The U.S. President-elect must address Pakistan’s treacherous role in Afghanistan at full tilt
As U.S. President Barack Obama leaves office on January 20, he leaves behind an unfinished conflict, the longest lasting and least successful U.S. war in history: Afghanistan.
Following the downfall of the Taliban regime in 2001, Afghanistan once again became the focal point of international politics. The implications of three decades of war and violence inflicted devastating harm on Afghanistan’s basic infrastructure along with its economic and educational structures.
Religious scholars, tribal elders and civil society activists from northwestern Faryab province have praised Afghan forces for capturing six kidnappers and asked government to publicly execute them.
International bickering and bloc building could soon further jeopardize security in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan is being positioned in an outlandish situation as international political maneuvers become more complicated between the United States and Russia. The country could soon be squeezed between blocs built by the two countries, compromising the safety of Afghans.
While the U.S. and Russia have not been full-fledged allies since World War II, their relations have gradually deteriorated after Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the Syrian conflict. It has reached an even more critical point after Russia’s alleged interference in U.S. 2016 presidential election, subsequent sanctions on Moscow and ejection of Russian diplomats from Washington by President Barack Obama on December 29.
That scenario poses an ever more complicated ground for Afghanistan, a country still grappling with enduring, protracted violence.
The U.S. has spent about $783 billion—and counting—and lost over 2,300 troops since 2001 in Afghanistan. It has also provided Pakistan, a supposed ally in “War on Terror,” with billions of dollars in military compensation and supplies through the Coalition Support Fund, in a bid to bar Islamabad from supporting terrorist fighters in Afghanistan. That strategy has not been successful as Pakistan continues to harbor Taliban. Ever since the resurgence of Taliban in 2004, Pakistan has been the main funder and backer of Taliban—using it as a proxy tool to gain strategic depth in Afghanistan. Every single negotiation effort by former President Hamid Karzai and current President Ashraf Ghani has failed to deter Pakistan from hostile approach toward Afghanistan. The Pakistani military and officials have repeatedly admitted that they actively support Taliban despite U.S. pressure on them.
The Taliban are responsible for the plight of Afghan and U.S. military. In total, the Afghanistan war bore 104,000 casualties over the course of 15 years. In 2016 alone, Afghan security forces have lost over 15,000 personnel in the war. Also, more than 1,600 Afghan civilians have been killed in 2016.
With President Obama conceding on December 7 that the U.S. cannot defeat Taliban, Moscow saw a window opportunity to cling on by hosting a conference on Afghanistan with China and Pakistan, but that summit excluded Afghanistan. Perhaps Russia feels there is a vacuum that needs to be filled.
After having enough of devilment, U.S. lawmakers have recently moved to pass a bill, labeling Pakistan as a “state sponsor of terrorism.” That has worried Pakistan and is why it has started seeking a new patron in Russia, besides China.
In September, Pakistan hosted a team of Russian troops for a joint military drill. Moscow has also used Pakistan to approach Taliban. By making amends with Taliban, it is perhaps in a mood to seek revenge of its defeat in Afghanistan in 1980s by switching roles. Even though publicly it has been political relations so far, Taliban have reportedly met a few times with Russian officials in Tajikistan and elsewhere and received tactical warring directions.
To add to Afghanistan’s turmoil, Iran too has been lately arming Taliban and funding their insurgent activities for three major reasons: to harass the U.S. mission in Afghanistan; to take advantage of the instability in Afghanistan and conscribe Afghan Shias for its proxy wars in the Middle East; and constrain any developmental projects on rivers flowing to Iran from Afghanistan.
Among his campaign promises and goals, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani envisioned a corruption fight centered on reforming the public procurement system. Efforts began by establishing a central procurement directorate under the Administrative Office of the President (AOP); this entity, later dubbed the National Procurement Authority (NPA), integrated pre-existing pieces of the procurement process. Three main entities were dissolved or merged into the NPA: the Procurement Policy Unit (PPU) of the Ministry of Finance, Afghanistan Reconstruction and Development Services (ARDS) of Ministry of Economy, and the Contract Management Office of the Ministry of Finance.
Afghanistan's strategic landscape is changing as regional powers forge links with the Taliban and vie to outdo each other in what's being seen as a new "Great Game".
Fifteen years after the US-led intervention in Afghanistan, competition for influence - reminiscent of that rivalry between the Russian and British empires in the 19th and early 20th Centuries, and that during the Cold War in the 1980s - is intensifying, complicating an already precarious security situation.
There are two interrelated strategic challenges that continue to impede U.S. efforts in Afghanistan (1) the unity and authority of the Afghan central government and (2) Pakistani intervention.
On August 20, 1998, American cruise missiles pounded six sites in Khost in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. There was
It has been over 15 years since U.S.-led international troops arrived in Afghanistan. Today, beauty salons fill the streets of Kabul and Indian music plays loudly during traffic jams. Yet the news from the provinces is distressing. Afghan security forces are currently engaged in active battle across at least 26 of the country’s 34 provinces. Occasional attacks interrupt the normal daily routine of the chaotic capital, once the center of the Afghan aristocracy, now an architectural landmark of the war business.