NATO troops pullout: Is Afghanistan ready?
When I read that leaders from 48 nations (including 28 Nato members) endorsed the gradual pullout plan of Nato forces from Afghanistan in 2014 at the Lisbon summit, several concerns crept into my mind. With this, the combat operations that started in 2001 will also be stopped, giving Afghan forces complete control for the security of the country. Has enough been done to reduce the Taliban to a negligible strength? Will the wound not start bleeding again after 2014? Will the withdrawal of troops not add to the instability in the region?
The Telegraph reports that the Pentagon has admitted that the progress in the war in Afghanistan has been limited and patchy. It states:
“While kinetic activity is at the historic high, we are seeing some early indications that comprehensive counter insurgency operations are having localised effect in portions of Helmand and Kandhar Provinces."
I was surprised to read that “despite the presence of nearly 100,000 US troops and 50,000 other forces, the Taliban insurgency remained resilient and efforts to cut of safe havens and supply links to Iran and Pakistan have not produced measureable results.”
A recent article in Time magazine states:
“It does not mask the widening cracks in the alliance-specifically, between US military officials, one the one hand, who insist that the current counterinsurgency campaign needs more time to have an impact, and European troop contributors, on the other, who are skeptical of the strategy and looking for a face-saving way out”.
The magazine comments that the Afghans are also debating whether these troops are the cause of conflict or are actually helping the Afghan government to remain in place. To me, the situation is quite fragile.
This is called the start of a “new phase” in the Afghan campaign, which will bring Moscow in the picture, and to my utter surprise, negotiations with Moscow are moving towards a conclusion whereby supply-lines for Nato forces will be shifted from Pakistan to Russia. This major development also extends towards stronger cooperation between Nato and Russia whereby Moscow has been invited to participate in a US-led missile defense program intended to intercept long-range attacks launched from any neighbouring country. Perhaps the common Afghan must be worried; has the aftermath of the Soviet exit in the 80’s been forgotten?
The questions that arise are as follows: is it too early for Nato forces to pull out from a country which has been under war for over a decade? What would be the impact on neighbouring countries? Afghanistan is still far from having an established market economy or other systems that help businesses prosper. Unfortunately, the only external assurance businesses have is the somewhat stable security condition that is driving the economic activities in Afghanistan, a country where corruption runs deep and market concepts are non-existent.
Former Pakistani Ambassador to the US, Maleeha Lodhi questioned in an article “whether this transition was feasible without a plan for a negotiated political settlement to bring the conflict to a close”.
Rahimullah Yusufzai, a senior journalist and an expert on the subject said “If the Afghan Army fails to deliver and foreign forces leave Afghanistan, then there will be another civil war, and it will have a big impact on Pakistan”.
To me it seems that if the conflicts in Afghanistan remain unresolved by 2014, the impact of the Nato troops exit on Pakistan could be devastating, not only in terms of security but also due to the Indian interest in Afghanistan. Political and economic relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan will become strained as well.