The renewal of the mandate of the ISAF - multinational force leading the campaign in Afghanistan - comes up for renewal in the UN Security Council this week. The ensuing debate can be expected to bring into focus the issues of the proposed ‘transition’ in 2013, the ending of the ‘combat mission’ in 2014 and the post-2014 scenario itself. I am keenly awaiting the Indian statement.
The United States and NATO are hoping to change ships — move out of the UN mandate to a more comfortable bilateral framework with the government in Kabul so that they are not accountable to the UN and can pursue their geo-strategies in the region with impunity. The US and NATO’s expectation is to formalise a long-term military presence in the region. Simultaneously, NATO is also probing the scope for expanding its presence in Central Asia.
But the best-laid plans can go awry in Afghanistan. The present moment is one such, full of imponderables. A new, unexpected and yet compelling factor has surged, which was always there lurking below the surface but the US found it expedient to ignore — Afghan nationalism. After having taken decades of battering and with its economy in shambles, somehow a notion had crept in in the Western mind that the Afghans are up for sale to the highest bidder. (Indeed, it is another story that many Afghan stalwarts allowed themselves to be treated like cattle after having taken money from the foreign powers.)
Suffice to say, the recent weeks’ happenings — US soldiers urinating on the Taliban corpses, burning koran and killing women and children in cold blood — have awakened Afghan nationalism from its deep slumber. There are widespread protests against foreign occupation and demands that Hamid Karzai should not cave into US pressure to sign a strategic pact that allows continued US military presence beyond 2014.
The rampage by a US sergeant on March 11 in Kandahar also shows signs of a breakdown of morale
in the US forces, reminiscent of the traumas of the Vietnam War. Robert Fisk, the author and well-known Middle east expert, invokes images of the My Lai massacre. A cycle of revenge killings
by the US and Afghan soldiers against each other is developing stemming out of a breakdown of communication at the cultural level.
On the other hand, Washington is strapped for cash and cannot continue with the war. Ideally, US would like to strike a deal with the Taliban but the insurgents are making it a precondition that the US should first vacate the occupation.
A candid assessment of the politico-military situation in Afghanistan is featured in the government-owned China Daily. Its conclusion is: “Clearly, Obama’s Afghan strategy is in danger of hitting the rocks.” The commentary is here
Posted in Military, Politics.
– March 19, 2012