Dangers of Mistrust in South Asia and what that means for Afghanistan
Kuldip Nayar, The News, December 10, 2009
PAKISTAN Army Chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani demanded some time back that America “gives Pakistan and its interests a consideration and consult us when they design a new Afghan policy.” There is no reason to believe that President Barrack Obama ignored Islamabad before announcing the surge of another 30,000 American troops to Afghanistan. Nor is there any protest from Pakistan that “its interests” were not considered.
Whatever the truth, the induction of additional US forces—20,000 are already there—is not a healthy development for the region. Afghanistan’s Commander Stanley McChrystal reportedly remarked that “a tremendous amount of things are going to happen, and they are good things.” He is leading the forces in the area. It is too early for America to make such observations because the past experience tells us that the US forces, wherever they have gone, either to Vietnam, Iraq or elsewhere, they have left ruin and devastation in their wake. They have yet to prove their mettle.
The history of Afghanistan says that no power, neither Great Britain in the past nor the Soviet Union in modern times, has been able to discipline, much less suppress, the defiant tribals. Foreign troops are only grist to their propaganda that their religion, Islam, is sought to be curbed. Uneducated masses, with limited avenues for gainful employment, are more driven towards fundamentalism than to the ways to oust poverty. The tribals are in perpetual poverty because their overlords have accepted money to keep quiet. They do not inspire confidence in the future.
Pakistan is the only country which has the necessary credentials. But its problem is that it cannot forget that the Afghanistan under the Taliban, who also dealt with the wayward tribals, were far more friendly and dependable than the Karzai government which has again assumed the charge at Kabul, by hook and by crook. Another fear that eats up Islamabad is that India, through its economic programme, has far more say with the people of Afghanistan than all others. Islamabad still has the dream that Afghanistan would one day give Pakistan “its strategic depth.” Therefore, it is a matter of conjecture how far Islamabad would go to finish the tribal menace once and for all.
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