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Mainstream, VOL XLIX, No 38, September 10, 2011

Afghanistan: NATO Defeat and New US Game-Plan

Tuesday 13 September 2011, by Bashir Mohammad

The political situation in Afghanistan is continually worsening. The Afghan Army and coalition forces have been rebuffed in their efforts to bring the country’s southern and eastern provinces under their control. On the contrary, the Taliban have lately once again established their presence in all the areas from where they had been uprooted due to the operations of the coalition forces since 2001.

A majority of the Pushtun population sympathise with and back the Taliban fighting foreign occupation. For them, it’s a struggle to restore the nation’s sovereignty trampled underfeet by the Western troops in Afghanistan. The average Afghan doesn’t support the Kabul Government as it is perceived as the handmaiden of alien domination over the country. The Afghan Army and police can’t ensure the safety and security of the public at large and official institutions even in the cities.

In fact the coalition forces have failed to achieve any of the objectives they had set out to accomplish when they embarked on their mission in Southwest Asia.

All these facts in the foregoing go to prove that the US military’s permanent presence in the state would not in any way help improve the situation. Rather, in that eventuality the US military bases will definitely become the major targets of the extremists and terrorists.

WASHINGTON’S intention to halt its military operations in southern Afghanistan offers sufficient indication of the US’ changing strategy in the area. The Americans are going to henceforth deploy their forces only in the US bases in Afghanistan. They believe that this will ensure the protection of US interests and preserve their influence in the country.

Meanwhile the US military’s support for the Afghan Army and police is on the decline. Basically Washington is letting the Taliban have their way and take control of southern Afghanistan in exchange for the latter’s promise not to attack the US bases in Afghan territory. The US military presence in northern Afghanistan is to be used by the Americans not to strengthen the peace process in the country but to exert political pressure on China, Iran and the Central Asian republics in the neighbourhood. In such a scenario southern Afghanistan, under the Taliban’s unquestioned sway, is bound to add to the troubles of Central and South Asia. This would generate legitimate concern in India which, already under pressure from the jehadi terrorists trained on Pakistani soil and assisted by the ISI to infiltrate into Indian territory, would perforce have to enhance its vigil and deflect attack from another direction in the circumstances.

Significantly, Washington is inviting Turkey as a mediator for its negotiations with the Taliban. There is a move to establish an official Taliban representation in Istanbul. Ankara is certain to take advantage of its presence in Afghanistan to come to the Uzbeks’ aid. This can spark ethnic conflicts within the country and drive the Afghans to the brink of a full-scale civil war with all the potentiality to spread across and ravage the whole region.

There is no concealing the bitter truth: NATO has been decisively defeated in Afghanistan. The resolution of the Afghan question is possible only through the instrument of the UN and partcipation of all countries of the region in the process. If one is not averse to draw the salient lessons from history, it must be realised that nothing else but a neutral Afghanistan can be stable and prosperous. For that alone will guarantee the proud Afghans’ much-cherished and coveted independence in its entirety.

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