The US strategy in Afghanistan is incoherent, confused and counterproductive, says a Jinnah Institute report on the endgame in Afghanistan planned for 2014.
The report titled “Pakistan, the United States and endgame in Afghanistan,” is a co-convened project of the Jinnah Institute think-tank and United States Institute of Peace.
Set to be formally launched today (Thursday), the report is based on interviews with 53 people. The participants referred to as Pakistan’s “foreign policy elite” include members of civil society, journalists, politicians, analysts and retired civilian and military officials.
Pakistan has two overriding objectives in Afghanistan, respondents said. One, the “settlement” or the endgame in Afghanistan should not lead to a negative spillover in Pakistan and further create instability. Secondly, Kabul should not allow its territory to be used against Pakistan.
On the type of government, participants said: “Pakistan prefers an inclusive government in Kabul which is recognised by all ethnic and political stakeholders in Afghanistan and has an adequate Pashtun representation.”
India’s role was considered acceptable only for purposes of economic prosperity in Afghanistan and many participants said that India is going beyond strictly development activities in Afghanistan and greater transparency in the country’s actions is necessary. “The participants made a fairly candid admission that the Pakistani security establishment exhibits paranoia when it comes to Indian activities in Afghanistan,” it said, adding that Pakistan’s policy itself lacks clarity.
The ‘foreign policy elite’ said the US’ strategy in Afghanistan is “inconsistent, unclear, confused and counterproductive.” United States is failing to define clearly the principal target of the military surge in Afghanistan, the report said.
The participants were of the view that Washington is trying to find channels for direct talks with the Taliban in an effort to reduce dependence on Pakistan’s security establishment for the reconciliation process. The report said that while US’ military operations in Afghanistan are causing an internal backlash in Pakistan, a premature withdrawal of foreign troops will create greater instability in Pakistan.
A regional framework seeking neutrality and non-interference was supported. But participants were unsure of how such an agreement will be enforced with diverging interests between Pakistan, India, Iran and China.
A lack of clarity about the Afghan Taliban’s willingness to participate in negotiations was also noted. A major challenge lies in identifying representatives to mediate and speak for all Afghan stakeholders. Many participants also described the Afghan Peace Council as being ineffective to do so. Respondents also said that Washington sees Pakistan as a “nuisance” that cannot be relied upon.
While some participants felt that the US wants to retain some long-term security presence in Afghanistan, others argued that the mandate will be restricted to ensuring that Afghan territory is not used for attacks against the US.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 25th, 2011.