Afghan realities

December 27, 2010

Yet another suicide attack on Pakistan-Afghanistan border has killed at least 45 people. What makes it truly despicable is the fact that the bomber was dressed in a burqa and victims were mostly people who had queued up in their hundreds for food aid. The attack comes days after U.S. President Barack Obama assured the Americans and his allies that the Western mission in Afghanistan-Pakistan was making progress.

In fact, the Taliban had struck last week within hours of Obama's Afghan policy review. Sixteen Afghan soldiers were killed in the audacious attacks targeting military bases in capital Kabul and the northern city of Kunduz. The strike on Kunduz took place within hours of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's visit.
Coming as these devastating attacks do soon after the much-awaited U.S. review, they are like a gauntlet thrown down to the Western coalition; an in-your-face challenge to Obama's assertion that “significant progress” has been made following the so-called surge in U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
The Obama administration's claim has been demolished by two intelligence assessments by America's top sleuths, painting a scenario that is very disturbing. In fact, instead of making “significant progress,” the coalition is fast ceding ground to the ever-growing insurgents. The continuing strikes only underscore the reality that the U.S. and its Western allies cannot muster the courage to countenance.
According to Obama's original plan, the U.S. troops have to start leaving Afghanistan by July next year. And by Year 2014 the U.S.-NATO alliance is expected to wrap up the whole expedition and go home. This is why restoring a semblance of order in Afghanistan is crucial for the U.S. leader's scheme of things. The ongoing frenetic recruitment for the Afghan security forces is part of this plan. Unfortunately for the U.S. and other coalition partners, they are caught in a hopeless bind. They are damned if they leave Afghanistan and damned if they do not.
With the financial woes worsening back home and backbreaking burden of running this war, pressure is mounting on Obama to cut losses and bring the boys home sooner than later. On the other hand, there is this frightening and increasing possibility that the moment the “coalition of the willing” leaves, the Taliban will step in. President Hamid Karzai's writ remains limited to the capital. Not for nothing is he called the president of Kabul.
This doesn't mean Uncle Sam and his friends should revise their exit plan though. Foreign occupation is part of the problem in Afghanistan; it can never be the solution or part of the solution. Not especially in Afghanistan, the graveyard of empires. Dialogue and reconciliation leading to a national unity government could be a way out of the current predicament.
Karzai has repeatedly reached out to “Taliban brothers” without getting anywhere. The insurgents, however, not to mention the Pashtun majority, see him as Washington's man. So a broad-based coalition representing all communities and groups may be the answer. Such solutions, however, have to be explored and tried by the Afghans, not outsiders. The international community could only offer external support. For such a scenario to emerge, it's essential for the Taliban to play the ball. If they hope to be taken seriously, they must conduct themselves more responsibly. Targeting of innocent civilians is unacceptable and doesn't really help their cause.