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ہفتہ, فروری 19, 2011

The future of Afghanistan

Hundreds of civilians have lost their lives in the US-led airstrikes and ground operations in various parts of Afghanistan over the past few months, with Afghans becoming more outraged over the semingly endless number of deadly assaults.

By Bassam Javed

The US president in his last policy review on Afghanistan in December 2010 painted a rather satisfying picture on the progress of US war effort by saying that it is on the right track. The review was aimed at building up the public morale back home prior to the first troops exit Afghanistan in July this year on a note that would be linked up with a sequential victory. The final deadline of 2014 for a complete withdrawal is dependent on many vague premises that will ultimately be easily touted as victorious for consumption of American audience back home. Albeit, it would be easier to hand over a few centrally located secured provinces initially to herald the withdrawal but the real problem would start when the rest of the 34 untamed provinces would come up for transition to the Afghan national army and the police. Would the troop withdrawal then get stuck there? Probably not! Quitting will be the order of the day whatever the situation Afghanistan is confronted with at that point of time in 2014. The US and Allied forces presently are flying in lot of resources to prepare Afghan troops and the national police, who enjoy a meager 10 per cent literacy rate amongst them, to enable them take over the security of Afghanistan. Literacy is not the only problem with the Afghan army; other problems like that of discipline, drug use and mixed loyalties would make the Afghan army and the national police a dangerous proposition for maintaining peace and security in Afghanistan once the foreign troops march out of there. How true John Lawrence, a viceroy of India in 1867, has been to the history of Afghanistan as he had said that the Afghans would put up with every deprivation, but “they will not tolerate foreign rule. The moment they have a chance they will rebel.” When the Obama administration took over the strings of US presidency, its immediate overtures made it clear that it wanted to throw out Karzai. In fact the intentions were made public with no mincing of words. It could not do it for Karzai strengthened his grip on Afghan political affairs over time and effectively conducted the Afghan presidential elections in 2009 and parliamentary elections in 2010 though he could not get all what he wanted out of these elections. The off and on show of authority on Afghan national affairs has become a sustained feature now as Karzai seeks to diminish the western influences. The latest was the decision of doing away with the security companies operating in Afghanistan that were more of a destabilizing factor rather than a security guarantee. It created more lawlessness as these security companies resorted to indiscriminate use of fire arms while escorting NATO convoys carrying essential items for the foreign forces deployed therein. The insurgency has also grown overtime and the war situation in Afghanistan remains under a dense fog as the media persons find it extremely difficult to get a fix on the actual security situation on the ground in various parts of the country. The US calls most of the insurgents as Taliban whereas they are not since they do not represent former seminary students. Many of them are actually old Mujahideen whom Ronald Reagan had proudly labeled as freedom fighters. The situation in reality remains pessimistic about Afghanistan in a broader context as it has not been worked out that who would finance the subsequent governments in the long-term future. Whether it would be Afghans themselves or the UN or a consortium formed by the major western allied nations who put together the alliance to fight war therein, no one has thought about it. Only to maintain its army at the desired levels, a huge sum of US $2 billion minimum would be required on annual basis. In the face of US $12 billion gross product, it apparently is impossible to fund such a huge army although the world’s fifth poorest with its prophesized mineral potential remains limited in resources to effectively run the affairs of the state. This is also ironical that the kind of set-up US and NATO are trying to put up there in Afghanistan so to say an effective bureaucratic system with a large standing army, would require colossal sums of money to work. Burning the midnight oil to erect a similar model on Iraqi lines may not be true for Afghanistan also. Iraq can fund its official machinery with its oil wealth but Afghanistan won’t be able to do the same. As far as it can be visualized Afghanistan would continuously seek huge funds to the tune of several billions of dollars on yearly basis from the international community and the UN for running its affairs in post-US withdrawal scenario. The international community may help Afghanistan but it won’t do it over a longer period and one day when the flow of money would cease to flow then the whole decade of military effort put in Afghanistan by the international community would crumble like nine pins. Hence the US military effort would add to the Afghan history which is replete with such misadventures. 
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