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NATO Wraps Up its Flag from Afghanistan

Dr. Muhammad Aslam Khan

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History is a fine mirror, particularly among the war opponents where ‘cognitive dissonance’ plagued them deep all along. Thirteen years ago, US pre-attack psy-warfare effort depicted a shirtless herculean-looking American GI, kneeling and wielding his knife as if US was about to mow down their opponents in a blow. Taliban along with Al-Qaida were dancing to celebrate, on seeing another prey rushing for the trap called Afghanistan on the heels of the Soviets. No one in US DoD bothered to take cue from history that remains kind to Afghans when they are ready to spill their own as well as others blood. Time scale means nothing to them.

About 150 years ago, British Army supported by native forces in the Indian sub-continent invaded Afghanistan. Several battles during First and Second Afghan War, won and lost by both sides, made it absolutely clear that Afghans, fanatically loyal to their soil, could not be ruled by the alien forces. At one point of time, General Robert, recommending swift withdrawal, wrote to the Viceroy of India, less they (Afghans) see of us, the better, even though he had won the battle near Kabul. That was an era of extensive colonization when European major powers were competing to secure maximum territories in Asia, Africa and South America. It inspired Lenin to compile a table, proving that the European powers’ wealth was directly proportionate to the volume of territorial expansion overseas. He even proved that their number of banks could be accommodated in the same thumb rule. Britain was certainly a Super Power, embroiled in a conflict on the western borders of its Indian Empire. The people who stuck out to challenge its might were again Afghans.

The British Empire finally chose to stay put at the line which later became known as Durand Line (named after Sir Mortimer Durand), now separating Pakistan and Afghanistan. In the Great Game of 19th and 20th Century, Czarist Russia was rushing south through Central Asia but opted to halt at present Afghan northern borders by 1885. Some critics resented royal reluctance of Great Britain to advance West and North West to face Russia along River Oxus and termed it as its ‘masterly inactivity.’ Why US war wizard could not see the futility of their Afghan war? They did inflict heavy losses on Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and sweeping victory over conventional Taliban forces structure during Phase-1, the opening assault on Kandahar but for the remaining period, Taliban insurgency could not be flushed out even by employing massive technologically superior forces, touching a peak of 140,000 troops (International Security Assistance Force: ISAF) of which US had the major share. Some see even Al-Qaeda’s thinning out from Afghanistan as their superior strategic orientation to reappear in Middle East (Iraq in particular), where US reversals were obvious, to banish its forces from Iraq. Discovering that attack on Iraq could not achieve its objective of reconstructing Iraq, US had second thought and announced ‘mission accomplished’.

While the US public remained highly skeptic of US claims, the media did give it a breather by portraying a very lucrative forces’ diversionary destination to be pivoted in Asia-Pacific. Encapsulated within the same design, a charming slogan branded as ‘Afghan Surge’ emerged which in fact amounted to reinforcing a failure that the strategists always warn against to be lured in to this option ever on the battlefield. The entire maneuver was aimed at quelling the domestic criticism about failure in Iraq and managing damage control of the myth of US military might invincibility. Close to withdrawal from Iraq, some labeled it retreat, even George W. Bush acknowledged Iraq mistake, not mentioning some loud and similar comments made by US military commanders.

When US winds up its mission from Afghanistan along with NATO allies, there are rival claims to victory from each side. If one grants victory to US/ISAF, one needs to focus at the flag lowering ceremony when the onus of responsibility to defend Afghanistan has been  shifted to Afghan Army with US residual force of around 10,000 staying in Southern Afghanistan for ‘Resolute Support’. For any power of significance, it is natural to defend retreat that Taliban have claimed to force on ISAF. The impact of left-behind ISAF force in Afghanistan is destined to dilution when simple arithmetic is made the basis of vetting its efficacy. Note that if 140,000 troops could not flush Taliban, how a fourteen times smaller force would keep Afghan Army energized to restore peace in Afghanistan. As expected, Taliban attacks when ISAF forces were thinning out, in the final phase within last three months have become more frequent and deadlier. Ben Tufft of ‘The Independent’ reported, “The ceremony held to mark the end of the Nato mission in Afghanistan was held in secret due to bomb threats, prompting critics to question whether the allies’ objectives in the country have been met.” One sees another small dance party among Taliban who would swoop on the left-behind garrison, making their logistics a critical issue. The force is likely to remain virtually bound to the heavily defended parameters of the garrison and yet face causalities.

The kind of odds that John Kerry negotiated to let a system of governance emerge in Afghanistan in the wake of questionable general elections was remarkable but the sooner he left, Afghanistan remained vulnerable to two leaders’, Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, wrangling for greater influence. As the Afghan society is fiercely divided on the ethnic basis, it is likely that the power brokering intensifies when both would muster their ethnic supporters in the field as show of muscles. In other words, ‘Pukhtoons’ and ‘Tajiks’ standoff would be imminent while Taliban would hammer both. There is a bleak but possible scenario that President Ashraf Ghani, because of his ‘Pukhtoon’ antecedent manages to bring Taliban to the dialogue table and interestingly that hypothesis is the only hope for any recovery in Afghanistan.

US, Allies and their public would sound far removed from the reality if they stick to their state of denial by refusing to accept that victory has remained elusive, costing them trillions of dollar and thousands of young soldiers. Similarly Taliban claim to victory would also sound absurd even though they sacrificed seven times more of their militants.  Had the terrain advantage and civil population shield not been available to them, they would have been massacred by the superior ISAF forces. If on Taliban side, achieving victory over NATO forces was beyond their prowess because of incompatible military potentials; their opponents were bound by their own publics’ opinion and war ethics to fight Taliban with surgical precision, once in a while violation notwithstanding. Therefore such conflicts, like the conventional wars, cannot be measured with ultimate clear yardstick called ‘victory.’ At best, NATO can boast to have introduced reforms in a manner that have diluted wide spread Taliban’s war making appeal to Afghan masses to some extent. Hubertus Hoffmann sounds over-optimistic, maintaining, “For me the glass is about three quarters full. The Taliban lack the support of the people; have no viable vision for the future of the country. More bombs drive just the people away from them. The Afghan Army and police are fighting considerably well.”

On the other hand, Taliban can claim to have proved hard nuts for ISAF forces by resisting superior forces and surviving through conduct of shrewd guerilla warfare. When ‘victory’ slogan appears as misnomer, one hopes that the two sides would pay heed to what Benjamin Franklin had said long ago, “The things that hurt, instruct.” World now expects the native parties in Afghanistan also to have mercy and cobble up effective governance for the emancipation of their future generations.

Dr. Muhammad Aslam Khan is a retired Brig Gen from Pakistan Army, served 32 years. A veteran of ‘1971 Indo-Pak War’ has been instructor in officers’ Pakistan Military Academy, commanded Divisional as well as Corps Artillery. Holds first class Masters degree in International Relations and PhD degree, acquired in 2002-2007 from University of Peshawar, Pakistan. Authored a book, writes frequently in national and international media. Has attended several seminars and conferences within the country and abroad on invitation. Travelled to Switzerland (twice), UK, US, UAE, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Germany (twice). Cambodia and Thailand. Email: dr.makni49@yahoo.com

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South Asia

Abrogation of Article 370 and Pakistan’s Pathetic Response

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Pakistan, which is a party to Kashmir dispute could not make significant move after the Indian decision to scrap Article 370. The fragile economy, conventional military asymmetry and limited influence in international community restrict the options for Pakistan to take any strong stance against Indian illegal decision.

A month ago the government of BJP illegally dissolved the special status of Jammu and Kashmir through demolishing the Article 370. The article provides immunity to Jammu and Kashmir from Indian laws except foreign affairs, finance and communications. The decision is profoundly rejected by masses of Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan. In the mean time the opposition parties in India also expressed strong dissatisfaction against decision and predicted severe repercussions for Indian state. The decision has also been challenged in the Indian Supreme Court and hearing has already been started. Yet, since the 5th August Kashmir is under siege, curfew has been imposed, communication network, medical and health facilities have been blocked. The international human rights organizations and defenders issued a genocide warning and warned India not to commit genocide.

In this critical situation which is developed by India, Pakistan took stance to stand by Kashmir. Pakistan highlighted the violent action which engulfed the rights and lives of Kashmiri people’s. Although Pakistan expressed strong resistance and proclaimed to use all the means to give Kashmiri’s their right, but there is a huge difference in words and deeds. On behest of Pakistan, China called UN Security Council meeting to discuss the issue and Chinese ambassador strongly condemned the Indian action and urged both parties to resolve the dispute through peaceful means. Yet it is important to point out that permanent members of UNSC refused to issue a post meeting joint   statement.

Here it is wise to highlight that the international politics is dominated by the self-interests of dominant powers and weak states have no say in the system. Pakistan could not compete with Indian power in international relations. After scrapping the article, India immediately sought foreign support and Prime Minister Narendra Modi went to different states. Modi visited France, Bahrain and UAE, while Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan only made phone calls to seek support against Indian action. This clearly disclosed the inefficiency of Pakistan to counter the Indian narrative.

Indian economic and investment potential is another factor behind cool response of international powers. India is trading partner of many countries and most prominent among them are USA, UK, UAE, China, European Union and Australia. The US has invested 9 million in India during the 2016 and UK has signed the commercial deals of 9.3 million recently. Australia is benefitted from Indian students and its education export is 2 billion dollars. EU a group of 27 independent states is another major investor and trade partner of India with 2.5 % international shares.

In contemporary international politics, diaspora is a backbone of any nation and same is true for India. It is observed that Indians are residing almost every influential state. More than 3.5 million Indians are working in UAE. During the 2015, Indian share was 16% in expats residing in the US, and Saudi Arabia host 1.9 million Indians. Kuwait having 1 million Indian workers and Oman 777,632 Indians. Europe also host the 1.2 million Indians.

The bilateral trade of India with US, China, EU, Japan, and Australia is impressive. In 2019, bilateral trade of India-China crossed the 100 billion, which expects to grow further. The US is second largest trading partner of India in goods, and the single largest export destination of Indian exporters. The bilateral trade has been grew at 7.59% annually from 68.4 billion in 2008 to 142.1 billion in 2018.

The 8.8 million Pakistanis are residing in western states, 4.7 million are living in EU and 1.2 in U.K. But Pakistan failed to activate its diaspora to promote national interests of the state. The Pakistani leadership never paid serious attention to engage diaspora, which resulted in poor representation of Pakistan in international community. On the other hand, Indian diaspora is much influential and have strong say in policies of US and EU. Their skills and education help them to climb the ladder of success and influence. So, it is high time for Pakistan to devise an effective strategy to lobby the national interests and engage diaspora. The diaspora is considered the defense line as they bridge the gap between their parent and host state. 

Pakistan’s economic structure is fragile with rising debt and prices of commodities. The country is dependent on international monitory institutions to repay its debt which crossed over 100 billion dollars. It is on 150thposition in poverty index among 189 countries according to UN Human Development Indicators. The value of rupee is decreased to lowest level and government is losing its credibility. Pakistan is spending its 20% budget on Army which is higher than education, health and social development allocation. The fragile economy, poor coordination in policy making and influence of military in foreign policy making has reduced the role of other state institutions. Although, current civilian government claims that civilian and military leadership is on same page, but the poor and ill-coordinated response exposed the fault lines. The top hierarchy of civilian and political leadership did not bother itself to convey Pakistani position on Kashmir, except making statements.

If Pakistan really want to influence the international community, then it needs to fix its poor economy, to improve its human and social system, engage diaspora, make effective and inclusive foreign and security policy. The economic, political and military power can guarantee the national interests of the country. So Pakistan work tirelessly on all the fronts to achieve the status of major power.

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Pakistan’s peace-loving gestures are considered its weakness, unfortunately

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Pakistan is a peace-loving nation and a responsible state. The leadership, civil and military. Both are visionary and rational very much. Pakistan was the hub of western tourists in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, due to its natural beauty, friendly and hospitable environment, and affordable living. Economic growth was one of the highest in this part of the world. But suffered a lot since the 1980s, due to the situation in Afghanistan. It was not our war, but unfortunately, we were pushed into this war. As a result, Pakistan offered 80,000 precious lives of Pakistani nationals, an economic loss of estimated up to 250 billion US dollars. In addition to it, extremism, terrorism, trafficking, smuggling, ethnicity, intolerance, gun, and drug culture, etc. were a gift. Due to the war-like situations during the last 4 decades, nations spared all resources, including human resources, financial resources etc on imposed war-front. As a result, industrial agriculture, infrastructure development, education, SW&T, R&D, Innovation, Commercialization, Health Sector, etc all walks of life suffered a lot and as result, today facing the worst economic crisis with over 100 billion foreign debt.

But, after having so many bitter lessons, the nation is even more mature and trained to survive under any circumstances. In fact, has emerged one of the most resilient nation. India staged the drama of “Pulwan” on 14 February this year, and without collecting evidence and investigation, just within hours, blamed Pakistan and threatened Pakistan. Pakistan offered to extend full cooperation in investigation and punish the responsible. But, India, according to pre-plan, attacked Pakistan on the 25th of February and dropped bombs in Balakot a city deep inside Pakistan. The leadership of Pakistan is very much sensible and rational and noticed that India is pushing Pakistan into full-scale war. The visionary leadership in Pakistan realized the consequences of war, especially when, both India and Pakistan, both are nuclear states, possessing enough piles of lethal weapons to destroy each other completely, and its impact on the region as well as global. Formulated a smart strategy to respond on the 27th of February, giving a message to India, that although Pakistan has capabilities and enjoys supremacy over India, it still sticks to “Love-For-Peace” and does not wish to opt for war, successfully averted to escalate to a full-fledged war. Even that, Pakistan released the captured pilot of Indian air force inside Pakistan territory, as a good-will gesture.

India revoked its own constitution on the 5th of August and imposed curfew in Kashmir. It is an act of war and violation of UN charter, Simla Agreement and all norms & practices of civilized world. Siege of Kashmir, complete black-out by suspending Internet, mobile phone services. Cutting all modes of communication, evacuating all foreigners and visitors from Kashmir. Keeping people under house arrest. Occupying forces are killing, arresting, detaining and raping on a mass scale and draconian laws imposed empowered the security forces to shot at a spot on suspicion only, with any judicial process. After 42 days of curfew, people are facing a severe shortage of food, fuel, electricity, medicines, and life is completely at a halt, stand-still status. It is the largest curfew in the known-history of human beings, as around 8 million people are under siege, and Kashmir has been turned into a big jail, people are treated as prisoners. India’s atrocities and brutalities have crossed all records of human rights violations.

UN, Human Rights Organizations, Mainstream Media, International organizations, NGOs, the whole International community have shown deep concerns on Indian atrocities. Protests, agitations, rallies, and demonstrations, all around the world as solidarity with the people of Kashmir have been witnessed. European Parliaments, UNSC, OIC, SCO, and all other international organizations are worried about the deteriorated situation of humanity in Kashmir.

Kashmir is a dispute between China, Pakistan, and India. India has illegally occupied a part of Kashmir known as Indian Occupied Kashmir. But people of Kashmir are spread all over three parts, i.e in Pakistan known as Azad or Free Kashmir and China. Kashmir is one nation and having blood relations in all three parts. They are charged at peak to enter into India Occupied Kashmir and help their brothers and sister in Indian Occupied Kashmir. They wanted to provide them food, medicines and basic necessities of life. The government of Pakistan is trying its best to stop them to march toward Indian Occupied Kashmir, as they are unarmed and simple villagers, they might have the high spirits to rescue the lives of their brothers and sisters in Indian Kashmir but might face firing by Indian Army. I am afraid, the public pressure is growing with passing each day and they might march toward Indian Occupied Kashmir, and Pakistani Security Forces may not be able to stop them, then they might come under the Indian forces firing range. It might complicate the situation. The government of Pakistan is committed to observing restrains and avert any war, with India, but if its civilians are killed, it may create an unexpected situation, difficult to predict the reaction.

On the other hand, Indian military deployment along the line of control and frequent violations of line of control, use of cluster bombs on civilian population inside Pakistan, and war-preparations are alarming. Indian Army Chief announced that The Indian Army is well prepared to Attack Pakistan and just waiting for a signal from its Government in Delhi.

Pakistan is trying its best to observe restrains and showing maximum tolerance and patience. But India considers Pakistan “Love-For-Peace” as its “weakness”, Unfortunate! Very Unfortunate!

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South Asia

Webinar: Kashmir Outside the Crosshairs- Does Anyone Care about Kashmir?

MD Staff

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Join Modern Diplomacy and our Executive Vice Chairman, Prof. Matthew Crosston, for a Live Intelligence briefing / Webinar, on Sunday September 29 at 18:30 (IST) to learn:

* Why does the US continue to ignore Kashmir but give loads of attention to every country around it?

* Is it necessarily a positive if the US DOES start paying attention to it? 

* What would be GOOD attention and what be BAD? Which one is the US likely to give?

* Can Kashmir ever be left alone to develop independently and not be a pawn of regional neighbors?

These and other controversial but critically important questions will be covered in an exciting intelligence briefing that will still allow for a dynamic, open discussion exchange with one the world’s most recognized, accomplished and sought after Intelligence experts, Dr. Prof. Matthew Crosston, Executive Vice Chairman of Modern Diplomacy.

Reserve your seat here

Dr. Matthew Crosston is Director over all Intelligence programs and Professor of Strategic Intelligence and Global Security in the School of Security and Global Studies at the American Military University. He is an acclaimed author and international speaker who consults with governments, media organizations, and academic institutions on a range of issues covering peace mediation, human rights conflicts, resource dilemmas, intelligence, change leadership, and education innovation. His works overall have been translated into Russian, Arabic, Chinese, Indonesian, Hebrew, Spanish, Turkish, Farsi, Greek, and Uzbek. He has a BA from Colgate University, MA from the University of London, PhD from Brown University, and completed his Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the University of Toronto.

Modern Diplomacy and Center for International Strategic Analyses

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