There will be no ‘zero option’ in Afghanistan

Published: April 18, 2014
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The writer has served as ambassador to Afghanistan and chief secretary of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. He is a nominee of the Government of Pakistan in talks with the TTP

The writer has served as ambassador to Afghanistan and chief secretary of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. He is a nominee of the Government of Pakistan in talks with the TTP

The ultimate goal in Afghanistan is to end the conflict and help install an elected government that does not require external props for its survival. This objective could only be achieved by mainstreaming the resistance because 12 years of military operations have not caused the insurgency to abate or disappear. How then to seek a convergence of ideas, principles, goals and strategy amongst the myriad stakeholders in a deeply divided and tribally structured society that has been brutalised, wounded and disfigured by an unending conflict?

In some ways many opportunities for reconciliation have been missed. The principal reason of this was either due to the insistence by the coalition forces on the resistance of accepting the status quo and getting integrated into the systems that were in place or for insisting to accept external military presence on Afghan soil in return for continued economic and military assistance.

This attitude is still evident as the drawdown of international forces is projected to start in the next few months. Those who advocate this course believe that the country has a constitution and an elected Parliament that cannot be bypassed in negotiations for an end to the insurgency. This argument is faulty for two reasons. Firstly, questions still hang on the validity of the 2009 election. The UN chief representative in Afghanistan, when alleged that huge malpractices had taken place in the polls, had to quit. A large segment of population was disenfranchised because of their political or ideological affiliations. Secondly, when the choice is between saving the unity and integrity of the country or accepting the supremacy of the institutions like the Parliament, which is a better option to pursue?

But there is another angle to this line of argument. Both the constitution, as well as the objective of safeguarding the unity of the country, could be taken care of in a comprehensive and all-encompassing reconciliation that would not be premised on the exclusion of any group. At the same time, no government could be contemplated to emerge without the resistance being an integral component of such an arrangement.

There is another equally formidable stumbling block to the reconciliation in Afghanistan. A small but powerful lobby would like the status quo to continue indefinitely. This class of proponents of the current systems comprises the contractors, transporters, governors, ministers and hundreds of newly rich directors of the innumerable NGOs that are operating in the country. This cadre of new millionaires have benefited hugely from the billions of dollars that have poured into the country following the advent of the coalition forces and the execution of many development projects in the last 12 years. These ‘enterprising’ politicians/mandarins have been an integral part of the culture of corruption that unfolded in a country.

Such being the complexity of the situation, it is not surprising that Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been demanding that the US engages with the resistance in reconciliation talks before he would agree to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA). Undoubtedly, the Afghan leader in the waning days of his presidency is trying desperately to regain some of his lost prestige and honour in the eyes of the Afghan people by standing up to the US on a matter that he knows would be resolved as soon as a new president takes charge.

Paradoxically, while there is lot of rhetoric on peace endeavours, there is scant attention to addressing the root cause of the conflict. There is an overwhelming emphasis on signing the BSA. But the plain fact is that any new incumbent president would sign the agreement as soon as he assumes office. There will be no ‘zero option’ because the US would not like to see its scheme unravel in Afghanistan as soon as Nato forces depart. All presidential the front runners are committed to signing the security agreement.

What would signing the BSA deliver? It would provide a ‘legal’ cover to the continued presence of foreign forces for another 10 years beyond 2014. It would also enable the US to retain control of nine military bases in Afghanistan. Further, the agreement would give immunity to Nato soldiers from being prosecuted for actions they would be involved in during the course of their duty in Afghanistan. More importantly from Kabul’s point of view, the accord would help it receive financial assistance that is critical for maintaining its security forces numbering 350,000.

What is important, however, is that the insurgency would not abate because external forces would stay in the country and their presence constitutes the biggest single reason for the conflict in the country. If more than 80,000 foreign forces could not defeat the insurgency, 15,000 should not be expected to produce any miracles. More worrying is the prospect of significant rise in the rate of desertions from the Afghan Army. Currently, an annual 10 per cent desertion rate exists within members of security forces (the rate of attrition was 20 per cent two years ago). If this figure would jump to 30 or 40 per cent, there would be the danger of the disintegration of the security infrastructure of the country. With the departure of most coalition forces, many influential tribal and political leaders, seeing the writing on the wall, would take no time in switching loyalties. That would, in the worst-case scenario, create conditions for a more pervasive insecurity and lawlessness, forcing many Afghans to wonder whether a ‘messiah’ was needed to stem the rot and restore some semblance of peace and security in the war-torn country.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 19th, 2014.

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Reader Comments (13)

  • Tag
    Apr 18, 2014 - 10:41PM

    Pakistan will end NATO supplies in 2014

    The situation is in Pakistan’s hands. For peace to prevail, pakistan can only disengage from the US-led war in Afghanistan, meaning the NATO supplies must end .

    This is the expected outcome of peace talks, and political officials should have no other illusion. It’s not implementation of Sharia, but Pakistan’s NATO supplies which are causing chaos . Recommend

  • Ch. Allah Daad
    Apr 18, 2014 - 10:57PM

    No solution of Afghan conflict is presented in the article, or perhaps there is none.Recommend

  • Musa
    Apr 19, 2014 - 1:59AM

    I think the solution has been provided all sides Must sit down and negotiate a settlement. as it is said “one must never fear to negotiate and one must never negotiate out of fear”, under this context what Karzai is saying would actually be beneficial for the US since Obama has already declared they have no issues with the Taliban publicly. Negotiating after the drawdown would amount to negotiating out of fear which would then make the Taliban be on a stronger pitch.
    This scenario then begs the question of the legitimacy of these elections when a majority of afghans are still disenfranchised and others are engaged in a war with the state. How would the new president and his bsa have any legitimacy?
    it is actually the status quo supporters the Nuevo riche who are the hindrance for the peace process to continue as that would mean that their revenue streams would most likely be shutdown or reduced considerably so they follow the colonial policy of divide and rule. So while the US and the Taliban are busy fighting they are busy raking in dollars by the truckloads.

    Recommend

  • Cool Henry
    Apr 19, 2014 - 3:40AM

    Everyone knows the solution Ch. Allah Daad…but is never mentioned for obvious reasons. The solution is normal trade, travel and commerce between India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. It will cause people to get busy with their daily lives trying to raise families, governments will have more money to spend on social programs (rather than buying missiles and bombers) and the whole region will flourish.
    But, it will result in peace in the region and those who have vested interest in continued turbulence will have to find real work to earn their living. Pakistani military and the Pakistani elite are the most vested stakeholders. And they are not going to allow peace to prevail ‘coz it is a matter of their rozi-roti.

    Recommend

  • unbelievable
    Apr 19, 2014 - 5:00AM

    Rubbish – superficial article based on false premise that Taliban are only fighting because of “foreign troops” combined with the ever present Pakistan paranoia that there are hidden forces that want perpetual war in Afghanistan.

    Recommend

  • Elhaan Khan
    Apr 19, 2014 - 8:59AM

    Typical establishment thinking and no such things will happen . Taliban won’t make a comeback and now this is a different Afghanistan.

    Recommend

  • Feroz
    Apr 19, 2014 - 12:50PM

    I doubt that the author can see the picture clearly, having been an apologist for the Taliban. The World has changed and is unlikely to accept any dispensation that is a proxy for another country. To believe that someone can ride to Power on the basis of the Gun with external support, is wishful thinking. If Taliban claims to represent any section of the Afghan people they will have to prove it through the ballot. Secondly, whether to sign the BSA agreement with the US is for the Afghan people to decide, not us sitting in armchairs if foreign countries. Saving Pakistan from the wrath of the TTP and its multiple associates and franchises should be the authors priority, rather than interfering in Afghan affairs.

    Recommend

  • sidjeen
    Apr 19, 2014 - 1:06PM

    sorry but i stopped after the first paragraph. oh the lies that you spread. firstly “the resistance” dear sir is actually “terrorism” so call it that please and secondly you say that because 12 years of military operation did not end “terrorism” so we should stop fighting them, well that argument can be extended to crime so if millennia of fighting crime haven’t stopped it we should stop fighting crime and “mainstream” the criminals and thirdly you have absolutely no right to interfere in the affairs of Afghanistan.

    Recommend

  • Apr 19, 2014 - 4:52PM

    Well no solution in this article.the author is an establishment pro self styled expert.his baseless contention is that peace will prevail when we come to zero option,and also that all institutions be dissolved in order to give a space puritanical mullahs under pakistani establishment.the author is confused. So he to believes that taliban would be reconciled when no internal and external forces are not present on the ground.he even does not respect afghan election results,what they and when they taliban ideology and narative!Recommend

  • Apr 19, 2014 - 4:55PM

    Well no solution in this article.the author is an establishment pro self styled expert.his baseless contention is that peace will prevail when we come to zero option,and also that all institutions be dissolved in order to give a space puritanical mullahs under pakistani establishment.the author is confused. So he to believes that taliban would be reconciled when no internal and external forces are not present on the ground.he even does not respect afghan election results,what they and when they taliban ideology and narative!

    Recommend

  • Rex Minor
    Apr 19, 2014 - 6:39PM

    A very well written article based on events and the situation analysis. It does facilitate the guessability of the individuals. Facts are that the USA has completed its task of breaking down the very fabric of the country( the yankees call it Regime Change. The Afghans must now rebuild the cohesive of their people and this will be realised since the Afghans are one of the resilient people in the world. The yanks will want to ask for a the case military outpost to fly their flag, as is the case in 120 other countries which the Talibans would not make a fuss about in order tot practice as well.

    Rex Minor

    Recommend

  • Apr 20, 2014 - 11:15AM

    “If this figure would jump to 30 or 40 per cent, there would be the danger of the disintegration of the security infrastructure of the country.*

    If Alqeda was not there, Afghanistan would have long been consumed.

    Recommend

  • Sexton Blake
    Apr 20, 2014 - 2:51PM

    So far the US/EU/ZION combo have severely disrupted and radicalized most of the Middle-East through to the Sub-Continent, and are also doing their best to bring down Iran and disrupt Eastern Europe through to Russia. Basically they have created a basket case out of Libya, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. It is quite obvious that Afghanistan is in serious trouble, just as it was planned to be over a 13 year period, and there will be trouble for the foreseeable future. However, Pakistan will probably get the blame, just the way Russia is currently getting the blame, for US instigated mischief in the Ukraine. The US/EU/ZION combo never give up, and amazingly their propaganda appears to work on many people.

    Recommend

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