Despite the past week of violence that rocked Afghanistan, including a wave of major Taliban attacks on Afghan security forces, the Trump administration appears to still be holding the door open for a negotiated settlement. The commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Gen. John W. Nicholson, recently credited President Donald Trump's commitment to an enhanced and open-ended military presence in Afghanistan with setting the conditions for a peaceful resolution of the conflict. And in his first trip to the region, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reaffirmed the United States would fight the Taliban and pursue "a reconciliation process leading to a peace process and [the Taliban's] full involvement and participation in government."
The latest round of the so called Great Game which has started recently, like the previous ones played in 19th and 20th centuries, has brought new troubles for South Asia in general and for Afghan/Pashtuns in particular.
In testimony before the House and Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this month, Secretary of Defense James Mattis unveiled his new Afghan strategy, which he called “R4+S” (regionalize, realign, reinforce, reconcile and sustain). The “new” plan Mattis presented is one part a regurgitation of select Obama policies and one part an increased use of air power that is tied to no observable political or strategic objective––and in toto will only lock-in long-term strategic failure.
To many, the former Afghan President Hamid Karzai may appear to have lost significance since he completed his term as Afghan president. Nevertheless, being a former executive head, he remains an insider to important developments in Afghanistan.
October 7th marked sixteen years since the start of the US War in Afghanistan – America’s longest war. In an effort to justify the continued and expanded presence of US troops in the country, President Trump is seeking a plan to have US companies extract minerals from resource-rich Afghanistan.
While unveiling its long-awaited Afghanistan strategy, the US embraced India and dropped Pakistan as its ally. Broadly speaking, it occurred against the backdrop of the formation of a tripartite alliance of Russia, China and Pakistan. Donald Trump’s move can further push Pakistan towards Russia and its “iron brother” China, and away from the US. Also, the two blocs differ in their approaches towards Afghanistan, and the destiny of this war-ravaged country is aligned with the interests of these states. So in this prevailing geopolitical quagmire and hostile environment, will terrorism scale down and will Afghanistan progress in terms of peace and stability?
US President Donald Trump’s new Afghanistan policy has Pakistan in a tizzy even after two months, with the latter’s response ranging from recounting its contributions to the US-led war on terror to its parliament threatening to block the ground lines of communication running through its territory to choke the supply to the International Security Assistance Force troops in Afghanistan. Trump has practically put Pakistan on notice that should it continue to harbour and nurture the Afghan Taliban, particularly its most lethal wing, the Haqqani terrorist network (HQN), there will be serious consequences. One element in the US president’s speech that really rattled Pakistan was his call to India to increase its supportive role in Afghanistan.
The best way to continue a war that’s not supported by the public is to announce the deployment of additional troops in an incremental way, quietly and ambiguously, camouflaging it as a necessary and patriotic mission of "advising an assisting," a sort of cover as a heroic diplomat, masking the truth of war and the natural form of violence that comes with any form of occupation.
When the United States initiated what is now its longest war in the fall of 2001, most Americans wouldn’t have fathomed that they’d still be committing blood and treasure to Afghanistan 16 years later, and that Iran would reap the fruits. Yet, as the Trump administration assesses America’s next steps in the faraway country for the next four years, Iranian forces are quietly asserting themselves there, funding groups that shape the contours of country’s politics and security. This makes Iran’s Afghanistan policy critical to shaping America’s own.