IN SEARCH OF PEACE IN AFGHANISTAN

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PAKISTAN CAN FACILITATE US IN HONOURABLE EXIT FROM AFGHANISTAN

beg_smallBy General Mirza Aslam Beg

When Obama took over as President of United States, he promised change but failed to deliver, same as Asif Zardari, who promised to ‘change the system’ but delivered none. In fact Obama missed the opportunity of withdrawing troops from Afghanistan: “All Obama had to do was to declare victory and bring our boys home, thanking Bush for winning the war. It would have shut up the Republicans.” – Paul Craig Roberts.      

On the contrary Obama designed the Af-Pak Strategy, to fight a new kind of war, but failed. He now stands at the cross-roads, puzzled by the demands of the powerful Defense Industries lobby to continue funding their coffers with over 700 billion defence budget; the demands of his Field Commanders for new surge to win the war because loosing the war would mean great loss of image for them and their NATO allies and victory for the Taliban, who would establish a radical Islamic State, destabilize Pakistan, “envelope the Gulf and destablise the Central Asian region.” The Indian and the Jewish lobby want to extend their game of regional espionage, conspiracies and intrigues, with the support of the occupation forces.
Thus Obama is engaged in his servile act, prepared to push military levels “breaking the back of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.” His new Af-Pak strategy therefore is to serve the interests of the lobbies mainly, leading to fallacious new strategies based on three cliches, such as COIN, COTE and AMBRIDGE.
Counter Insurgency (COIN) Operations will be launched against the Taliban who can be separated from the Al-Qaeda and defeated by holding the population/communication centres and airbases strongly, while surgical strikes, with predators, gunships and aircrafts will be launched to ‘take-out the Taliban from their hide-outs and destroy them,’ which they think, can be done in a few years time, hoping that, in the meantime, they will be able to raise a 160,000 thousand strong Afghan militia to provide internal security and protect re-construction and socio-economic re-building works, to be undertaken at a massive scale.
Counter Terrorist (COTE) operations are to be carried out jointly by the occupation forces in Afghanistan and the Armed Forces of Pakistan. Obama says: “We have this strategy to make sure that Afghans are carrying the burden of their own security; that we have an effective partnership with Pakistan, that is working to achieve our goals in the entire region, and that we are not working at cross-purposes.”
 Obama wants to be shown “a clear picture of the American Bridge (AMBRIDGE) out of Afghanistan. Therefore, he re-affirms: “These are trying times for our country. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, the same extremists, who killed nearly 3000 Americans, continue to endanger American and our allies.” Therefore, on the strong advice of Gates, Mullen and Clinton he has chosen “three specific levels of troops surges,” – 20000 – 30000 and 40000 during the coming year.
A fourth option has been added, only in the past few days which he would like to keep up his sleeves, as “he is simply not convinced yet that you can do a lasting counter insurgency strategy if there is no one to hand-it-off to you.”
Thus the new Af-Pak Strategy growing out of this confusion is doomed to failure. No doubt “time is running-out and the leadership appears to be helpless. America is rotting away” – as the grand old man of letters, Gore Vidal claims. Special modalities, therefore, are needed for bringing peace in Afghanistan and to ensure an honourable way out, for USA and its allies, and a smooth transition to the civil order, “without triggering bigger chaotic conditions.” No doubt, there are “terrifying prospects of defeat in Afghanistan” as the British commander of forces says’ hence the need for “a comprehensive strategy and an exit strategy,” which is the only viable option, to be supported by an aggressive political and diplomatic policy for peace in Afghanistan. The steps, therefore, that needs to be taken now are:
  • The occupation forces must give “a time-frame for withdrawal and declare a cease-fire.” Start dialogue with the Taliban and Northern Alliance, to form the Loe Jirga, to decide the main issues, such as:
  • Formation of the Interim government, (for a period of three years, which will be responsible for holding the Census to determine who is who for the impending elections; framing of a new Constitution; rebuilding of Institutions; massive reconstruction of the infrastructure and re-creating ethnic balance, which remains disturbed since the Bonn Conference of 2001.
  • Holding of general elections in the year 2013 and transfer power.
 The centres of power – Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban – must be taken into cognizance, as the main arbiters of peace. Taliban have won their war against the occupation forces decisively and so has Pakistan against the terrorists, establishing the writ of the government. Both are winners, who can provide safe and honourable exit to the occupation forces, as they did in 1989, facilitating a safe and honourable exit to the Soviet occupation forces. Let history repeat itself, for the cause of peace in the Af-Pak region and beyond.

General Mirza Aslam Beg, Chairman FRIENDS, a Think Tank based in Rawalpindi is former COAS, Pakistan

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