Wednesday, 19 January 2011

{EOP}Afghan End-Game Must Be Made-In-Pakistan


Pakistan Must Say ‘No’ To An Operation In North Waziristan. Islamabad must resist American pressure for a new war in North Waziristan. Simply put, it is not in the Pakistani national interest. A better option is to push for peace with all Afghan resistance groups, including Afghan Taliban.
NAJAM MAHMUD | Tuesday | 18 January 2011 | Columnist
KARACHI, Pakistan—Haqqani and Hekmatyar groups are present in North Waziristan but they have never been hostile to Pakistan in anyway. Another militant group, headed by Hafiz Gul Bahadur, is also operating in North Waziristan which has signed a peace deal with the Pakistan Army. This is where the divergence with the United States comes in, since they view these groups as a roadblock to their victory in Afghanistan.
Therefore to weaken these groups the US wants Pakistan Army to launch an operation against them in North Waziristan. However, we must resist this pressure as it is not in our national interest to do so. We must know that while fighting America’s war, we must keep in mind our own strategic interests in this region. The US will sooner or later have to leave but we are here to stay and Afghanistan being a neighboring country will always have significant implications for our own security and well being.
DESPERATION
The United States is desperate for a face-saving exit in Afghanistan and it has been mounting pressure on the Pakistani establishment for a North Waziristan operation. In every strategic dialogue, this seems to be the first and foremost demand by the Americans. The other tactic the US administration has resorted to is the increased drone attacks in North Waziristan and not other Pakistani tribal agencies.
The NATO cross-border violation in October was also just another repulsive and blatantly desperate attempt to put undue pressure on Pakistan. The fact that Pakistan Army stopped the NATO supply line for ten days brought home a humbling lesson not only to NATO but to the Americans and eventually they had to apologize for this aggression.
A perpetual closure of this route will bring a humiliating defeat and surrender of NATO and US forces in Afghanistan, a fact which is now well understood by all parties concerned. Pakistan must use leverage this strategic imperative and ensure that all her long term interests are protected in the region.
Pakistan has been and must continue to build a strong national will at all levels in order to stand up to this pressure. Pakistan must also make the US and NATO realize that the best option for everyone is to work on negotiations with Taliban in North Waziristan, as they are not attacking us and therefore we can play our role for a stable Afghanistan in the post-US scenario.
Pakistan’s military officials have continued to maintain that any operation in North Waziristan would be undertaken only if it is in our interest.
Pakistan is looking not just at the short term but also beyond. In that scenario, most analysts agree that the Afghan Taliban will in some shape and form be part of any political solution that is eventually negotiated for Afghanistan. The US and NATO have to swallow a bitter pill and accept the fact that the Afghan Taliban remain a formidable force and hence without talking to them there can be no peace and stability in Afghanistan nor any face-saving exit for the US and NATO forces.
Pakistan has to follow a clear and bold policy on Afghanistan as only a stable Afghanistan will ensure that the internal security problems of Pakistan also get resolved.
General Kayani has already reiterated that Pakistan’s strategic depth lies in Afghanistan. However that does not mean that Pakistan wants to control Kabul, we simply have a clear and strong desire to see stability. Of course we want friendly and close ties and considering the sacrifices made by the people of Pakistan, expecting this is not only understandable but also critical.
The US has begun to realize that it’s only with Pakistan’s help that any lasting peace can return to Afghanistan.
The fact of the matter is that we have always maintained the need for starting a meaningful dialogue with the Afghan Taliban, something which the USA in the past was totally opposed to but now due to suffering heavily, they too have realized the wisdom of this doctrine.
The move towards peace can gain momentum if the Americans accept that there will never see any military victory in Afghanistan and just as the Soviets lost the war, they too have to accept defeat no matter how they sugarcoat it.
END GAME
There is now a general acceptance in the western governments that negotiating with the Taliban is the only way to bring this failed war to an end. The US must review its policy fully and rather than follow a confused and contradictory approach, come out with a bold peace plan for Afghanistan that is authored by the Pakistani Defense establishment.
The recent visit of US Vice President Joe Biden to Pakistan was to make another attempt at pressurizing Pakistan to conduct a military operation in North Waziristan. The Army high command has said “NO” and that’s a good sign. There will be more pressure down the road, but there simply cannot be a compromise on this and one hopes that the policy stand on this issue will not soften as that would have serious and detrimental implications on our long term security.
Najam Mahmud is a geopolitical analyst and commentator from Pakistan, specializing in politics and international relations. He can be reached at nmahmud71[at]yahoo.com

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