NATO`s strategy to keep its forces in Afghanistan beyond 2014 is not realistic and is based on a misperception that it can succeed against the Afghan resistance. US and NATO leaders had, unfortunately, not studied the Afghan history before launching their aggression their country as Afghan have never been sub jugated militarily.
By M Ashraf Mirza
NATO and US appear to be on different wavelengths on the issue of withdrawal from Afghanistan. While the US Vice President Joe Biden has assured the American nation that the United States’ longest war will be over in four years as 2014 is a ‘drop dead date’ for withdrawing all combat troops from Afghanistan, NATO has said that it envisaged its presence in the war torn country beyond the transition deadline of 2014. The defence alliance has said it is going to maintain its presence in Afghanistan beyond the ‘non-binding tentative deadline’ of 2014. NATO’s Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said after ISAF-Afghanistan meeting in Lisbon ’we will stay as long as it takes to finish our job’. Joe Biden has, however, indicated that the withdrawal of the US combat forces may begin ‘earlier’ than 2014. Just because 2014 is the ‘drop dead date’, it doesn’t ‘mean we will have anywhere near 100,000 troops in 2013’, he said.
The discrepancy in the statements of US Vice President and NATO Secretary General is either a deliberate attempt to create confusion about the US/NATO forces’ withdrawal or represents real difference of opinion on the issue. While Joe Biden’s assertion that the US troops may start pulling out even before the deadline of 2014 is encouraging, the NATO’s decision to stay in Afghanistan beyond the period of transition process (2014) is obviously a source of serious concern for Pakistan that has virtually been devastated in terms of security and economy over the past two decades at the US hands. Pakistan was, in fact, still grappling with the consequences of the unceremonious US sneak out of the region after Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan that it was again pushed into a greater quagmire of terrorism following Washington’s occupation of Kabul. In both situations, Pakistan faced large scale influx from Afghanistan first in the form of refugees and then the terrorists. With over four million Afghan refugees on its soil, it suffered unprecedented political, economic, demographic and security hazards during war against Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. It endured drug and gun culture, besides undergoing serious economic hardships as the US left her lurching in social, economic and security peril. And after 9/11 terrorists attacks on Twin Towers and Pentagon, it became victim of terrorism due to its support to the US invasion of Afghanistan. And consequently no other country suffered so much and rendered so many sacrifices in the aftermath of the US war against terror in the landlocked country. Terrorists challenged writ of the government of Pakistan in Swat and South Waziristan. Suicide bombing attacks and bomb explosions became the order of the day. Pakistan’s economy was shattered. And despite resource constraints, Pak army had to launch operations against the terrorists to establish rule of law in Swat and Waziristan at the cost of unprecedented sacrifices of its officers and soldiers. Pakistan is still in the midst of the mire as US/NATO forces are engaged in Afghanistan. It will, in fact, remain target of terrorism as long as US/NATO troops are present in Afghanistan as the Afghan resistance forces will continue to be irritated over Pakistan’s support to the war on error in its neighbourhood. Pakistan must, therefore, also convince the US to strictly adhere to its plans to withdraw from Afghanistan before 2014.
NATO’s strategy to keep its forces in Afghanistan beyond 2014 is not realistic and is based on a misperception that it can succeed against the Afghan resistance. US and NATO leaders had, unfortunately, not studied the Afghan history before launching their aggression against their country as Afghans have never been subjugated militarily. They failed to even ponder over the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan. True that President Bush wanted to pacify the American people by launching the invasion of Afghanistan in the backdrop of the 9/11 terrorist attacks that had understandably shaken their self confidence as the super power, but it was certainly not a calculated war. Its prolongation has resulted in multifarious problems for the United States especially in the economic field.
The truth is that the US/NATO can never win the war in Afghanistan. There ought to be no ambiguity about it in anybody’s mind. If their forces have not succeeded in a decade, they are bound to fail in the coming months and years as well. US need to be conscious of its own role during Soviet occupation of the country and should not be oblivious of the invisible forces cherishing for its defeat in Afghanistan. Joe Biden’s approach is, of course, pragmatic in this background. It’s in the fitness of things that the US/NATO forces should withdraw from Afghanistan as quickly as possible. But, of course, the US must not repeat its past blunder of leaving Afghanistan in vacuum. It will be pertinent that the US/NATO forces should pay greater attention to the training of the Afghan forces to take up the security responsibility rather than waging war against the Afghan people.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has rightly called for reduction of NATO troops and an end to the night raids as the operations have proven to be fruitless and meaningless. ’I think 10 years is a long time to continue to have military operations,’ Karzai told the Washington Post in an interview. ‘Time has come to reduce the presence of, you know, boots in Afghanistan…to reduce the intrusiveness into the daily Afghan life…. Make it more civilian.’ It’s certainly not desirable for the Afghan people to have 100,000 or more foreign troops going around the country endlessly, he said and declared the US deployment is unsustainable and an unnecessary burden on US taxpayers. He also said raiding homes at night is terrible and a serious cause of the Afghan people’s disenchantment with NATO and with the Afghan government. Karzai also hit back at Washington’s criticism of corruption within his regime, blaming US contracts and funding pouring into the country that is out of his government’s control and, which he said, is often funneled to children and relatives of leading Afghan officials. US and NATO officials have understandably expressed displeasure at Karzai’s remarks, while indicating that the Pentagon’s military strategy in Afghanistan will not be swayed by the opinions of a president that Washington treats as a puppet. ’We understand President Karzai’s concerns, but we would not be as far along as we are pressuring the network had it not been for these very precision operations we do at night,” a NATO military official said. ‘I don’t see any near-term alternative to this kind of operation.’