Every successive year, for over a decade now, New Delhi is rated in surveys as the most popular country in Afghanistan. This year, it bagged 64 per cent of the vote. Afghan Ambassador to India, Shaida Abdali, calls India a national partner. At this month’s Heart of Asia conference at Amritsar, in the presence of the Pakistan delegation led by de facto foreign minister Sartaj Aziz, President Ghani lambasted Pakistan for waging an undeclared war on Afghanistan by covertly supporting terrorist groups, including the Taliban. By suggesting that Pakistan should use the $500 m aid pledged to Afghanistan for combating terrorist networks on its soil, he struck at the heart of the problem: cross-border terrorism. The latest biannual Pentagon report states: ‘Afghanistan-oriented militant groups, including Taliban and the Haqqani network senior leadership retain freedom of action from safe havens inside Pakistan’.
Two senior military leaders in southern Afghanistan have contradicted each other over the possible return of senior Taliban leaders to the region where the hard-line movement first emerged two decades ago.
The Washington Post
For 30 years, Gen. Abdurrashid Dostum has reigned as northern Afghanistan’s untouchable warrior-king: first as a ruthless pro-communist general, later as an armed U.S. ally against the Taliban and finally as a reliable, if unsavory, political boss who could deliver votes from his ethnic Uzbek followers.
In a clear reference to Pakistan providing safe havens to terror groups, India has told the UN that the international community must urgently address the issue of backing to outfits like LeT, JeM and the Haqqani Network by "shadowy supporters" outside Afghanistan.
Ashraf Ghani, the president of Afghanistan has repeatedly slammed Pakistan for harboring terrorist groups. Pointing to Sartaj Aziz, advisor to the prime minister of Pakistan on foreign affairs, Ashraf Ghani asked Pakistan to utilize the amount of a $500 million pledge in aid to tackle extremism inside their own country, while speaking at the sixth ministerial conference of the Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process in the northern Indian city of Amritsar.
The question of what President-elect Donald Trump has planned for Afghanistan rarely came up during his run for the presidency. As is the sometimes-custom of Trump, apart from several tweets (“Let's get out of Afghanistan?”) and inflammatory comments (“Karzai is a crook”), it’s unclear what he wants to do in the country, despite the fact that it is the site of the longest war in U.S. history.
Since 2002, the international community has spent some $100 billion on rebuilding the country and its economy. Nearly 70 percent of Afghanistan's annual income is from international donors. Washington itself “is by far the largest spender on the Afghan armed forces and government. Without U.S. financial support, it is difficult to imagine the state, in its current form, surviving,” said Thomas Ruttig, the co-founder of the Afghanistan Analysts Network, an independent, non-profit think tank.
Yet the next American president has been a harsh critic of the very aid the Afghan state depends on, according to Barnett Rubin, director of New York University’s Center on International Cooperation and a long-time adviser on Afghanistan to both the UN and the United States. “He believes it’s wasted money,” Rubin said. In Afghanistan, Trump may have a strong argument. Despite what the United States has spent there in the name of improving security, UN figures indicate that civilian deaths have reached a new peak since the beginning of the census in 2009. Between January 1 and September 30 of this year, the UN recorded 2,562 conflict-related civilians deaths and 5,835 injuries. Meanwhile, Transparency International has repeatedly accused Afghan politicians of stealing millions of dollars of aid money. Corruption is also one of the main causes of the extreme poverty afflicting the country. Rubin said Trump would face congressional opposition if he tried to cut off all of Afghanistan’s aid. “But I think [such aid] will come into much greater question than if Hillary Clinton has been elected,” he said.
Then there’s the question of whether Trump, who has expressed skepticism of overseas military intervention, will maintain current U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan. President Barack Obama, having planned to effectively conclude the Afghanistan war during his term in office, now plans to leave more than 8,000 troops in the country into 2017, leaving to Trump the decision of what to do with them. Trump has criticized “the way [Obama] got out of Iraq” as facilitating the rise of ISIS; he also told Bill O’Reilly he was in favor of leaving U.S. troops in Afghanistan, in part, to provide a check on Pakistan's nuclear arsenal (“I hate doing it, I hate doing it so much. But, again, you have nuclear weapons in Pakistan so I would do it”).
And Pakistan presents other challenges—namely its alleged support of Afghan insurgent groups, including the Taliban. During the last decade, leading members of the Taliban lived in Pakistan. The so-called Quetta Shura, a council composed of different Taliban leaders in the Pakistani city of the same name, became symbolic of the militants' presence in the country. The al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was also found in the city of Abbottabad, not far from a military compound. Several members of the Quetta Shura were detained by Pakistani intelligence in 2010. But even today, the Afghan government believes that Islamabad is supporting the insurgents to continue destabilizing Afghanistan.
Trump, for now, seems untroubled by any of this. He reportedly called Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif a “terrific guy” doing “amazing work,” calling into question whether he would follow through on promised harsher steps toward Pakistan.
And then there is the matter of the Taliban. Weeks before the election, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid reportedly described Trump as “non-serious” and a person that who says “anything that comes to his tongue.” After Trump’s victory, the Taliban, as it often has in the past, released a statement in which the group demanded the withdrawal of all U.S. troops in the Afghanistan.
Despite the air of unpredictability that surrounds Trump, some Afghan analysts hope that the prospects of peace with the Taliban will improve under his presidency, as the Obama administration’s numerous attempts to end the war have failed.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, speaking at the sixth Heart of Asia Conference in Amritsar, India, not only criticized Pakistan but, importantly, also rejected $500 million in aid from Pakistan, recently pledged at the Brussels conference in Europe.
Analysis of the recent release of the Asia Foundation’s Survey of the Afghan People has centered around Afghan’s increasingly pessimistic views on both security and the future in general. While the results certainly point in a pessimistic direction, many notable trends that emerged from the survey in 2016 had a more positive side.
The survey itself is impressive considering the geogra
In 2001 a new regime came to power in Afghanistan. Since then, public services have greatly flourished in nearly all areas. Access to health, male and female education, infrastructure development, local governance, and human rights are the significant areas that have been intensively transformed. However, it remains noteworthy that all the accomplishments during the last decade were achieved through foreign aid. In 2014, with the withdrawal of coalition forces from Afghanistan, the foreign aid has decreased significantly leading a drastic shrinking of the Afghan economy.
A resurgent Taliban is threatening to overrun a substantial part of Afghanistan and is just 200 miles away from Kabul. An ISIL offshoot, ISIL-Khorasan Province (ISIL-KP), is emerging in the east. Afghan security forces are stretched thin fighting on multiple fronts. The war is pulling American troops back into combat: The United States sees no way out of Afghanistan.