into the hands of anti-Pakistan elements, who will possibly intensify hitting targets in Pakistan.
Renouncing reconciliations efforts in favor of upping the military ante will be inimical to peace in Afghanistan and the entire region.
Islamabad must figure out a way to put across its concerns to Washington. There is a perception gap with the US on dealing with the Taliban, particularly on the elephants in the room e.g. the Haqqanis and the Indian influence in Afghanistan.
Renouncing reconciliations efforts in favor of upping the military ante will be inimical to peace in Afghanistan and the entire region. The US has to support an Afghan-owned and an Afghan-led peace process if it wants a safe exit from the quagmire.
Jan Achakzai is a geopolitical analyst, a party leader in the ruling PML-N party, and advisor to Balochistan Government on media and strategic communication. He remained associated BBC World Service in London covering South and West Asia. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.