Pak-US ties & the future of Afghanistan
Pakistan-US relations are at their lowest ebb. Trust deficit, mutual suspicion and divergence of interests have plagued their already fragile relationship. Year 2011 was the toughest one for both countries as far as their fight against terror is concerned.
Compared with US, Pakistan has lost more in the last 10 years of war against terror. Especially, relations between the two countries got worse when US-led NATO forces attacked Pakistani check posts in Mohmand agency killing 24 soldiers. In reaction, Pakistan blocked the NATO supplies, got evacuated Shamsi air base from US forces, ordered out the US trainers and re-evaluated the new terms of engagement with the US in the war against terror.
Currently America is facing difficulties in meeting logistics for the allied forces. The US-led alliance is paying six times more cost for the logistics and supplies to carry out its operations in Afghanistan. According to reports, it costs $104 million per month to send supplies through a different route now, which is $87 million more than when the freight went through Pakistan.
It has also been reported that Pakistan will impose tax duty on future NATO supplies from Karachi port to Afghanistan. Another important issue is of drone strikes. The US ceased drone strikes in the subsequent months of Mohamand check post attack but again started pounding suspected militants in the North and South Waziristan agencies.
In future it is possible that Pakistan may allow it to carry out selected drone strikes against the TTP and Al-Qaeda militants. Pakistan military may also link the reopening of NATO supplies with the release of unpaid coalition support funds. Pakistan military must get reassurance from the US-led alliance that they will never cross Pakistani border in future. In addition, Pakistan must also demand action against Swat militants hiding in Afghanistan and also cessation of crossborder raids.
Pakistan is too important to be ignored. Without Pakistan’s support it is difficult to establish peace in Afghanistan. Pakistan wants peace and stability in Afghanistan, because Pakistan’s peace is linked with the peace in Afghanistan. Pakistan can play a vital role in negotiations with the Taliban. But for that matter it is imperative for Afghanistan and United States to respect Pakistan’s sovereignty and stop the blame-game against Pakistan.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai once said: “On the overall policy of Pakistan toward Afghanistan and towards the Taliban, definitely the Taliban will not be able to move a finger without Pakistani support……………………The fact is that the Taliban were and are stationed, in terms of their political headquarters and operational headquarters, in Pakistan………”. Such comments are unfortunate and would promote mistrust and hatred only. This is the time to mend differences and come up with a long term solution to the Afghan imbroglio.
Pakistan’s interests should be protected in any future outcome in Afghanistan. Pakistan demands a peaceful and stable Afghanistan with a friendly government. It also desires access to the energy-rich Central Asian States for trade and energy. The US has also accepted Pakistan’s position. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: “Everybody knows Pakistan has a big stake in the outcome of what goes on across its border, and it is going to be involved one way or the other”. So it is necessary for the US to seek Pakistan’s help to withdraw respectfully from Afghanistan.
The US president has announced that he will withdraw about one-third of the roughly 100,000 American soldiers in Afghanistan by summer 2012. He also pledged a fuller disengagement by 2014 when the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security. Subsequent discussions reveal that the White House is expected to keep no more than 25,000 soldiers in Afghanistan. It would be difficult for America to achieve its goals in Afghanistan. Security situation is getting worse day by day. Even Afghan president has accepted this notion in his speech and said: “We've done terribly bad in providing security to the Afghan people and this is the greatest shortcoming of our government and of our international partners."
According to some estimates, some $57bn of aid has been spent in the past decade in Afghanistan but that spending has not always translated into real improvements for Afghans. Afghanistan is still facing poor health facilities, least human resource development, corruption, rise in drug trade and fragile law and order situation. According to the UN, more than 10,000 civilians have died in violence in the past five years alone. More than 2,800 international troops have been killed.
After series of failed military operations and huge losses the US-led alliance wants to negotiate with the Taliban. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has expressed her desire that the United States would be willing to negotiate with the leader of Afghan Taliban if he met conditions that had been laid out. She was of the view that "You don't make peace with your friends.” The US wants early settlement of the Afghan issue because Afghan war has played havoc with their economy, security and prestige at the global level. In this decade-long war, the two highest years for NATO casualties are 2010 and 2011.
The US wants to mend its fences with Pakistan. This is the reason that high-profile delegates from the US wanted to visit Pakistan to stabilize relations between the two countries. It is advisable for the US to apologies for its misconduct and unprofessional behavior. America must respect the sovereignty of Pakistan and avoid use of force against Pakistanis in tribal areas. A long-term solution to the Afghan deadlock lies in agreeable negotiations among all stake holders in Afghanistan
By Masood.Ur.Rehman Khattak
January 27, 2012