Forgotten priority in America’s new Afghan strategy

Wednesday, 23 August 2017 02:44 Written by  Heart of Asia Read 112 times

President Donald Trump finally laid out his Afghan strategy over half a year after he was sworn in as US president. Although the new US strategy was expected to have fundamental changes that could help peace in Afghanistan, there is unfortunately no major shift in America’s path forward in Afghanistan. The only significant point of discussion is a shift from a time-based approach to one based on conditions, as well as a warning to Pakistan for providing support and safe havens to terrorists. While announcing the new strategy, Trump said the United States no longer can tolerate terror havens in Pakistan; however, he did not further elaborate on what will be done if Pakistan continues to harbor and support terrorists.  

 

One major flaw in the strategy which sends a negative message to Afghan people and dashes hopes for peace is tying peace talks with progress on the battlefield. The new strategy is mostly focused on the goal that the anti-Afghan government elements should first be defeated on the battlefield, and then peace negotiations will take place. After strategy was outlined, US Secretary of State Rex Wayne Tillerson also emphasized the Taliban cannot win the war militarily; therefore, they should resort to seeking political legitimacy through peace parleys.

This is not the first time the United States has attempted to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table through use of force. The former Obama-led US administration had also sought to win the war militarily through a troop surge in Afghanistan, but it also ended up in failure. The presence of more than 150,000 foreign troops, and a lot of bloodshed could not drag the Taliban to the negotiating table. With thousands of their fighters killed or imprisoned, the Taliban not only have continued the fight, but also intensified it. The previous US strategy also failed for the very same reason: giving preference to military option over political settlement, a key factor that makes the new strategy impossible to succeed if not revisited. 

With repeated failures of the use of force to resolve the Afghan conflict, the Trump administration was expected to embrace a new approach with focus on political settlement of the Afghan war, but that did not happen. Setting a timetable for troop withdrawal might have emboldened the Taliban, yet it is on no account the only reason to protract the war. All sides involved in Afghan conflict, including the United States, should indiscriminately address the drivers of the Afghan war, and pave the way for an everlasting peace in the war-stricken country which has been paying a heavy price for imposed war for over a decade and a half.