Obama's Peace Trip to Kabul?

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To understand fully the ramifications of the American president Obama's recent surprise peace visit to Kabul, it is first essential to understand the positions of the 6 key players involved in the current Afghan conundrum: the USA, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, China, India and the Taliban as follows:

•1. The American Position:

With the Obama Administration firmly in the place after one year in the office in Washington after two successive wins for Obama in the last 10 days in terms  of the successful historic health insurance reform bill and the conclusion of nuclear-disarmament talks with Russia, one can notice clearly the enhanced enthusiasm amongst its key players including Obama himself as reflected in Obama' recent surprise visit to Kabul for the war update.

Obama is said to have told Hamid Karzai, the current Afghan president to make progress on things like a merit-based system for appointment of key government officials, battling the corruption, taking the fight to the narco-traffickers, which fuels and provides a lot of economic engine for the insurgents.

The current Afghan visit by Obama seems to be a conscious continuous part of the foreign policy of Obama, aimed at breaking up sharply from the Bush-era of mutual distrust and suspicion with respect to the Muslim world.

Simultaneously, Obama intends ensuring the full security of the American interests without letting the Anti-American interests gain the upper hand amongst the world Muslim population, especially in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That's why he hasn't pulled out the American troops from Afghanistan and instead has permitted to let the number of the American troops increase by 30,000 to a grand total of 100,000 by the end of the year 2010 in Afghanistan in addition to more than 40,000 troops from other NATO members.

•2. The Saudi Arabian Position:

The Saudi Arabian government must use its good offices with Pakistan to convince and persuade the later to desist from creating a political mess in terms of encouraging the certain Taliban elements [Pak or Afghan] to keep fighting against the coalition forces, especially when a totally Peace-Oriented statesperson like Obama is in command of the Presidency at the White House.

The Saudi Arabia must use its all political capital to dissuade all the Talibani elements from getting into fight with the coalition forces in Kandhar, the southern Afghan province, where a bigger fight than that took place in Marja, Helmand is said to be looming large.

•3. The Pakistani Position:

The Pakistani Establishment's temptation to try to use the Taliban card to gain the strategic depth in Afghanistan is quite misplaced. Assuming that Pakistan gets the full handle in Afghanistan, what shall Pakistan then gain? Will it then try to use that handle as a launching pad to influence, colonize or destabilize the other central Asian nation-States including Afghanistan itself? Will it then try to help China get a land route to the Indian Ocean through the Afghanistan-Pakistan land corridor?

Let us examine critically all these questions one by one:

  • 1. Pakistan cannot use Afghanistan as a launching pad, as it'll be biting more than its capacity to chew, leading to the draining out of the economic resources of an already weakened- Pakistan. Russia has become wary of the Cyclonic Pak-Afghan political boundary. 

The Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov is quoted to have said in the aftermath of the recent twin suicide blast at Moscow subway stations killing at least 39 people, that Moscow "is well informed about the so-called no-man's land on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan," where "the terrorist underground has entrenched itself." 

  • 2. Already, Pakistan is increasingly finding it difficult to handle divisive tendencies in Sindh and the North West Frontier Province. The Occupation of Afghanistan shall only mean opening up the unknown Pandora box containing the sure recipe for full disintegration of Pakistan. 

Moreover, even China may find the Pakistani presence in Afghanistan increasingly harmful to the Chinese interests in terms of the then increased propensity of the Muslim extremists to use Afghanistan to foment trouble in Chinese areas like Uighur,etc.

  • 3. Trying to get China a land passage to the Indian Ocean shall only disturb the international political equilibrium and inevitably invite the wrath of the White House which in turn would lead to drying up of the much needed and valuable irreplaceable diverse aid from the USA.

Of course, It is not to deny the Pakistan Foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi's perceptibly correct claim that Pakistan has more stake in war-torn Afghanistan, than India. This claim seems to be true in view of the facts of Pakistan having a troublesome,

long, porous, cyclonic political boundary inhabited on both sides by Muslims with Afghanistan in the north, unlike India.This phenomenon may best be understood from the term ‘Conjoined brothers' used by Hamid Karzai to describe Afghanistan and Pakistan.

If the Pakistan's intention behind using the Taliban card was to try to extract whatever possible from the USA, the intention has already been carried out with the Obama Administration having committed abundant and sufficient help to Pakistan barring the Nuke-deal, during Quereshi's recent visit to Washington despite the Pakistani Establishment's inability to create a favorable view of the USA amongst a majority of the Pakistani population.

Beyond this, Washington is unlikely to be forced into giving more concessions to Pakistan. The erstwhile USSR is no more present in Afghanistan as an excuse to try to get military-financial aid from the USA. Any further attempts by Pakistan to use the Taliban card in any ways to get more shall only in all likelihood risk the delicate elastic thread of the friendship binding the White House and the Pakistani Establishment.

•4. The Chinese Position:

The Chinese government may find it politically useful to have a stable Afghanistan in its south-west as has already been explained above.

•5. The Indian Position:

The Indian Establishment is quite famous for coming up with the funny and outdated foreign policy ideas. It was recently reported to have insisted on the desirability of only the REINTEGRATION and not the RECONCILIATION of the Taliban citing the absurd logic of these two concepts being invariably different. According to it, the Taliban may be encouraged to join the political mainstream, but not permitted to share the political power.

But, the reality is that these two concepts are mutually inter-related.  The one without the other is totally meaningless, worthless and useless. This Indian confused-conceptuality has perhaps led to the continuance of the problems like the Naxalism and the NSCN, etc. in India.

The opposition political parties in India have on numerous occasions accused the current ruling Congress party in New Delhi of having used the Naxalites for political convenience in Andhra Pradesh without ever bothering about solving the Naxalism forever.

Ditto, Shibu Soren is accused of using the Naxals for political gains in Jharkhand. The part of the problem lies in the Indian attitude of not letting these forces have a share in political power. Wherever and whenever such forces were encouraged and given a chance to taste the political power, they ceased to be a political problem.

For example, the student unrest in Assam in the North-East India led by the Asom Gana Sangram Parishad [AGSP] came to an end once the AGSP came to political power in Assam.

No doubt, here, one may argue that the AGSP and the Taliban are two entirely different cases with the former having been a democratic force with the later being a dogmatic and fundamentalist force having no respect for the democratic ethos. Partly t rue.

The other far bigger part of the reality is this: The Taliban was primarily created with the help of the partly democratic Pakistani Establishment and then remote controlled by the ISI. It's true that different officers of the ISI have been attacked by the Taliban at Peshawar, Lahore and Multan in the last year-and-a-half directly.

Again, this only represents the part-picture. It doesn't in any way means a loss of the full love between the Pakistani Establishment and the Taliban. Like in any organization, there are bound to be a few dissenting voices in the Taliban too. The attacks mentioned above seem to be the handiwork of this minority - the dissident voices within the Taliban.

Anyone who has worked in any worthy intelligence set-up shall tell you bluntly this perceptible truth: The Taliban can never be fully operational without at least some amount of support from the Pakistani Establishment. So, one may naturally conclude emphatically that the USA must be able to lead the Taliban to the Democratic path via effective influence over the Pakistani Establishment.

•6. The Taliban Position:

The Taliban has erroneously termed Obama's intentions to withdraw troops from Afghanistan as a weakness of the USA and a victory for the Taliban. The factual reality is that the USA is still a very powerful military machine. But, Obama has decided wisely to give the peace a chance in the region by announcing the American troop withdrawal.

The Taliban fails to realize that the claims of a victory only tend to weaken Obama's hands back at home with the opposition demanding for an indefinite stay of the American troops in Afghanistan. This in turn forces the Obama Administration to try to stay put in Afghanistan and be seen as winning the war and not losing it.

The Taliban leadership need understand and appreciate the genuineness of Obama's intentions to bring peace in Afghanistan. It mustn't make Obama seem weak by declaring it a victory for the Taliban if the American troops are moved out of Afghanistan.

Just as Obama is trying to give peace a chance in Afghanistan, so should the Taliban elements and the Pakistani Establishment. The Taliban mustn't insist on the withdrawal of the foreign troops as a pre-condition for the reconciliation. The Taliban must renounce the violence, not be fooled by those trying to make it fight to the finish with the foreign troops, join the political mainstream and reconcile with the Hamid Karzai government.

Many valuable human lives were lost on all sides in the battle for Marja, Helmand with the Taliban beating a retreat. The same case-scenario is most likely to happen in the battle for Kandhar, too.

So, what is the Taliban or their handlers trying to manage? Is it to show that the Americans can't get away without paying a price in terms of the loss of lives of the American soldiers? Well, this is an absurd logic. Even the Taliban itself is losing precious human lives in terms of its cadres.

Or is it that some of these handlers are trying to show that without mediation for a financial price paid by the White House to these handlers, the Taliban elements are unmanageable? Well, the USA is powerful enough not to get bullied into such tricks.

The Most Important Ramifications:

  • 1. The surprise visit is likely to make Hamid Karzai understand better the heightened sense of the importance of Afghanistan in the mental geography of Obama and initiate instantly the Obama-Suggested-Remedial-Measures, especially now that he [Obama] has emerged relaxed fully from the major health insurance issue at the home.
  • 2. It is likely to send a strong signal to the Pakistani Establishment to do its bit to help speed up the peace process in Afghanistan.
  • 3. It is going to make the Taliban realize that the USA isn't going to run away from Afghanistan on a losing stand.
  • 4. It is likely to be perceived as a measure of solidarity of Obama with the foreign troops battling the insurgents in Afghanistan.
  • 5. The most important of all, it is likely to convince the rest of the world about the seriousness and genuineness of Obama as regards the quick restoration of the badly needed Win-Win-for-All-Peace in Afghanistan and consequently may speed up the peace process in Afghanistan.
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