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War On Terror And Beyond

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By Haris Khurshid *

America’s Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) has now entered into its thirteenth year, started with objective to avenge 9/11 and defeat trans-national Islamic radicals posing military threat to its global interests. Initially war was celebrated as a success with symbolic victory by defeating disrupting and dismantling of not only Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaida but also toppling the puritanical Islamic regime of Mullah Muhammad Omar led Taliban in Afghanistan. As the Al-Qaida and their hosts Taliban fighters were in complete disarray before the massive firepower of US and allied forces, they were denied the sanctuary while fleeing the field for ultimate survival.

With support of NATO and coalition forces of more than 45 nations a pseudo-democratic government of Karzai was installed in Kabul which would later be marred by pervasive corruption, lawlessness and ineptness to assert its control beyond urban centers of Afghanistan. In the name of reconstruction, billions of dollars were poured into war torn Afghanistan to build social infrastructure, raise Afghan National Police and Army and develop state institutions.

Meanwhile United States unnecessarily launched another military campaign in Iraq against Saddam Hussain for harboring weapons of mass destruction. This new military front in gulf diverted US attention and military resources from Afghanistan to Iraq. Seizing the opportunity, Taliban and transnational Jihadists started organizing its rank and file and given the critical required factors, launched sophisticated insurgency campaign from south east of the country bordering adjacent Pakistani tribal region.

After American presidential election in 2008, President Obama realized the mistakes of previous administration and ordered additional troop surge of 30,000 soldiers to reverse the momentum of Taliban in south east Pashtun heartland, they gained due to sheer neglect of US strategists in Pentagon. Also the democrat president Obama announced to bring home all the troops by the end of 2014, by the time when Afghan government would be able to stand on its own feet. While on the military front the fresh surge troops did push Taliban back from their strongholds like Helmand and Kandahar who previously held the areas under their strong presence, however extremely successful irregular warfare tactics, and spectacular attacks against Coalition and Afghan forces again emboldened Islamic militia.

At times American leaders accused Pakistan of dragging feet to take serious action and curb militant’s infiltration from its tribal region. As per American stance the border areas are Safe havens for afghan Taliban especiallyHaqqani network where they hide and reorganize to launch cross border attacks against Afghan and ISAF forces.

Moreover, after wasting billion of American tax payers money and blood of hundreds of troops today war weary US stands at a point where the military campaign seems more of a liability than a “War of necessity”. The hard earned tactical victories against Taliban are fragile in the south east where ferocious insurgency is considered capable of reversing gains made by US.

Incompetency, corruption and lack of capacity of Afghan National Army to withstand enemy onslaught once western forces leave, is worrisome for NATO and United States. It is feared that in absence of effective, legitimate and inclusive government in Kabul the country could drift towards ethnic strife leading it to another civil war. Being Afghanistan’s immediate neighbor Pakistan is already bearing the spillover of War in the form of Pakistani version of Taliban (TTP) who have wreaked havoc on the state inflicting colossal human and infrastructural loss, destabilizing economy and destroying social fabric of FATA and north west of Pakistan. Baluchistan being adjacent to the troubled south east of Afghanistan is directly affected by Afghan Taliban’s insurgency and considered as an opening of their line of communication and strategic reserve. Also, the Rahberishura” or the leadership council which is supreme decision making body of Mullah Omar led Afghan Taliban is supposed to be based in the provincial capital hence also drawing its name as “Quettashura” in western media. Fearing this, Baloch as well as Pashtun nationalists have raised their voices against radicalization of the province asking central government in Islamabad to curb systematic Islamization of otherwise secular population. Nevertheless, In the face of Jihadist ideology which is gaining traction due to presence of western forces in a predominantly Muslim Afghanistan next door the region is more prone to terrorism and religious extremism than ever before.

The end to Afghan conundrum is the key to stability of the adjoining south Asia and central Asian republics. For now Taliban and US led NATO forces are at stalemate despite the latter’s technological edge and superior war making capabilities. This proves old doctrine that military might has never been decisive in favor of aggressor in Afghanistan. Therefore, engaging all stakeholders in composite and meaningful dialogue process could be the only way to achieve long lasting peace in Afghanistan.

In recent past, successful POW deal between Taliban and US has demonstrated that both sides could work in future to resolve much bigger and complicated issues through negotiation. This year presidential election in Afghanistan followed by political crisis between candidates i.e. Ashraf Ghanni and Abdullah Abdullah due to alleged irregularities in the conduct of polling from either side was marring the peaceful transition of power from Karzai’s regime. But as a fortunate outcome, through international intermediaries and internal political efforts the issue was handled amicably and a Pashtun Asharf Ghani sworn in as a president of Afghanistan and the runner up Abdullah as the chief executive of the country.

Last month as a rare event Ashraf Ghani’s visit to Pakistan and visibly fruitful meetings with military top brass and political leadership of the country were considered significant in recent regional developments. The Pak army has not only inflicted heavy blow to Pakistani Taliban in operation Zarb-e-Azb but also dislodged fierce Haqqani network from its habitat and disrupted their capabilities to launch attacks on the other side of the border. However, the country is still at war even after signing bilateral security agreement to host more than 10,000 US and NATO forces in coming years.

The process of political integration of the disgruntled Taliban and other militant groups through power sharing mechanism could bring the war torn country to its historical glory. In views of many, the elusive peace in Afghanistan will be possible only through all inclusive Afghan led Afghan owned reconciliation process with sincere backing of United States,Pakistan and regional powers.

* Haris Khurshid is Research Fellow at Pakistan Agricultural Research Council This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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