US promotes talks with Taliban
09 December, 2010
By Bassam Javed
The US has taken a U-turn on talking to the Taliban after a careful analysis of its decade old failure in Afghanistan. Having realised that it can never overwhelm the Afghans in their own land, the US decided to engage Afghans through talks to honour President Obama’s Afghan drawdown date of July 2011. Whether it is General Patraeus or General McChrystal, the Afghan war running in its tenth year would never deliver a win, historical facts mandate that.
On engaging the Taliban into talks, General Patraeus, an Iraqi war veteran and now the top US commander in Afghanistan, acknowledged in an unequivocal term that, “This is the way you end insurgencies.” He went on to confirm that the American and the Nato forces are now facilitating movement of senior Taliban leadership to and from Kabul for talks with the Kabul regime. The only factor is that they are yet to accept that the core Taliban that form the centre of gravity of Taliban resistance, the Haqqani and Hekmatyar factions, are the critical ones that require to be heavily focused as without their participation, the whole exercise is doomed for failure.
A little progress though appears to have been made in this direction if press reports were to be referred. The talks that reportedly took place in Kabul and Dubai involved Taliban leadership based in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the region. On his part, President Karzai has also been working overtime to talk to the Taliban on his own.
Reportedly, he has had some inter-action with both the Haqqani and Hekmatyar group against the American recommendations otherwise for not engaging the two. The CIA and the American military in Afghanistan are pressurizing the Afghan President on whom to talk to and whom not to talk to thereby throwing spanners in a deliverable process that if left alone could provide Afghans with a way out within themselves. The other factor that hampers the engagement process is the buying out of little known factions of Taliban by the Indian premier intelligence agency ‘Research and Analyses Wing’ to disrupt the talk process to gain time for cementing its presence in the name of massive investment in Afghanistan and for destabilising Pakistan.
Historically, the Pashtuns based in the South of Afghanistan have had decades old relationships across the borders of Pakistan and Afghanistan and are tied in deep relations with those on Pakistan’s sides of the borders. It is, therefore, mandatory that Pakistan is kept in the loop on whatever talks are being conducted either by the US-Nato forces or the Kabul regime. It was also Pakistan that offered its premises to the Afghan leadership when the Russians entered in Afghanistan. President Karzai who himself had taken a refuge in Pakistan is cognizant of the fact that with Pakistan having provided the refuge and all other facilities to Afghans in times of crises, understands the dynamics of relationships developed over time and as such is strong believer that without Pakistan’s involvement no talks can deliver.
Obama appears to sticking with his time line on Afghan withdrawal despite intense pressure from the critiques and military hard liners. A fresh report of influential Council on Foreign Relations has also concluded that Obama should, in any event, stick to his plans to begin with drawing the approximately 100000 US troops currently deployed to Afghanistan in July 2011, despite growing pressure from the Pentagon and Republicans to put off the date. The 92-page ‘US Strategy for Pakistan and Afghanistan’ was co-chaired by Richard Armitage and Sandy Berger. Some other influential authors of the report like General David Barno, General John Keane, John Negroponte, James Dobbins and John Nagi have dissented on the recommendations of the report. John Nagi is slated to become the next assistant secretary of defence for special operations and low intensity conflicts in the Obama administration.
Meanwhile, the top US commander in Afghanistan has asked for provision of at least 16 Abraham tanks to soften the Taliban prior launching an attack on the strong holds of Taliban in the South and South West. The move, the General believes, would convince Taliban leaders that they have to accept US terms for ending the conflict. General Patraeus wants to harp on his Iraq policies where he had applied the same strategy and was successful therein.
That was Iraq and this is Afghanistan. This strategy may not fit here irrespective of number of latest tanks that he wants to bring in and deploy in the combat zone. The remains of Russian tanks are too widely visible in Afghanistan to remind the US of what could await them.