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Politics of Afghanistan: Forces Within and Without.

Byline: Rustam Shah Mohmand

Although weak and rootless, the Karzai regime is an important player in the country and will probably remain so until the withdrawal of coalition forces. More often than not, the question is raised whether Karzai government is capable of surviving its rule against all odds. There are reasons to predict that it would survive as long as it is supported by a large number of coalition forces backed by all sorts of modern, sophisticated and lethal weapons which they have used indiscriminately and liberally against the population, causing untold casualties of all types in all regions and areas of Afghanistan. Putting in another way, he and his government will continue to exist as long as the American military and political support is patting his back.

The Americans may not be completely happy with Hamid Karzai but amidst the circumstances when the central Afghanistan is in the grip of the raging resistance, spreading out to northern and western Afghanistan, removing him would change the American scheme of things in the area. The coalition partners would bear with the corruption, lack of governance and institutional growth, but would not go to the extent of uprooting the current regime. For an easy understanding, it may be called an unholy alliance, a marriage of convenience which is likely to continue till the time the foreign forces decide to pack up and leave. However, in the post-withdrawal Afghanistan, the current regime would not be a major force to reckon with.

In the backdrop of imminent withdrawal of coalition troops and absence of powerful central government, some analysts and opinion makers draw a frightening scenario of Afghanistan plunging into factional fighting. However, the claimants of this hypothesis are not aware of the changed power dynamics within Afghanistan. The ground reality is that there are only three actual forces in Afghanistan: coalition forces, Afghan National Army and police, and forces of resistance. After the withdrawal of coalition forces, the Afghan National Army and the resistance would be major actors. Regarding the Afghan National Army, there is a fear that there would, inevitably, be a disintegration coming from within. The current ratio of attrition is 20% and in the aftermath of withdrawal, the attrition rate would be 50-60% which would trigger the disintegration of Afghan National Army from within.

It is also important to underscore that the former Jihadi leaders are wrongly considered a viable force in Afghanistan. As a matter of fact, they are part of the US team in Kabul, enjoying all the facilities and privileges. They have made a good amount of money, grown into fabulous businessmen, and have their own enterprises both inside and outside of Afghanistan. So, they no longer enjoy armed support once available to them during Afghan Jihad in 1980s. Therefore, the possibility of factional fighting after the withdrawal of the coalition forces does not simply arise and most probably, the resistance would just sweep in these areas very peacefully like they did in 1995-96.

Taliban are aware of these realities and that is probably the reason for their very clear and firm stand that they would not negotiate directly or indirectly, covertly or overtly unless the coalition forces withdraw from Afghanistan. Despite some gestures and initiatives, there has never been any real meeting between the resistance and the government or the invaders. So it can safely deduce from the situation on ground that there are no negotiations underway either with Haqani network or the main resistance party of Mullah Umar. This also means that future of Afghanistan and many forces within depends largely on 'when' and 'how' the coalition forces withdraw. However, it is also naive to think that the coalition forces would bequeath voluntarily, and resultantly it will be a long drawn out affair in which there will be no victors and the people of Afghanistan will continue to suffer.

This situation could be avoided provided the US and its partners at war carry out a comprehensive assessment of domestic compulsions and the results they are getting from their war in Afghanistan. It is awe striking to note that the US is spending approx. USD 7.5 billion a month on an unwinnable war in Afghanistan and burdening its dwindling economy with 1.5 trillion dollars deficit. A review of the policy can compel the Americans to reach out to the forces of resistance for genuine negotiations and to agree on the complete withdrawal of the coalition forces. However, the statements of headstrong team of military commanders and members of political establishment, particularly General Petraeus and deceased Richard Holbrook, hint at American plan of staying in Afghanistan for another 10-20 years.

The symbolic withdrawal might start in 2011 but the military operations would most probably continue. Even after reducing the boots on ground, it is very unlikely that the US will abandon Bagram, Shindand and Mazar-e-sharif air bases.

Even in improbable scenario of an emergency exit, the US would still condition its complete withdrawal with the purging of Al-Qaida from Afghanistan and a guarantee of no use of Afghan soil against any country. These conditions would be acceptable to the resistance.

Anticipating the failure of coalition troops in Afghanistan, Robert Blackwell, former deputy national security adviser and US Ambassador to India, presented a plan of dividing Afghanistan on ethnic lines. However feasible his devious plan be on papers, division of Afghanistan is highly improbable mainly because every Turkman, Tajik, Uzbek, Pashtun, Pashai, Baluch, and Barohi is primarily an Afghan and then something else. Nevertheless, if the foreign forces take up the mission of this misadventure, Afghanistan would remain intact but bleed and devastate.

Afghanistan is already going through a very dark phase of its history and will difficult to recover for so many years. This is a very frightening scenario. In the last few months, Gen. Petraeus has unleashed a disgusting tactic of decimating whole of the villages, annihilating population, destroying houses, markets and shops in Kandahar province. An aimless war is taking so many precious lives, apparently for satisfying the decaying prestige of the superpower. Under the guise of destroying Usama bin Ladin and his network, the US real objectives remained: to dismantle an Islamic government, to establish military bases there, to access Central Asian energy resources, to intimidate Iran, and to force a change in Pakistan's policy.

During this course, they did achieve some short-term objectives but lost the American prestige as liberators of the oppressed nation. If the US does not change its policy of misadventures, it would continue to face anger, acrimony and hostility amongst Muslims around the world for years on end.
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Publication:Policy Perspectives
Geographic Code:9AFGH
Date:Jun 30, 2011
Words:1102
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