National Security

US, Karzai and Taliban

By Rana Athar Javed

Instead of full cooperation to facilitate a very complex peace process between Afghan Taliban and the US in Qatar, President Karzai is antagonistically opposing the spirit of comprehensive peace. Without waiting for the Americans to “fix confusion” around this multi-level peace plan, Mr. Karzai’s propaganda manipulation against US intentions and Pakistan’s role is just another “PowerPoint exit” plan, which only favors Mr. Karzai’s personal protection program.

Ultimately, such a conflicting advice from Afghan government would cost the US the entire negotiation process and may be a potential reconciliation with Taliban. “The ribbon-cutting [at Doha] turned into a debacle for the United States, which scrambled to defuse Afghan government outrage over the Taliban’s display of its flag and a banner reading “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” Afghanistan’s name during the Taliban rule of the 1990s.”

At a moment when Afghan people and nations across the world actually looking for an “endgame”, and seeking a peaceful US withdrawal in 2014, Karzai’s government, appears to have self-developed plans, which are unclear and only serve the objectives of conflict expansion, thereby more instability in South Asia.

Both the diplomatic rigidity and highly general character of Mr. Karzai is indicative of the depth of his confusion about a “real” peace in Afghanistan. Ostensibly, the great importance of “ending wars” only includes functional and credible political leadership; the farcical discourse about Durand Line and threats to initiate war against Pakistan by Mr. Karzai provides a little or no evidence of him pursuing the path of a peacemaker. Consequently, a bitter-and drawn out diplomatic war between the US, Pakistan and Karzai’s government may compile a definitive reference to Mr. Karzai’s irrelevance, and would make him a textbook case of political liability.

This reflection springs from the historical record of war zones in which the “manufactured” leaders were installed, in order to take the country through a broader political-cum military change, but, then their unstructured authority and due to wrong-headed intelligence assessments, these leaders just refused be helpful to their masters. The reason is that “in operational matters, it is not possible to act like Hamlet, to get up on the stage and talk just words, words, words”. In a fair assessment, the US now needs “deeds”.

The negotiation and peace initiative with Taliban has been deliberated and studied for months, the problem the US face is not with the Taliban, rather than with Mr. Karzai because military commanders argue that Taliban are involved in social, political, military and religious discourse. Should the US reject their comprehensive role? The answer is NO, but modifying the constitution in a way in which every other ethnic aspect along with the Taliban acquires representation, in order to avoid the most dangerous civil war that is looming.

Importantly, if the US and international community is seeking to pronounce victory as the psychological weapon to establish supremacy over Taliban movement then the military strategist and spin doctors in Western capitals must reconsider – as such a program will be detrimental for any future political collaboration between the US and the Taliban.

Logically, since Taliban fighting the US/NATO and Afghan forces and “With 2014 approaching, the Taliban will announce they have the upper hand and it was due to their fighting and campaign that the foreigners left…It gives them credibility on the political side.” Culturally and tactically, the Afghans have never been defeated by foreign invaders, hence creates even further complexity for the Taliban, especially in terms of accepting any negotiation and peace plan which undercuts their pride and victorious past.

To be concluded, the simple concept of learning from the history of invaders in Afghanistan would help reducing the risk for the US, and trying to develop a comprehensive peace plan with Taliban will provide greater flexibility to establish a stable government in post-2014 Afghanistan. For Mr. Karzai, the simple concept of learning from the history of those leaders who grew out of conflict is that in the end almost all of them either were being ousted or abruptly disappeared.

Even in the recognition of Mr. Karzai’s loyalty and services to the US/Indian interests, it would be impossible for the US and other Western nations to terminate the rare opportunity of negotiating a credible peace in Afghanistan. The US must not surrender to Mr. Karzai’s diplomatic rigidity and, continue to work with Taliban, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Japan, UK, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Pakistan to stabilize Afghanistan and the region.