Afghan Conundrum: What at best can Pakistan Do? Bring the Horse to the Water!
During the recent interaction between Pakistan Foreign Minister and US’ Secretary of State Pompeo, the wishes expressed by the US side were not different from what has consistently been demanded in the last over a decade. However, the tone this time was reconciliatory due to multiple reasons but perhaps having seen the futility and pitfalls of applying maximum pressure on Pakistan was predominant explanation; besides diminutive effects created by exercising all other options by USA to find an amicable solution in Afghanistan. The fundamental raison d'être for 17 years long imbroglio is the strategic miscalculation that made US to believe that they could prevail in Afghanistan in a quick fix based on superior military, economic and technological might including available allied countries, but in vain.
Needless to say that Pakistan despite winning the War against terror on its own territory including against numerous proxies launched by hostile countries at enormous human, economic and above all socio-psycho cost, has remained a whipping boy for the US to cover up her strategic blunders that continued to multiply one after the other. Pakistan’s successes vis-à-vis US and allies’ failure has given them sense of envy, in addition bringing politicians, military commanders and intelligence community under tremendous pressure at home due to unbearable human and economic cost as if red faces alone weren’t enough____ memories of Vietnam getting refreshed every day. US establishment had been continually bluffing American people without false claims based on wrong facts and figures as every year exposed by US Special Inspector General Report on Afghanistan.
It is simply baffling to see US and Allies unable to gain a favourable outcome in Afghanistan despite most sophisticated weapons, equipment, high tech intelligence and extremely elaborate military planning system put in place in the last over 17 years. In my opinion, some of the major flaws committed may include inflated and ever changing politico-military objectives, parallel covert designs, under-estimation of response by main regional rivals, concurrent US/ NATO involvement in invading Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Syria, strategic regional primacy given to India, bashing and relegating tested old ally while at the same time attaching extremely unthinkable ambitious hopes with Pakistan, ignoring history of Afghanistan, false expectations from installed puppet Afghan Government, multi-way rampant corruption, neglecting real stake holder i.e. Taliban for a long time and last but not the least undermining guerilla war potential of fiercely independent insurgent Taliban. The so called strategy of winning hearts and minds while simultaneously carrying out killings of Afghan Taliban and many innocent civilians simply added fuel to the fire. Therefore, the situation in Afghanistan is the product of a mix of so many contradictions in US policies and strategies applied, besides competing strategic interest of big regional players.
Pakistan being direct sufferer of instability in Afghanistan has been making very sincere efforts from the beginning to bring around peace, which in the face of above stated paradoxical factors did not see full realisation, becoming victim of intense propaganda campaign coupled with undue political, diplomatic and economic pressure. As a matter of fact, Pakistan has been subjected to 5th generation warfare, which is being contested with Lion’s Heart by the brave battle hardened Armed Forces and most resilient people of Pakistan. USA has tried almost all other options sans Pakistan to achieve her envisaged goals in Afghanistan but in vain. It is satisfying a bit to see US adopting a reconciliatory approach in the recent meetings but the success lies in not repeating the same old experiments and hoping to achieve different results. USA needs to appreciate that Pakistan can at best bring the horse to the water, but can’t force him to drink. Besides, while Pakistan puts in great efforts to approach Taliban militants for convincing them yet again for talks despite repeated subversion of previous efforts, US military and intelligence agencies must not do anything that make them berserk. Moreover, Indian Government hostage to its Maha-Bharat Hindutva ideology and spy master national security adviser Ajit Doval’s strategy must also recognize the futility of its covert war unleashed against state of Pakistan taking short sighted advantage of the ugly situation in Afghanistan; because had Pakistan not succeeded in defeating the international hordes of terrorists on its soil, the same monsters would be knocking on Indian doors.
The regional peace in Central Asia and South Asia will remain hostage to great power play in Afghanistan and Indian greed hidden in her Hindutva doctrine followed by BJP Government, which is being spread sugar coated through semi nude Indian movies, massive onslaught by Indian diasporas all over the world and crafty business deals. Pakistan may have to continue to fight on many fronts though; yet, Pakistan and USA do not have the option to part ways both for regional as well as for global peace and stability. Both countries need to jump over trivial affairs and think big to find a peaceful regional solution to Afghan puzzle.
Saleem Qamar Butt, SI (M) is a senior retired Army officer with rich experience in Military & Intelligence Diplomacy and Strategic Analysis. (firstname.lastname@example.org)