Current efforts for peace and stability in Afghanistan suggests that there is a renewed realization in the US, Pakistan and Afghanistan to sit together and resolve the impasse.
It is a good omen that for the first time there has been a serious effort in the last 10 years from Afghanistan, Pakistan and America to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan. In his recent visit by Pakistan PM on April 16, 2011, many issues were discussed including negotiations and a reconciliation mechanism with Taliban, US withdrawal plan, war against terror, cross border infiltration/militancy, transit trade, repatriation of refugees, gas pipe lines, and India’s role in Afghanistan.
Both countries have also decided to devise a two tier commission for the peace in Afghanistan and Pakistan. According to PM Gillani the first tier of commission will include the chief executives, foreign ministers along with chiefs of the military and intelligence services of the two countries while the second tier will comprise senior officials of foreign ministries, military and intelligence services.
President Asif Ali Zardari’s visit to turkey, DG ISI’s visit to US and now PM Gillani’s recent visit to Afghanistan hints that now all the stake holders in the Afghan War are serious and want to resolve this issue as soon as possible because Afghan war has played havoc with the safety and security of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Pakistan has suffered the most because of the war in Afghanistan. According to the recent report by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, in 2010 2,542 people died and 5,062 others were injured in the terrorist attacks, 957 lost their lives because of the US drone strikes and at least 1,159 people including 1,041 civilians lost their lives in 67 suicide bomb attacks. Terrorist attacks, drone strikes and suicide attacks are linked to the Afghan war. If there is no peace in Afghanistan we cannot expect peace in Pakistan. US flawed policies and the unprovoked use of force in Afghanistan and drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas has increased the resentment and will to fight against Americans. Drone strikes are counterproductive, and shatter Pakistan’s consensus against militancy and impinge upon Pakistan’s efforts in tribal areas to root out militancy and terrorism. Because in the war against terror, support of the masses is very crucial, without support of the people it is difficult to win this war. America has to revisit its policies in Afghanistan and Pakistan and let these countries to decide about their future.
There is a dire need to surmount the challenges posed by Afghan war. The US economy has suffered a lot because of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to CRS reports for congress in FY2010 American congress approved $1.121 trillion for military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and providing enhanced security at military bases. Of this $1.121 trillion it is estimated that Iraq will receive about $751 billion (67%), Afghanistan $336 billion (30%) and remaining for enhanced base security and other embassy operations.
This cost is a huge burden on the already fraught US economy. If the FY2011 war request is approved, total war-related funding would reach almost $1.3 trillion, including $802 billion for Iraq, $455 billion for Afghanistan, and remaining for enhanced security and other operations. Such a huge spending will put more pressure on the Obama administration by the tax payers in the US to deliver and exit as soon as possible from Afghanistan and focus on health care, economic development, unemployment and social development issues.
The US led alliance is in hurry to leave Afghanistan; they are looking for a respectful way out and also to maintain small level presence in Afghanistan or central Asia to safeguard their economic and strategic interests in the region. This goal cannot be achieved without Pakistan’s help. Pakistan has been a key player in the war against terror. With limited resources Pakistan army has carried out successful operations in the tribal areas and rendered enormous sacrifices.
The Pakistan army lost more than 3,000 soldiers in fighting militants in tribal areas. In the last 10 years the US led alliance collectively lost only 2,408 soldiers in Afghanistan comparatively lesser than Pakistan army. Along with that Pakistan has also lost more than 30 thousand civilians in the terrorist attacks in last 10 years, this shows Pakistan’s strong commitment and seriousness in the war against terror. It is imperative for the US to support Pakistan with sincerity and honesty, pressurizing Pakistan with do more mantra will not help either party. US spent almost $336 billion in 2010 in Afghanistan, without any substantial results and Pakistan on the other hand with meager US aid (which is in millions) is fighting militants in tribal areas. There is a need to revisit our relationship with the United States. Our leadership (Political and Army) should convey this message that Pakistan will fight this war on its own terms keeping in mind its core national security interests. Pakistan has recently taken tough stance against CIA’s ingress in Pakistan and asked America to come up clean on this issue and also to re-examine rules of engagement in Pakistan. In a nutshell few steps are necessary for long term peace and stability in Afghanistan.
1- General amnesty to Taliban leaders and foot soldiers in Afghanistan.
2- Removal of Taliban’s names from UN terror list.
3- Taliban should be given their due share in the mainstream politics.
4- Taliban foot soldiers should be incorporated in the Afghan National Army and Police.
5- Separation of Taliban from Al-Qaeda.
6- Negotiations with all the stake holders, Taliban, Gulbadin Hekmatyar Group, Jalal Ud Din Haqqani etc.
7- Other groups involved in Afghanistan like Al-Qaeda, Lashkar-I-Jhangvi- (LeJ), Lashkar-I-Tayyba- (LeT), Maulana Fazalullah Group (TNSM), TTP, and IMU etc could be neutralized by joint collaboration of Pakistan, Afghanistan and America. Here we require sincere efforts from all stake holders and international community to stem out militancy and terrorism from Afghanistan and Pakistan.
8- India’s role in Afghanistan should be specified and Afghan soil should never be used against Pakistan. Indian positive role for the stabilization of Afghanistan will be welcomed by Pakistan. India must support peace process in Afghanistan, because stable Afghanistan will open energy routes not on for Pakistan but also for India. So it is imperative for India and Pakistan to burry the hatchet and move forward for the long term peace and stability of the region.
9- Massive development and reconstruction must take place after the reconciliation process. Education, health care, social, and human resource development should be the foremost priorities of the international community.
10- Regional countries like Russia, China, Iran, Central Asia States and Pakistan must take concrete steps to curb Narco trade from Afghanistan. Drug lords/mafia should be tackled with joint collaboration of these countries.
11- Afghan National Army and Police should be strengthened so they can take control of their country after US led alliance’s withdrawal. It is expected that ISAF will help Afghanistan to bring Afghan National Army and police closer to 378,000 numbers by 2014. It would be a difficult task to achieve in next three years. In this regard Pakistan can play a vital role to train Afghan National Army, so they can take control of their own country without any external help.
12- US led alliance should seize its military operations in Afghanistan and let the peace process begin. US should also put hold on the drone strikes because such strikes would create more anti-American sentiments in Pakistan and put Pakistan’s efforts for peace in Afghanistan in jeopardy.
In last 10 years of war in Afghanistan we have achieved nothing tangible except instability, turmoil and mayhem in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Now it is imperative for the US led alliance to abandon the use of force policy and stick to the peace process, only then we can expect peace and stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Because there is no way to peace; but peace is the only way.