Jan Achakzai |
The US President Trump in his speech unveiled his administration’s much awaited Afghan strategy, setting out a commitment to send extra 4000 troops. Mr. Trump also stated that the US forces will now have the liberty to conduct military operations without any restrictions, which were imposed by previous administrations to avoid collateral damage and civilian casualties.
While Pakistan can influence them on the Political domain, it will not be able to curtail Afghan Taliban’s military activities just because new President wants it
Mr. Trump also criticized Pakistan for sponsoring and supporting ‘terrorist groups’ (Haqqani network), ignoring the fact that Pakistan recently concluded military operations in its tribal areas; rooting out TTP and ISIS-K from their safe heavens.
President Trump described Afghan problem in terms of counter terrorism but chose to ignore real policy dilemmas on corruption, disunity of the government and Afghan security forces’ capacity. Afghanistan’s neighbors facing fall out of the war and the presence of the US troops and the Taliban insurgency did not hear any hint of regional engagement to fix the country.
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Rebuilding and reconstructing Afghanistan, which was central to US Afghan strategy was also ignored. Last but not the least, President Trump did not focus on ISIS in terms of strategy.
US has likely heightened anxieties of Pakistan and China which have genuine interests in Afghanistan’s peace and stability
Usual skepticism will remain as to what the 4000 additional US troops will achieve if almost 100000 troops could not deliver military solution during the last decade. In terms of the tactical objective of these very additional troops, President did not clarify their job. Will they be involved in counter insurgency tasks or will they train and support Afghan troops?
Pakistan was blamed for providing safe heavens to Taliban, yet Islamabad was asked to help with the Taliban talks. How come Pakistan help with talks if Washington threaten Pakistan with ‘consequences’ and at the same time carry out military operations against Afghan Taliban.
One question that also comes to mind is why the US ignored Iranian and Russian sponsoring of Taliban fighters and focused only on Pakistan? Is it done to appease India? Ironically, more troops in Afghanistan also means more reliance on Pakistan for supply routes and cooperation against the Al-Qaeda or ISIS.
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President Trump also envisaged a role for India in Afghanistan among others to help in conflict resolution. One may wonder what India could do in the Afghanistan for peace and stability if it itself is having tensed relations with almost every country in the region.
One question that also comes to mind is why the US ignored Iranian and Russian sponsoring of Taliban fighters and focused only on Pakistan
Partnering with India in Afghanistan, the US has likely heightened anxieties of Pakistan and China which have genuine interests in Afghanistan’s peace and stability. Such partnership will further undermine the US position as legitimate, credible and neutral interlocutor in the eyes of the regional countries.
Mr. Trump implied an open-ended war in Afghanistan by referring to what he called more-condition based approach then time specific approach. Any long term presence of the US troops will also evoke suspicion in the region of the US long term motives.
Mr. Trump also did not specify details of peace talks. No desire to alter Afghanistan’s situation strategically (e.g strategic reconciliation vs tactical reinforcement), will only add to further fighting, instability and more spaces for safe havens for terrorists. The US may likely see another Vietnam like scenario eventually.
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Pakistan pushed over?
Mr. Trump’s “go it alone policy” on Afghanistan and scapegoating Pakistan may end up pushing the latter completely in the Russian camp and eventually losing Afghanistan completely.
Afghanistan’s neighbors facing fall out of the war and the presence of the US troops and the Taliban insurgency did not hear any hint of regional engagement to fix the country
For the US, addressing Pakistan’s concerns was a small price in this great game which Mr. Trump refused to do.
Pakistan will be forced now to use other leverages including working with Iran, China, Russia and Turkey to balance out what it sees as US’s “coercive policy” for Islamabad.
Washington after yesterday’s policy will unlikely find Pakistan bandwagon with the US in Afghanistan until and unless Islamabad is certain that its interests are secured.
Pakistan’s influence on Afghan Taliban is in the political domain. While Pakistan can influence them on the Political domain, it will not be able to curtail Afghan Taliban’s military activities just because new President wants it. A lesson, the US will learn soon.
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.