The Last Hurdle to Afghan Peace

Brigadier Simon Saraf wrote a piece on the Afghanistan “peace” process that reflects the Paknationalist viewpoint. Major Amin has added his comments to it. (Major Amin’s comments are bolded). Major Amin is a military history aficionado who has decades of on the ground experience in Afghanistan.  

The last hurdle to Afghan peace

https://nation.com.pk/02-Feb-2019/the-last-hurdle-to-afghan-peace

Taliban and USA are in constant negotiations over withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan. A draft pact addressing mutual sensitivities is concluded. The two parties facilitated by Pakistan will again meet towards end February to build a roadmap on the skeletal agreement.  

APPEARANCES ARE DECEIVING— US HAS NO STRATEGY AND ITS ACTIONS ARE ACTIONS OF A LAME DESPERATE PRESIDENT BESIEGED BY SCANDALS AND A MINORITY IN CONGRESS–THIS MAKES HIM MORE DESPERATE THAN THE MOST UNDERFED TALIBAN–MR TRUMP WANTS TO NEGOTIATE A US WITHDRAWAL WHICH WOULD BE COMPLETED BY THE TIME ELECTIONS ARE ON THE TOP AND HE MAY WIN THE ELECTIONS—AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTAN CAN GO TO HELL—A.H AMIN

The best solutions must consider lessons learnt from the Soviet withdrawal in 1989, leaving power in hands of proxies and ignoring a broad based representative government. A representative government for Afghanistan does not mean democracy. Besides the people, it also means co-opting various warring groups, warlords and educated elites. Links with drug mafia and gun running are intrinsic. So unless these groups are satisfied, they have many supporters to make them disruptive. 

BROAD BASED REPRESENTATIVE GOVERNMENT WAS NEVER THE LESSON IN SOVIET AFGHAN WAR— PAKISTAN HAD ITS STOOGES–LOWEST RUNG MULLAHS LIKE HAQQANI WHO AS PER HIS ISI HANDLER COL QASIM ABBAS STANK SO MUCH THAT THEN MAJOR QASIM MADE HIM SIT IN THE OPEN BACK BODY OF HIS VEHICLE–THERE WAS NO BROAD BASE IN SOVIET AFGHAN WAR AND NO BROAD BASE NOW–ONLY STOOGES-PAKISTANI STOOGES OR IRANIAN STOOGES OR AMERICAN STOOGES OR RUSSIAN STOOGES OR INDIAN STOOGES—A.H AMIN

USA, the Afghan resistance, Taliban and Pakistan have been here before as a resistance to Soviet occupation and then a broad based alliance approved by Pakistan and USA. 

Return of warlords gave meteoric rise to Taliban. They over ran most Mujahedeen groups led by warlords and fought fierce battles with Al Qaeda. 

AL QAEDA NEVER EXISTED — FOUGHT AFGHAN WAR AS LOGISTICS ADVISOR OF A SIDE –NEVER SAW AL QAEDA–BASED IN AFGHANISTAN SINCE 2001–NEVER SAW AL QAEDA—DAESH IS ALSO A FICTIONAL ENTITY THAT THE PAKISTANI STATE INVENTS WHEN IT GUNS DOWN INNOCENTS LIKE AT SAHIWAL

Then came 9/11; a strategic time jump that caught everyone unprepared. Taliban became the enemy and Pakistan an untrusted ally. The logic of Afghan invasion was not built on strategic logic.  Emotive factors of revenge, hate and superiority slowly deflated egos. The cost in terms of bloodshed and human misery has been colossal. 

PAKISTAN WAS NEVER TRUSTED—BUT REALPOLITIKS HAD ITS COMPULSIONS AND THE USA HAD DECIDED TO GET RID OF ZIA WELL BEFORE HIS DEATH—A.H AMIN

The best chance for peace was created by Pakistan in 1996. All Afghan factions had agreed to peace. During negotiations led by Nasser Ullah Babar, Taliban agreed to moderating themselves and converting Afghanistan into a federation with a power sharing formula. Benazir was unceremoniously removed by President Leghari just a day after the draft agreement had been agreed. Benazir Bhutto and Babar maintained it was the first non-military coup. The draft peace agreement was forever lost. 

THE TALIBAN HAD NEVER AGREED TO PEACE–THEIRS WAS A CLEAR GAMBIT —A COVER TO GAIN TIME IN 1996 AS NOW IN 2019—PLAIN DECEPTION–BECAUSE TALIBAN WERE PROXIES IN 1996 AND PROXIES NOW TODAY IN 2019 AND DO AS THEIR STATE HANDLERS DIRECT THEM— JUST LIKE PAKISTANI JUDGES FOLLOW THE HANDLER–A.H AMIN

In 2002, it was with Benazir’s intervention that the Taliban agreed to make a Lockerberie out of Osama Bin Laden. USA dissented and walked out of negotiations that could have spared the world this War on Terror. Seymour Hersh speculated her to be a victim of special assassination squads.

FAR FETCHED — RIDICULOUS TO CLAIM THAT BENAZIR HAD ANY LEVERAGE TO PERFORM SUCH A TESTING GYMNASTIC MANOEUVRE—A.H AMIN

Instability in Afghanistan provided leverage to intimidate Pakistan and also checkmate China and Russia. For nearly two decades, Pakistan resisted the instability trajectories framed against it. It became a nuclear power, endured over a decade of sanctions, fought a decade long l counter terrorism campaign and strengthened democracy.  

PAKISTAN GAINED THE MOST —ITS PUNJAB AND SINDH PROVINCES GAINED INFRASTRUCTURE— PAKISTANS ECONOMY SHOWED HIGHEST GROWTH RATE IN SOVIET AFGHAN WAR AND US AFGHAN WAR—PAKISTANI STATES MOST CREDIBLE INTERNAL THREAT PASHTUN SEPARATISM WAS DEFEATED AND PASHTUNS DEGRADED TO MOST MENIAL PAWNS OF THE PAKISTANI STATE—ALL WENT WELL TILL MUSHARRAF AND KIANIS UNPROVOKED FABRICATED FATA WAR MADE THE PASHTUNS ONCE AGAIN CHALLENGERS OF THE PAKISTANI STATE

Objectives of keeping Afghanistan destabilised with domino effect on Pakistan were never served. Though President Trump wants to get out, his logic may not be shared by most around him. In the interim, various state and non-state actors are positioning themselves for the ‘good, bad and ugly’. 

ALL ALONG USA AS A STATE LACKED THE STRATEGIC RESOLUTION TO CONFRONT THE PAKISTANI STATE OR EVEN DESTABILISE IT— AT THE HIGHEST LEVEL US DECISION MAKERS SPURNED INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY SUGGESTIONS TO FULLY FINANCE BALOCH SEPARATISTS ETC

AS A DECLINING STATE USA WAS MEEK AND TIMID IN CONFRONTING PAKISTAN THROUGHOUT—A.H AMIN

Vibes coming from Taliban are encouraging. They have shown readiness towards moderation, power sharing and building an inclusive Afghanistan. They are unwilling to talk to the Afghan government labelling it a US puppet. Zalmay Khalilzad is back cajoling and convincing the Afghan government. This is an onerous task for a diplomat notorious for his anti-Taliban and anti-Pakistan stance. Most likely, he is once again adjusting his sails. Not to lag behind, former President Hamid Karzai is also busy making himself relevant. 

THERE ARE NO VIBES FROM TALIBAN—THEY ARE PAWNS AT STRATEGIC LEVEL AND HAVE TO DO AS PAKISTANI HANDLERS TELL THEM — THE PRESENT SITUATION IS A STRATEGIC BLUFF AND TALIBAN WILL ESCALATE AFTER USA LEAVES AFGHANISTAN COMPLETELY–BY THAT TIME 2020 ELECTIONS WOULD HAVE BEEN DECIDED– EITHER TRUMP WOULD HAVE WON ELECTIONS OR LOST THEM AND OF NO CONSEQUENCE–A.H AMIN

HOWEVER TALIBAN WILL NOT HAVE A CLEAN RUN AND WILL BE CONTESTED AT LINE KABUL SHINDAND EVEN IF USA ABANDONS AFGHANISTAN–THIS WOULD HAPPEN AS ANTI TALIBAN FORCES WOULD BE SUPPORTED BY RUSSIA–IRAN–INDIA ETC–A.H AMIN

The prospects of ‘finally the peace’ are raised by President Trump who wants his troops back home. There is some engagement in US-Pakistan military diplomacy. Pakistan and USA air forces held a joint drill exercise to raise the confidence building bar. The Taliban agreement with USA will not be possible without Pakistan’s inclusion as a guarantor. It seems that in tandem, USA will also reach consensus with Pakistan over mutually agreeable sensitivities. This implies a major shift in US policy that kept the region unstable after withdrawal of USSR. This major shift will be the biggest tumbling block to peace. 

THIS IS AGAIN A TOTALLY FALLACIOUS PREMISE—US WITHDRAWAL WOULD MULTIPLY INSTABILITY TEN FOLD AND FORCE THE INDIANS , IRANIANS AND RUSSIANS TO ACT 1000 TIMES MORE DESPERATELY SO THAT TALIBAN ARE CONTAINED AT LINE KABUL SHINDAND–A.H AMIN

There is no doubt that Pakistan is facilitating this latest round of diplomacy. Indirectly, Pakistan’s proactive engagements and diplomacy in the Gulf is also bearing fruit. Economic engagements provide multiple proportions to economic corridors. This is a very positive sign; only so if it reaches its logical conclusion. Pakistan is unilaterally allaying US fears. 

AFGANISTAN WOULD REMAINED CONDEMNED TO WAR AS PAKISTANI STATE CAN NEVER ACHIEVE COMPLETE DOMINATION — THE BOTTOM LINE IS THAT TALIBAN ARE NOT WANTED BY AT LEAST 50 % OF THE POPULATION—USA OR NO USA AFGHANISTAN WOULD BE DIVIDED IN TWO PARTS–A.H AMIN

But there are detractors eager to subvert this diplomacy and throw it on a tangent. 

India and Afghanistan are not happy. It is evident that terrorist attack in Loralai Pakistan was allegedly backed by Afghanistan as retaliation to a Taliban attack on NDS headquarters in Wardak Afghanistan.  Within the region, it is street talk that NDS provides a cover to Indian RAW for terrorism inside Pakistan. 

SO MUCH WEEPING ABOUT LORALAI—AFGHAN STATE HAS BEEN CONSTANTLY UNDER ATTACK SINCE 1978 BY PROXIES OPERATING FROM PAKISTAN—IF POOR AMRULLAH SALEH VISITED LORALAI TWICE WHY SO MUCH HUE AND CRY ?  A.H AMIN

If peace does prevail in Afghanistan, India will be deprived of its major springboard against Pakistan. India will also find itself isolated from the economic activity in the region. How India will reposition itself is a question that shall impact stability in Afghanistan.  US director of National Intelligence (DNI) did not mince his words in support of India. 

INDIA AND IRAN WILL RETAIN THEIR POSITION IN AFGHANISTAN WITHOUT US SUPPORT— EVEN AFGHANS KNOW THAT THEY CANNOT FACE THE TALIBAN WITHOUT INDIAN OR IRANIAN SUPPORT— THE BOTTOM LINE IS THAT COMPLETE TALIBAN VICTORY (ULTERIOR AIM OF RAWALPINDI-ISLAMABAD) WILL NOT BE IN (1) RUSSIA (2) IRAN OR (3) INDIAS INTEREST SO AFGANISTAN WOULD REMAIN CONTESTED–A.H AMIN

Both Russia and China are also backing the peace process and reportedly in constant contact with the Taliban leadership. Iran cannot be far behind. So while Zalmay Khalilzad is busy with the Afghan government, Russia will be hosting the Taliban and Afghan politicians opposed to President Ashraf Ghani on Tuesday. The list includes former President Hamid Karzai. Russian role as power broker is considered as muddling by a US official.  

RUSSIA IS BACKING PEACE AS IT WANTS TO HAVE ITS OWN TALIBAN– ALREADY RUSSIANS HAVE CREATED THEIR OWN TALIBAN IN NORTH USING DOSTUM, NORTHERN ALLIANCE ETC–CHINA AND PAKISTAN ARE ONE ENTITY –PAKISTAN BEING FUTURE AUTONOMOUS REGION OF CHINA

The signals coming from USA are confusing. Many segments of US policy making are not satisfied with the latest developments. This indicates disagreements within the US establishment on the course of future policy objectives. 

THE INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY IS DAGGERS DRAWN WIT TRUMP AND USA WOULD REMAIN DIVIDED AND CONFUSED–A.H AMIN

The office of the Special Inspector General Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) does not present a healthy picture of Afghan stability. Recently, US director of DNI, Mr. Daniel Coats presenting a threat assessment said, “Militants groups in Pakistan will continue to take advantage of their safe havens there to plan and conduct attacks in neighbouring countries and possibly beyond”. Pakistan was quick to retort to this insult calling it politically motivated and counterproductive to trust building between the two countries. 

SIGAR IS A TRADITIONAL SCEPTIC BUT SIGARS ASSESSMENTS ARE NOT 100 % REALISTIC–SAFE HAVENS ARE VERY MUCH THERE– THE USA KNOWS IT AND PAKISTAN KNOWS IT — WITHOUT SAFE HAVENS IN PAKISTAN TALIBAN COULD NOT HAVE LASTED 3 TO 7 DAYS—.A.H AMIN

All may not be well. Thinkers in Capitol Hill remain in awe of Russia, China and Pakistan. They are still insisting on factorising India in the equation. Russia having learnt from history does not want India around. 

AGAIN FAR FETCHED—RUSSIAN INDIAN RELATIONS ARE TOO STRONG .–A.H AMIN

The intensity of this opposition is evident in a turnaround of President Trump who has declared that he is in agreement with his intelligence chiefs. Does this concurring includes Pakistan in ‘threat perception’ will become evident as negotiations proceed?

Herein rest the future of Afghan diplomacy and peace. 

POOR TRUMP IS DEEPLY DISTURBED – EATING TOO MUCH FAST FOOD AND ONLY WANTS TO WIN THE NEXT ELECTIONS WHICH APPEARS TO BE A FAR FETCHED AIM—BUT TO DO THAT TRUMP WOULD GLADLY DITCH AFGHANS AND THROW THEM FOR TALIBAN TO DEVOUR AND EAT—BUT TALIBAN WOULD NOT STILL HAVE A CLEAN RUN AS MANY STATES WOULD STILL SUPPORT ANTI TALIBAN FORCES—A.H AMIN g

Dr Hamid Hussain (our other regular military history contributor) has some comments on this topic:

COMMENTS OF DR HAMID HUSSAIN

Thanks Agha for the piece and your very valid comments.  Sam is a good chap but to try to read tea leaves of Afghanistan is no easy task and surely Staff College Quetta solutions are not applicable.  Majority of Pakistanis including otherwise well informed Pakistanis know only basics but not aware of the details (this is based on my own interactions with a large number of Pakistani officers who directly dealt with Afghanistan over the last three decades).

I tend to agree with you that next round of ‘buz kushi’ is around the corner.  The depth of anger and hatred of many common Afghans as well as those who matter against Pakistan is not taken into equation by Pakistani policy makers.  We do not need to agree with it but this factor needs to be taken into the equation.  I recall comments by some Afghans as early as 2002 warning their neighbors especially Pakistan & Iran.  One Afghan said that last time we simply left our land to become refugees and neighbors tried to play the war game to the last Afghan.  He warned that this time, if neighbors don’t change their behavior then we will make sure that winds of destruction will not be limited to our homeland but will send this fire right across the border.  Food for thought for Pakistan & Iran especially events of last two years.

There is another school though not influential.  According to this theory why US is sinking blood and treasure into the bottomless pits of Afghanistan & Syria etc?  US is in competition or clash with many state and non-state actors in both theatres and presence of US is actually beneficial to all of them.  They are gaining strength at US expense.  The ‘Mad House’ theory stipulates that actually by a rapid withdrawal of US forces from both Afghanistan & Syria will suck in all foes of America into that vaccum.  In case of Afghanistan, Pakistan and China on one side and Iran, India and Russia on the other side will spend economic & diplomatic resources.  In case of Syria, Bashar, Iran, Russia, Turkey, Gulf Sheikhdoms will bleed each other.  Decades of sanctions against Iran were not effective but sucking Tehran in the sands of Afghanistan & Syria will surely drain economy that will boomerang with public anger that can erode the very foundations of the Ayatollah’s rule.

Countries like Afghanistan & Syria and in fact every nation with internal conflicts will still have these problems.  World will continue in it’s own ways of small and large wars even if Americans simply sat on their armchair smoking Cuban cigars.  Imagine the carnage if they decide to use ethnic and sectarian minorities.  At the end of the day, everyone needs to put their house in order to break this cycle of violence.

As far as my own views are concerned about Afghanistan, it has evolved.  In the immediate aftermath of 11 September and US decision of marching towards Afghanistan, I thought for a short while whether this could be the moment for Afghanistan which Japan had in the aftermath of defeat in Second World War.  Japanese as a nation took a historical detour that changed the destiny of their people forever.  There was hope that Afghanistan may make that historical detour.  In my euphoria, I probably overlooked everything else especially history of the region.  I fully understood that patience has never been an American virtue and this cast doubts on my part.  I was blindsided by another fact that American policy revolved around presidential cycle every four years.  Halfway through the project (somewhere around 2006-07), I came to the conclusion that US didn’t have the knowledge, vision and mechanisms in place to carry on with the project.  Now, it was time to start disengagement process and cut losses.  This lingered on for another decade and now we at the same cross road in 2019.  I’ll now prefer a more quick pull back probably within 2019 along with almost complete evacuation of diplomatic staff.  This will allow for more room of manouvrability in areas where important US interests are concerned.  Let the smaller nations play the amateur version of the Great Game that should be re-named Little Game.  UN can be given a larger role of bringing Afghans and their uncles in the tent to sort things out.

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex and more violent; but it takes a touch of genius and lots of courage to move something in the opposite direction.” Albert Einstein

Regards,

Hamid

0