Friday, 21 November 2008

AHMED RASHID on Afghanistan and Pakistan

Following memo is a coverage of the lecture that Mr. Ahmed Rashid has given to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly that have met in Valencia. Mr. Rashid published an article in Foreign Affairs that one should definitely read - see link.

“Taliban is winning but it can not win. NATO is loosing, but it can not loose.”Taliban can not take over the cities and establish their control over any significant territory. NATO can not loose due to the extensive presence of troops, but it can not eradicate terrorist groups and insurgency.
Interference by neighbouring countries, poppy cultivation, drug trafficking and non-functioning governance does not help the settlement of problems in Afghanistan.
Pakistan has a huge impact on the development of situation in Afghanistan. Little has been done to achieve greater economic and political reforms in the country. One was able to witness the raise of Pakistani Taliban instead. Previously these groups were coming from Afghanistan into the bordering tribal areas seeking for a shelter. Now it has become an area of activity. Arguments for this were sought in the growth of its ambition and purpose of the need of establishing a sharia state in Pakistan. Military - civil relations are not functioning in Pakistan, two clusters of the elite have different perception of threat. Pakistan is not prepared for tackling the terrorism threat. Army sees India as a major threat and the civilian government believes in the raising threat from home grown terrorism groups.
Tribal areas are under continuous scrutiny and pressure is mounting on Pakistani to exercise greater control and reach out by the central government, so far this strategy has not brought sufficient progress.Pakistan is facing this situation due to:- War in Iraq- Failure of nation building strategy- NATO has arrived too late - Instead of empowering government, warlords were empowered, which hindered its development- NATO has two big shortcomings to its strategy in Afghanistan: - national caveats that are extensively abused by the Taliban, since the information on those are equally available to NATO forces, media and Taliban;- No regional strategy and little understanding of the role that neighbouring countries are playing.
Surge in Afghanistan should not be only the surge of troops, but rather a comprehensive surge that would increase support to Afghanistan in numerous strategically important areas. Need to start a major international dialogue to lead regional reconciliation, which could be brokered by the UN. We need a multiple diplomatic initiative in the region. Afghanistan will not be solved without the regional political and economic strategy.
Economic under development, has a great influence for the drafting of new terrorists and insurgents from the broader region surrounding Afghanistan. It currently seems as if NATO has to talk to Taliban because it is weakened and not capable to hold the ground it took charge of in the country. Any show of weakness will be received by Taliban as a proof that dialogue is not in their interests and that their actions in Afghanistan bears fruit.
Elections in Afghanistan must happen. Credibility and legality of the entire Western presence will be in serious doubt. Failure to organise elections will spur a dire crisis on the national level in Afghanistan. Election requires much more preparations and work, with massive security installations. International community should avoid sending blurred message on the future, it has to be strong and decisive. There is an opportunity with the new American administration, but efforts need to be made straight away. The heat is on.
It is essential that in Pakistan international community backs the civilian government. The government makes a strong effort in rectifying mistakes of the past made by the military regime. There are very few tools, except engaging with the military. Easing the tensions with India is very important, since this would calm down the military and focus will be given to the terrorism threat that is growing. Indian presence in Afghanistan is rather problematic for Pakistanis. Interference in each others relations for India and Pakistan has a long tradition which is done by both sides. One of the biggest under achievements in Afghanistan is the failure of the international community to rebuild the infrastructure. Making Afghan economy work is a complex process and it will not happen overnight, but without infrastructure it won’t happen at all. Investment in roads, electricity, and water is absolutely necessary.
United States have had success in their targeted attacks in the Pakistan territory. There is nevertheless a massive civilian casualties, which in the long term might become not sustainable. There is a lot of unease in the tribal areas and within the Islamabad. Most missile strikes are aimed at Al Qaeda, but also Taliban leaders living in tribal areas. Unless the Pakistani army is serious about taking seriously the Taliban that is present in Tribal areas, US might continue the strikes. The current reactions from the Pakistani government were more for the public consumption protesting against such moves, while on the other hand there is a clear understanding that government is quite happy with the results of those strikes.
If Obama makes a good link between Pakistan and India conflict in Kashmir and its resolution, this can have a positive impact on the situation in Afghanistan. If India does not engage US and Pakistan, then it might soon end up having a border with the Taliban and it is clear that Delhi does not want that to happen.
Al Qaeda is making 10 times the money Taliban is making, because they are selling and trafficking drugs to the West, while Taliban makes rather limited distribution. However it is clear that there is a mechanism for sharing resources between the two. Taliban recently discovered the communication and media, which confirms that resources are there.
Pakistan Intelligence Agency is fully dependent on the military. They have expanded greatly and are involved in policy making. Liberals in Pakistan are astonished to see Mullahs from the villages of Pakistan allowed to the UK by the government. The policy of allowing these Mullahs in is not very helpful, since this was further isolating and closing the Pakistan communities and making them more religious and consequently more extreme in their views. Europe is not serious about the threat it is facing. The cells of terrorist groups have multiplied in their number in the EU states. Al Qaeda has also increased their language capacities, being able to teach their supporters in French or German.
Afghanistan should be the priority for Europe, maybe much more than for the US. Many governments in the EU, are hiding from their responsibility in the region.
Iranians don’t have the dialogue with Americans. There are fears in Iran, that Afghanistan soil will be used to attack Iran. Dialogue between US and Iran is necessary, because Iranians do not like the Sunni Taliban, but they feel that if US attacks Iran, then Taliban can be useful in pushing back the US troops before they enter the Iran border.If there can not be settlement on the issue of nuclear non-proliferation between US and Iran. Maybe discussions can be held on Afghanistan. This could be possible and in interest of both sides.
Expansion of Afghani army is necessary, it is critical to build further their capacity in order to have some more sustainable security situation. Afghani police is often considered to be on the wrong side. They are not supporting the public, but instead harass the population. There is often infiltration of Taliban in the police force.

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