National Security

US Counterterrorism Policy & Peace

By Rana Athar Javed

Decades of war in Afghanistan have resulted in death and destruction to hundreds of thousands innocent people. The continuous cycle of violence has engulfed other countries and thus generated concerns that peace even in distant future is unlikely. “War is properly understood as a method of imposing by force or coercion (lawful or otherwise) – a non-consensual outcome [is the end result]. Negotiation] processes are, by contrast, the use of substantially consensual and deliberative means to settle disputes”.

The ensuing analysis of negotiation and peace strategies demand sacrifices both in terms of conflict resolution and compromise, Afghanistan and Pakistan have been paying tremendous price just because of their strategic location. This is exactly means that at first, it would appear that the negotiation will not go anywhere. Simply, because arguing the shape of a negotiation process would either be not acceptable to the Taliban or the vested foreign interest will ensure that the sufferings and losses continue to generate a permanent state of civil war in a respective country.

In a major counterterrorism address, President Obama outlined newly narrowed guidelines that call for deploying drones only against targets that pose a “continuing, imminent threat” to the United States and only in cases in which avoiding civilian casualties is a “near-certainty. “As our fight enters a new phase, America’s legitimate claim of self-defense cannot be the end of the discussion,” Obama said. “To say a military tactic is legal, or even effective, is not to say it is wise or moral in every instance,” (National Defense University at Fort McNair – May, 24, 2013).

The impression that the US would dramatically change the “drone attack policy” cannot be corroborated with Mr. Obama’s speech because it is rather a share demonstration of success of drone technology – not a strategy to denounce the existing framework of using drone. The CIA’s authority to use drones in Pakistan’s tribal area is not handed over to the military (which is said to be more disciplined) in attacking the militants throughout mostly the Muslim world. Still, rhetoric remains the fundamental tool to convince American public and the wider world that the US military is protecting the civilized world.

In terms of current US counterterrorism policy, the US and NATO seeks a peaceful settlement of Afghan conflict, but the problem was that there was no real possibility of compromise after 9/11 reflects even today. The fact remains that a real possibility of an “imposed” peaceful settlement will in fact be just a waste of time, with intention to inflict more death and destruction.

Additionally, buying billions of dollars’ worth arms for Afghanistan is adding fuel to the fire. The serious matter at hand relates to brewing double policy of the US and the President Karzai, whereas, the negotiation and peace are crucial requirements, intention to buy fighter jets and modern military hardware from India and the US do not adjust to the framework of settlement.

The question is if the US/NATO/ISAF will leave trainers, military supervisors and military hardware behind, then against whom such military build-up will be used? Taliban consider this type of militarism as not only a permanent (Indian/US influence) in Afghanistan, but also the arms might be used by non-Pashtun factions against them (Taliban) in the post 2014. The process of negotiation needs exactly the opposite scheme, that is, establishing a vibrant reconciliation process, considering the demographic/ethnic factor, launching more developmental work, building schools and most importantly building socioeconomic partnership with Pakistan.

Although negotiating on the battlefield sends a stronger signal, but, the problem is that neither party will take risk in surrendering their influence, territory or willing to suspend violence and revenge. These are basic components on the basis of which a cycle of violence continues to defeat a peaceful judgment during the war. It is not affordable any longer to apply rhetoric or propaganda to escape the consequences of asymmetrical warfare. At times, superpowers including the US unfairly and unjustly manage to smother nourishment of a war-torn society because it cannot shield anymore the risks of controlling the popular anti-war forces.

President Obama admitted that the United States has reached a “crossroads” in its fight against terrorism and that it is time to redefine and recalibrate a war that eventually will end. Again, the contextual character of the admission shows that a “new paradigm” shift in war on terror is in progress. Remarkably, the prediction that “…war will end” contains important messages. Redefining war relates to “changing the battlefield”, and may be inventing a new “enemy”, hence warning regional countries that the future Afghan forces will have their US mentors on the battlefield to implement the new approach of collective defence. Here, the other message is attributed to a very long-term and planned focus of the US on South Asia. This assessment is verified by, “President Obama’s further remarks that the [US] “continue to take strikes against high value al-Qaeda targets, but also against forces that are massing to support attacks on coalition forces”.

To be concluded; “negotiation and war have always been juxtaposed and there has always been an obligation, born out of the need to survive, to negotiate with enemies”. In the case of Afghanistan, as an invader the US/NATO are obliged to terminate its war on terror strategy and negotiate a peaceful settlement of Afghan problem. However, since it is the perfect example of dichotomies and parallel decision-making, therefore, the negotiation strategy contradicts with current US counter terrorism policy.

For this matter to be settled, there requires a complex negotiation across multiple cultures, ethnic identities and then powerful warlords. There is nothing wrong with the US idea of providing a blueprint of progress to the Afghan people, however, the approach to negotiate with invaders is not a regular mediatory practice, thereby appears exaggerated and carries anti-dignity factor to the primitive Afghan culture.