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Business News/ Opinion / Afghanistan: looming uncertainties
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Afghanistan: looming uncertainties

Afghanistan, the prize of several Great Games, is once again in the throes of political uncertainty as different stakeholders vie for influence

Photo: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters Premium
Photo: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters

Recently elected Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani made a singularly candid statement at the Saarc summit last month. He said he will not allow his nation to become a battleground for proxy wars by other nations. This was an unmistakable hint at Pakistan’s consistent record of brewing trouble in the land of the Hindu Kush by not only supporting the Taliban against elected governments, but equally, at its machinations to keep India at bay, even from humanitarian and developmental activities in the country.

On 31 December, Operation Enduring Freedom, the official name for the US War in Afghanistan, started after the 9/11 terror attacks, will end giving way to Operation Resolute Support. In the latter, 9,800 US troops will stay on in the country to guard US interests and provide a modicum of training and military support to the beleaguered Afghan National Security Forces.

The harsh realities of their not-so-successful intervention in Afghanistan has now dawned on the US, forcing it to review the number of troops to be left there after 13 years of war. The formidable Taliban, in concert with the notorious Haqqani and Hekyatmar networks and remnants of the al Qaeda—all substantially supported by the Pakistani establishment—are waiting eagerly for US forces to depart and thence, once again, will endeavour to oust the Ghani government and come back to power in Kabul. Uncertain times await Ashraf Ghani’s regime.

It is to the credit of the new Afghan leadership, that despite being fully aware of the dangers that await them from the combined Taliban and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence onslaughts, President Ghani and national security adviser, Hanif Atmar, have lifted the ban on US air-strikes against Taliban targets which was enforced by the previous president Hamid Karzai. In addition, they have called for continued US assistance in the fight against the Taliban .

Meanwhile, there have been reports of differences between US President Barack Obama and his generals in the Pentagon over the final phase of US operations in Afghanistan. The latter are smarting from their premature withdrawal from Iraq that has resulted in the spectacular routing of the Iraqi forces by the Islamic State’s militants. The Pentagon would like to avoid a similar debacle in Afghanistan. Obama seems to have reluctantly given in to pressure from them and has extended the date of US involvement in Afghanistan. A few months earlier, Obama made a pertinent point when he said, “Americans have realized that its harder to end wars than it is to begin them."

Afghanistan, the prize of several Great Games, is once again in the throes of political uncertainty as different stakeholders vie for influence there. Pakistan, which shares the tenuous Durand Line as its border with Afghanistan, is key to ensuring or preventing peace in the country. If it can refrain from its pet agenda of establishing a compliant pro-Islamabad regime in Kabul and its proclivity of targeting India’s developmental projects, it will augur well for Afghanistan’s future.

Pakistan’s nefarious mission in the country can only be tempered by its all-weather mentor China. The latter is, understandably, vastly increasing its influence in Afghanistan by investing heavily in mining and infrastructural projects. The Chinese are all set to play an important strategic role in Afghanistan by employing its economic muscle but would like the country to ensure the closure of training camps for Uighur Islamic militants from China’s restive Xinjiang province.

The international community, under the aegis of the United Nations,adequately supported, financially and materially by the US, European Union, Russia, India and China, must combine their efforts to bring peace and stability to this war-ravaged nation. India, by itself, must continue assisting Afghanistan and strengthening their relationship for mutual benefit.

Kamal Davar was the first chief of the Defence Intelligence Agency and was General Officer Commanding Ladakh in the mid-1990s.

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Published: 16 Dec 2014, 06:07 PM IST
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