10 YEARS OF CONFLICT IN AFGHANISTAN: WHAT NEXT?

Afridi meeting Abdullah abdullah at Paris Conference

Afridi meets Dr. Abdullah abdullah at Paris Conference

Fazal ur Rehman Afridi

A one-day international conference on Afghanistan was held in Paris (city of love & peace) on Wednesday 11 May, 2011 under the supervision of Institute for Strategic and International Relations (IRIS). The theme of this high profile gathering was “10 year of Afghan conflict”. Almost all important stakeholders of the Afghan conflict were present to put forward their views and analysis of the 10 year conflict after the defeat of Taliban from Kabul and the emerging scenario for the future of Afghanistan. The conference was divided into 4 sessions including, (1). Afghanistan in the 2011, (2). The strategic and Military aspects of the Afghan conflicts, (3). Options of re-construction of Afghanistan and (4). Open debates on the Afghan conflict by French political elite. Dr. Abdullah Abdullah the former Foreign Minister and candidate of the Afghan Presidential Elections in 2009, was the Guest Speaker. The conference ended with a very informative and lively debates among three important french politicians Jean-Francois Cope, Secretary General of governing UMP party, Laurent Fabius, former Prime Minister, Member of the National Defence Commission of the armed forces at the National Assembly and Eva Joly Member of the European Paliament of Europe Ecology and President of the Development Commission at European Parliament.

The aim of this mega-event was to understand and analyze the present and emerging situation on the basis of which develop a new holistic approach and strategy to improve security, good governance and development in the war-torn nation. The speakers expressed concern about deteriorating conditions on the ground citing recent attacks in the province of Nuristan and increased Taliban pressure in Kandahar, as NATO/allies look for an exit strategy.

PAKISTAN IS CONSIDERED A REGIONAL SPOILER.

The first question, I posed to Dr. Abdullah Abdullah during my brief interaction at the sidelines of this important 16th International Conference on Afghanistan was, that back in 2003, how on earth he was so confident that Osama Bin Laden was hiding in Pakistan? He replied with a tone of authority accompanied by a sarcastic smile, that we Afghan knew it very well (Afghan secret service) that he (OBL) was in Pakistan. But, still your (Commando) President rejected my claim with disdain and kept on harping the tune that Osama is not hiding in Pakistan. I could not agree more with him, when we see the Pakistani intelligence (ISI) is always pre-occupied with running after our politicians and actively involved in making and breaking political alliances and governments in Pakistan. During General Ayub Khans era , the same ISI could not detect a Brigade of Indian Army during ongoing war. When the general expressed his anger, the Chief of ISI retorted that we are too busy following our own politicians, rather than to detect enemy positions.

Pakistan has to reap what she has sown all these years. Violence, intolerance, killings, bombings and terrorism is the result of Pakistans wrong policies that its rulers perused in the past. He said that ISI is a part of the evil. This is in nutshell what we discussed at our brief encounter in Paris. The US operations will continue in Pakistan to nab other leaders of Al-Qaeda and Talibans, despite protests from Pakistani government, he said. He was very optimistic about the future of Afghanistan however not satisfied with the results achieved so far. He thought that a lot of opportunities were missed by International Community. When Al-Qaeda and Talibans could have been rooted-out effectively in the after math of 9/11, they were left to flourish for reasons not known. Mr. Abdullah was not alone in his criticism of Pakistan as almost all participants were of the view that with the killing of Osama Bin Ladin in a Military Garrison of Pakistan has put the focus of International Community on Pakistan now, as nearly all the important Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders have been nabbed and killed in Pakistan. So, the main problem area is not Afghanistan now. The US/NATO forces have to look at the other side of the border, which is suppose to provide safe-heavens to Talibans and Al-Qaeda. Hamid Karzai in his statement after the death of OBL, has also taunted US/NATO forces as to look to the other side of the border rather than wasting their time in Afghanistan looking for a ghost enemy. On the other hand Pakistan is still in the denial state of mind which is confirmed by its recent Resolution of May, 2011 at a Joint-Session of the Parliament condemning the Abbottabad attack, asking US to stop drone attacks, threatening to block Nato-supplies to Afghanistan and asking the government of The Prime Minister, Yousof Raza Gilani to revisit the relationship with US, if these demands are not met. Proposing a military confrontation with US, the Pakistani military strategists, arm-chair anlaysts and currupt politicians seems to be living in paradise of fools. It is un-thinkable for Pakistan to fight the sole military and economic super-power of the world from which it recieves most of its military and economic assistance. US Defence Budget is US $ 750 billion while Pakistan spend US $ 5 billion on its military,most of which comes from US.

Munir Mengal (one of the participant of the conference), a young Baloch revolutionary leader praised the fact that the world is now realizing the gravity of the situation in Pakistan which has been double-timing the International Community for quite a long time. The world should focus its attention on the Balochistan issue where thousands of Baloch who are fighting for their right to self-determination, are being abducted,tortured and killed by security forces with impunity on daily basis. He said that Baluchistan is bleeding while the world is standing like a silent spectator. Mengal reminded the International Community about its forgotten “PLAN-B” for Balochistan. He called upon his Pashtun brothers to come forward with a joint Baloch-Pashtun strategy to liberate themselves from the cruel clutches of Pakistani Military Establishment. The full text of Munir Mengal speech on the side-lines of the conference can be seen on the link: http://www.crisisbalochistan.com/secondary_menu/news/muni…

The participants of the Conference gave a blunt message to Pakistan that you cannot run with the hare and hunt with the wolf. It is has to un-equivocally declare its policy whether it is with the forces of peace or the forces of destruction and terrorism. Pakistan seems to be embarrassed internally as the public is furious at the political elite praising the Abbottbad episode and the intelligence failure of the Military to detect and stop US incursion into Pakistan violating its territorial integrity and sovereignty. While it is braving tough criticism internationally. So, in face of mounting criticism and pressure instead of fighting it Pakistani government has deliberately decided to abstain from the conference. Therefore, no body was there to answer the criticism. Which is well understood.

KARZAI A PUNCHING BAG:

I was really astonished to note that President Hamid Karzai was criticized for corruption, governance problems, election frauds and drug problems, while his Ambassador was just sitting in the front row and smiling. His own Afghan officials who were suppose to support him, were brutally criticizing his policies and governance. I think he should seriously think over replacing the existing ambassador to France with a new who believe in his government policies and can defend them or he has to revisit his policies. Of course, Corruption is one of the biggest problem of Afghanistan without any doubt. Ordinary Afghans think it be greater problem than Insecurity. Corrupt officials and politicians pocket more than $2.5 billion annually in a poor country like Afghanistan. The policy of talks with Taliban should be encouraged, in case they renounce violence and accept the constitution of Afghanistan with letter and spirit. Commitment to good governance, a fair judicial system and fundamental human rights particularly the rights of women. Commitment to address the problem of narcotics with the assistance of United Nations. It is to be noted that before this event, several International conferences on Afghanistan including Loya Jirgas have been held but sans results. Just talking the talk without concrete actions will lead us to nothing. To achieve results, there must be a joint between talks and actions.

The participants proposed a balance between development-oriented projects and Counterinsurgency Operations. Focusing on just a Military solution will not yield results. If US wants to win hearts and minds of Afghans then it is advisable to approach the problem with a holistic strategy rather than piecemeal and ad-hoc policies. Hearts and minds could only be won by education, socio-economic development, human rights and developing viable judicial, administrative and democratic institutions. To achieve these objectives, a strong political will is required on the part of International Community. If done so, in the near future, I can see a strong Afghanistan with a well-equipped and trained National Army and Police force, where the writ of the government is restored to the rural and urban centers of the country.

Copyright © Fazal ur- Rehman Afridi, 2011

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