New strategy, old game: on Trump and Afghanistan

Wednesday, 13 September 2017 03:19 Written by

The Trump administration has presented its plan for Afghanistan as a regional approach — it’s anything but that “The core goal of the U.S. must be to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaeda and its safe havens in Pakistan, and to prevent their return to Pakistan or Afghanistan… And after years of mixed results, we will not, and cannot, provide a blank check (to Pakistan)… As President, my greatest responsibility is to protect the American people. We are not in Afghanistan to control that country or to dictate its future,” said the President of the United States, announcing a “regional strategy” for Afghanistan after the worst year of the conflict. The President was Barack Obama and the year was 2009.

Trumponomics: An Elusive Quest in Afghan Mines

Tuesday, 12 September 2017 03:17 Written by

There are no two views that Afghanistan is blessed with mineral wealth. In 2010, a survey by United States Geological Survey (USGS) estimated the total wealth of the minerals to be around 1 trillion, with $908 billion in minerals while another $200 billion in hydrocarbons. These minerals include precious and semi-precious gemstones, copper, iron, lithium and other rare elements. The mineral wealth is a hope and potential source for Afghan nation to secure a sustainable economic future. This is the reason why trump administration is now eyeing the mineral wealth of the country to pay for the cost of war and support economy of the country. However, at the moment, this nothing more than an elusive quest.

The strategic geographic location of Afghanistan sometimes referred as “in the heart of Asia” is the cause of many miseries. Afghanistan is strategically located in South and Central Asia, sharing border with Iran on the west, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan on the north, an isolated small border with China on the northeast and the disputed Durand line on east and south with Pakistan. Historically Afghanistan has been the passage to get into Indian subcontinent. Afghanistan was an important part of ancient Silk Road which connected Far East to Middle East and Europe. 

A muddled strategy in Afghanistan

Sunday, 10 September 2017 03:15 Written by

An extended stay of U.S. troops is now the only way to prevent the immediate fall of the government of Afghanistan and the defeat of the international community after fighting the Taliban for 16 years.

Islamabad sees the Taliban and other insurgent groups operating from its soil as valuable assets in its regional geopolitical game.

President Donald Trump had harsh words for Pakistan in announcing his new strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia. The President has rightly identified the problem by mentioning Pakistani support for the Taliban, which has served as a strategic impediment to winning the longest American war. Moreover, an effective policy in order to win the Afghan war demands addressing the sanctuaries that Pakistan has continued to provide in pursuit of its objectives in the region.

We have two presidents in the United States: The “real Donald Trump” and “teleprompter Trump.” Real Trump speaks, and tweets, his mind. Teleprompter Trump reads speeches prepared for him, delivered in a strained manner that has been likened to a hostage video.

The beauty of Kabul

Monday, 28 August 2017 02:52 Written by

 

On 8th, March,2017 ,We travelled from Urumqi to Kabul on the flight of Ariana.

In the sunset, our plane flew towards the sun, going through the sea of clouds that were gilded at the rim of them. A blue scarf following the hat of a hostess reminds us that a conservative Islamic country awaits us ahead.

Trump locks America into its forever war

Sunday, 27 August 2017 02:38 Written by

There is surely no greater sign of the bankruptcy of U.S. foreign policy than its Afghanistan policy. After more than 15 years of war and the deployment of hundreds of thousands of troops, a new president entered the Oval Office poised to fundamentally change that policy. Within months he presented, with great fanfare, a continuation of the same. The result: The United States is now firmly locked into its forever war in Afghanistan.

A strategy solely focused on “killing terrorists” without including plans for peace building and nation building is going to fail terribly, and deplorably.

President Trump's long-awaited strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia has finally been announced. But it has grave implications for Afghanistan. While there is some clarity on the US stance vis-a-vis Pakistan and its safe havens for the “agents of chaos”, the new US strategy will widen the war and cause more death and destruction in Afghanistan. 

The new policy does not reflect any lessons learned from the serious errors pertaining to the protection of human lives. Therefore, such a policy must be stopped from further damaging and condemning Afghanistan to an endless war.

Intensifying war, increasing terrorism

The new US strategy for Afghanistan will intensify military operations, placing the impact of the Afghan war squarely upon the people. By lifting “restrictions” and expanding the “authority” of American armed forces in fighting the war, masses of Afghans will fall victim to it. 

Under the guise of targeting “terrorists”, people will not be secure in their own homes and villages as that is where the war will eventually be fought. The rhetoric that claims terrorists will have “nowhere to hide” and that “no place is beyond the reach of American might and American arms” gives US forces a free hand in conducting military operations anywhere they deem necessary.

“Retribution will be fast and powerful,” said President Trump. I see this as the US stepping up the use of airpower against targets on Afghan soil. The increase in the number of drone strikes and the testing of the MOAB in Nangarhar province early this year are the clear signs of a new strategy in favour of intensified and large-scale bombings. It will undoubtedly inflict massive damage to civilians and consequently, incite more hatred and violence. The end result will be to trap foreign forces alongside their Afghan counterparts in a long unwinnable war within Afghanistan  for many years to come. 

According to President Trump, the new US strategy will be guided by “conditions on the ground” in Afghanistan. This gives Washington, particularly the Pentagon, flexibility to change the nature and scope of its military presence and activities in the country, leaving American generals solely in charge of an open-ended war. It is a clear militarization of the US-Afghan policy.

The US is the impediment to peace

On a political settlement with the Afghan Taliban, Washington seems to have no desire in supporting peace in Afghanistan. 

“Someday, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban and Afghanistan, but nobody knows if or when that will ever happen,” said President Trump.

The conclusion we can draw is that the Taliban are - like in the past - not an enemy for the US. When it comes to fighting them in Afghanistan, it will only be limited to “preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan.” The word “preventing” is lightweight in comparison to “obliterating ISIS” or “crushing Al Qaeda” as seen in recent remarks by the US president. The US administration's continued unwillingness to embrace peace is making it the prime impediment to peace efforts in Afghanistan.

Changing the status quo on Pakistan

On Pakistan and India, President Trump has changed the old status quo. In an unprecedented tone, the US president stated that “Pakistan often gives safe haven to agents of chaos, violence and terror” and that the US “can no longer be silent” about it. 

The message to Islamabad was clear: the US “must stop the resurgence of safe havens that enable terrorists to threaten America.”

Official US reports have previously revealed that the Pakistanis have been “worried the US will drop in and take their nukes.” 

In his remarks, President Trump said yesterday, “we must prevent nuclear weapons and materials from coming into the hands of terrorists and being used against us anywhere in the world.” Trump's recent statement adds to the already existing fears in Pakistan about a possible US plot against its nukes.

Praising India for its “important contribution” in the reconstruction of Afghanistan and asking India to “help” the US in Afghanistan is another shock for Pakistan in more ways than one. 

There is no doubt that India has been steadfast in its support for the state of Afghanistan. However, previous US administrations wearily supported New Delhi's role in Afghanistan. Former president Obama had personally asked the former Afghan president Hamid Karzai to address Islamabad's “concerns” over Indian influence in Afghanistan. 

For Obama, Pakistan was a “strategic ally” and the two countries were sharing “a common enemy.” Now, with a radical shift in Washington's strategy, only time will tell us how the current US president will turn its words into actions. 

Major American objectives in the region are facilitated through the Pakistani military establishment - and therefore  Washington will have to keep Pakistan within its sphere of influence.

Referring to security threats in South Asia, President Trump did not explain the very harsh reality behind the rise of terrorism in Afghanistan. Why after a 16-year “War on Terror” by the US and its NATO allies, is the “highest concentration” of foreign terrorists organisations still in Afghanistan and the region? The answer is simple: it is a direct result of US military actions.

In order to maintain peace, it is imperative for the US to commit itself to building cooperative diplomatic and political solutions. Except India, the new US policy in South Asia will have no supporters in the region. Washington should embrace regional cooperation. Or else, the new US policy for Afghanistan is the continuation of the invasion, occupation and empire. 

A strategy solely focused on “killing terrorists” defined by the US military, without including plans for the protection of human lives, peace building and nation building, is going to fail terribly and deplorably.

America Is Out of Ideas in Afghanistan

Wednesday, 23 August 2017 02:45 Written by

President Trump proved one thing beyond the shadow of a doubt in his Afghanistan strategy speech Monday night: After nearly 16 years of fighting America’s longest war, there are no new ideas.