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Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Regional players unlikely to endorse US plans

 The world is going to witness another Conference on Afghanistan on December 5th, at Bonn, Germany, wherein Foreign Ministers from around 90 countries will discuss ways and means to stabilise the war-torn country before a final withdrawal takes place in 2014.
There is a little doubt that this forum will be utilised by the Americans to shift focus of the Afghan war from fighting to talking, and at the same time devise a mechanism to safely withdraw US-led forces from Afghanistan.
There is an apprehension that Bonn meeting will be turned into a moot for a hasty US withdrawal without a comprehensive deal covering major interests and requirements for a lasting peace in Afghanistan.
The decisions taken in the first conference on Afghanistan exactly a decade ago at the same venue, instead of stabilising the war torn country turned it into a mayhem that is visible therein today.
The invitees to that particular conference were all US affiliates that sculpted the post-Taliban war status quo amongst them.
The Taliban and many of the Pashtun tribes, the prime movers of the Afghan movement, were not invited at the conference with the result that the insurgency continued to persist. Its deep penetration in the fortified capital city of Kabul indicates that the Taliban are still capable of attacking the foreign interests at places of their choosing and timings.
For this second Bonn Conference, which incidentally may be the final such conference on Afghanistan, there is an ambiguity on participation of major Taliban representatives. Kabul insists that there will be a single Afghan delegation for the conference wherein, the European diplomats say, Taliban representatives can be part of the meeting. But that looks illusionary as Mullah Omar; the Taliban Commander has indicated his aversion to attend the conference in an Eid message.
Ryan C. Crocker, the US Ambassador to Afghanistan has also stated that Taliban are not being included in Bonn Conference.
However, the German Foreign Minister has said that the invitation to Taliban remains open. The issues outlined for discussion at the conference will comprise the civil aspects involved in transferring responsibilities to Afghan government, prolonged involvement of the international community beyond 2014 and drawing up a political road map that could lead Afghanistan to a long-term stability. Like all such meetings this second Bonn Conference will not turn into a game changer for Afghanistan especially so when it is not designed to provide a platform to all major stake- holders.
President Karzai who will chair the conference is all set to take along a hand picked delegation to Bonn that may not have even the true representatives of Afghan society. Some 35 per cent of Afghans believe that Afghanistan under President Karzai is heading in a wrong direction. Prior moving on to Bonn, the President shrewdly held a Loya Jirga on November 16th, to show to the international community that he heads the conference from a position of strength.
The jirga was also utilised to decide US long-term presence in Afghanistan and the bilateral ties. The US seeks long-term presence through acquisition of five major military bases in Afghanistan that would also house 25,000 plus US especial forces in Afghanistan beyond 2014.
The ?Istanbul Conference? a prelude to Bonn Conference, could not agree to any major proposals on Afghanistan.
Iran, Pakistan, China and Russia remained non-committal to the idea of US military presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014 as the US plans on the subject have not been revealed as yet. The only thing that can be derived from ?Istanbul Conference? was joining the table to discuss Afghanistan by Pakistan and India amongst others, for the first time ever.
It is a fact that majority of the US-led coalition countries want their troops out of Afghanistan sooner than later with or without a declared victory ignoring the Afghan woes. They believe that exit of the US-led forces from Afghanistan will automatically prepare a ground for mutual ending of the hostilities and violence by various factions.
In a related development it is being increasingly realised that Pakistan has to be taken on board with greater mandate to help stabilise Afghanistan.
The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her visit to Islamabad acknowledged the essential requirement of taking Pakistan on board if peace and stability were to be brought to Afghanistan.
However, if Pakistan is entrusted with greater role, the US will have to drop its reckless twin-track policy of pressurising Pakistan to cooperate and at the same time bombarding the country through drone attacks.
If one looks into the vide variety of assessments that came out of the Istanbul Conference, all of them pointed to one common denominator that without regional consensus about the value of a stable Afghanistan there will be no sustainable peace in the region.
Can foreign military presence of US and other Western nations armed forces through ?strategic agreements? could help quell the insurgency? The answer is ?no?.
Despite all the analysis pointing to the negativities of prolonged foreign military presence, President Karzai is all set to enter into such agreements, utilising the extracted consent of the recently held Loya Jirga.

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