The Way Out of Afghan Morass

Posted in United States , Afghanistan | 23-Dec-08 | Source: Gulf in the Media

Khaleej Times

The incoming US president Barack Obama has repeatedly described it as the “main front of America’s war”.

Many in the US and Europe view it as the so-called Good War as against the illegal and unjustified war imposed on Iraq. During the long presidential campaign, Obama constantly attacked President George W Bush for neglecting Afghanistan and rushing to Iraq even when the war on Al Qaeda and Taleban was far from over.

We may not entirely agree with Obama’s stance on Afghanistan. However, there is no doubt that by invading Iraq and taking its sights off the ball in Afghanistan, the Bush administration managed to multiply America’s woes and aggravate the conflict.

The US-led coalition could have been more successful with its Afghan campaign if it had not allowed itself to be lured into the dangerous morass of Mesopotamia.

Which is why during his presidential campaign Obama, if elected, promised to get out of Iraq at the earliest possible and focus completely on the mission incomplete in Afghanistan.

Now in accordance with the incoming president’s plan, the US is planning to double its military presence in Afghanistan. By next summer, more than 60,000 US troops will be stationed in the Central Asian country that remains a daunting challenge to the world’s greatest power eight years after the invasion.

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says 30,000 US troops will be added to the current 30,000 number to strengthen the Western coalition. While these reinforcements could certainly help the US and Nato coalition at a time when it’s on the defensive as it faces a resurgent Taleban.

This year has been the deadliest for the US and Western forces in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion ostensibly to punish the Taleban government for hosting Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden. After being driven out of power and having been on the run for a while, the Taleban have made an amazing comeback. They appear to be growing in strength by each passing day. In fact, the Taleban insurgency and its success are being replicated by their fellow Pashtu tribesmen across the border in Pakistan even as the US drones kill more and more innocent civilians. Their combined force has emerged as a serious challenge to the US-propped government in Kabul as well as the US allies in Islamabad.

This is a problem that is unlikely to be solved by either bolstering the Western forces in Afghanistan or increasing financial aid to the government in Kabul. As the country’s long and troubled history would testify, no foreign power has ever fought the Afghan insurgency and defeated it. The British and Russians learnt it the hard way and the Americans are unlikely to prove the exception.

The only way to end this conflict may be by way of dialogue. The US should encourage and ideally join a three-way dialogue with the Taleban. The Hamid Karazai government has already been in touch with the Taleban leadership and has already held talks with it with the help of Saudi Arabia. This should be expanded to include representatives from the US and Pakistan. Too many innocents have already died in this pointless conflict. It’s time to end this war.