Trump’s Afghan policy is a failure – US should do more in Afghanistan

PRESIDENT Donald Trump’s decision to recommit the United States to the war in Afghanistan, what he said, on the basis of the ground realities, is reflective of the fact that he does not understand the ground realities. When more than 130,000 troops from 51 NATO and partner nations that conducted security operations and helped build up the Afghan security forces could not defeat the Taliban, how a few thousands of addition to already 8400 US forces could defeat the Taliban? There is a perception that few thousands of US and NATO troops will not have much of an impact on the conflict’s trajectory. The security situation in Afghanistan is worrisome. Amid persistent problems within the Afghan security forces, Afghanistan’s political system remains in dysfunction. Anyhow, the US failed to achieve its principal objective since the 9/11 attacks i.e. to ensure that the country does not become a haven for terrorist groups.

Another flaw in Trump’s Afghan strategy is that President Trump wants India to play a more active role in finding a political solution in Afghanistan. He has sought an enhanced role for India in bringing peace in Afghanistan while announcing his Afghanistan and South Asia policy in his inaugural address. The question is what role India can play in bringing peace in Afghanistan when Afghans in general and the Taliban in particular would not accept India’s role in Afghanistan. Of course, India has clout in groups that were once part of Northern Alliance; it has its proxies in National Directorate of Intelligence, and has been able to cultivate relations with President Ashraf Ghani, thus India can only play a negative role in creating problems for Pakistan. India is reportedly financing the TTP leaders that are ensconced in Kunar.

According to a report, Indian forces have started participating in military operation in Afghanistan against the Taliban. A few Indians are present in US Camp Dwyer in Gramsier district of Helmand along with 2 Indian MI-25 gunship helicopters, participating against militants in Helmand. It is pertinent to mention here that officially Indians deny any participation in operations against Taliban to avoid direct confrontation and response from them. In fact, Indians were hand in gloves with former President Hamid Karzai, who was spiritedly berthing the Indians overbearingly powerfully in his state structure, while keeping the shrill on noisily that Pakistan was supporting the Taliban. From the very start, Karzai had two Indian Advisors occupying key positions in his own office. There was a proposal at that time that drew very serious consideration in New Delhi in 2008, which was held back by some wise Indians, who warned that India could bog down in Afghanistan.

Recently, a major medical treatment facility used by the Taliban has been discovered by Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) during an operation in Syedabad district in central Maidan Wardak province on 7 Dec 2017. Afghan officials claimed that the facility was used for the treatment of Taliban insurgents from different provinces including Paktia, Ghazni and other parts of city. Facility was well-equipped and was used for treatment of wounded Taliban insurgents including performance of sophisticated surgeries”, the officials said. Taliban rejected any links with the facility while claiming that the clinic was providing healthcare services to the local residents and was approved by International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Afghan authorities have long been making accusations regarding use of medical treatment facilities by Taliban insurgents inside Pakistan, and the above information is a proof that rejects such allegations against Pakistan.

Afghanistan is not a secure place either to live or to work in because of ongoing war between the Taliban and the Afghan National Force, which is being advised and supported by the 8400 American troops. Security is now a serious challenge not only in districts and sub-districts but also in small and major towns including the capital. There have been suicide bombings, attacks of civilian and military installations, assassinations, kidnappings, summary killings by the Taliban and also Daesh terrorists on a daily basis The country has politically been further destabilised by a bunch of former warlords. Last week, militants killed four policemen in the Janikhel district of Paktia province and captured the police check post. The same day, Taliban militants killed 24 police men in southern Helmand province. The Taliban confirmed the clash and having killed several security forces and captured weapons, ammunition and several vehicles from the police.

In the first week of this month, United States defence secretary James Mattis called on Pakistan to do more in its fight against armed groups operating in Afghanistan, after he concluded the latest in a series of high-level contacts between the two governments. During a visit to the Pakistani capital Islamabad, Mattis had met with Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, and intelligence chief Lieutenant-General Naveed Mukhtar, with both sides pledging to continue to attempt to find common ground. “The Secretary emphasised the vital role that Pakistan can play in working with the United States and others to facilitate a peace process in Afghanistan that brings stability and security to the region,” said a US statement. Ties between the strategic allies have been strained since US President Donald Trump announced a new US policy on Afghanistan and South Asia in August, where he said Pakistan often provided safe haven to agents of chaos, violence, and terror.

Written by : Mohammad Jamil

Pakistan Observer—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.