The Chicago theatre
Posted on 12 months ago
Indeed, the NATO governments all over are under tremendous pressure of their war-weary publics to pull out quickly. Even in America, the Afghan war is speedily becoming unpopular. And given their recession-hit economies, the NATO governments may not even be able to sustain their military presence in their occupied country for long. Their commitments to keep financing the Afghan security forces in the coming years too should remain in the realm of uncertainty, notwithstanding the rosy scenario being woven by incorrigible optimists that the roadmap of engagement with Afghanistan has now been etched on stone.
Arguably, in the making is a spectacle like the one when the NATO was sucked into the Afghan war somewhere in 2006. Until then, the US-led invaders had slept blissfully in their Kabul and Bagram redoubts, leaving the Taliban all free to regroup, reorganise and rearm in their southern and eastern strongholds. And when they woke up, not only had the Taliban entrenched themselves formidably in their preserves but were steadily extending their sway to the country's west and north as well. The NATO was roped in to stem this Taliban tide. And there were high hopes that it would, given its big war machine.
Indeed so confident was this transatlantic military community of its success that an excited British defence secretary crowd giddily that his army would capture its assigned war theatre of Helmand without firing a shot. But the NATO armies soon discovered the resurgent Taliban a hard nut to crack. And, ironically, instead of taking on Taliban and other insurgent groups that had sprung up in time to carve out their own domains, the NATO members fell to quarreling among themselves over the number of boots and quantities of weapons to be deployed, with most reluctant to move into the actual war theatres.
All US persuasions to its NATO peers to chip in with more troops and war equipment and roll into the war theatres to fight failed to work. And that led a frustrated then US defence secretary Robert Gates to fume that neither the NATO members were ready to come up with more soldiers and more war equipment nor were they willing to share the war bill. Something similar in all probability is going to happen this time round too. Evidently the NATO armies have lost all stomach for continued presence even for a next couple of years and their political bosses back home are under a severe public heat to get out of this war which their peoples deem just unaffordable any more.
Even the hoax of keeping engaged with the training of Afghan army and police is all fraught. With the Afghan security personnel turning increasingly on their foreign trainers, often fatally, there is already a perceptible unease among the NATO armies about this training mission. In fact, after deadly assaults on some foreign advisors, all such personnel have been withdrawn from the Afghan establishments and they perform their advisory duties from their safe military bases without visiting the places of their assignments. And foreign trainers even sleep at their exclusive billeting quarters with their service weapons besides them.
The Taliban may be exaggerating. But it is not inconceivable if they have really infiltrated the Afghan security forces. They may have, even if on a small scale. Indeed, in their quest to quickly raise some 320,000-strong Afghan security forces, the occupiers have palpably followed very lax verification processes, giving enough space not just to Taliban but other shadowy characters to infiltrate. In any case, deadly assaults on foreign trainers by their Afghan trainees are in all likelihood to go up in times ahead. This may sap the spirit of both the trainers and their peoples back home, leading up possibly to the packing up of the whole of this training mission ultimately.
Indeed, even the western perceptive observers are perturbedly smelling what the Chicago summiteers have smelt not. It is the whiff of a civil war that is troubling their nostrils frighteningly. Given the rabid multi-ethnic reality of the Afghan tribal polity, inclusiveness should have been the occupiers' watchword from day one. Instead, it has been exclusiveness: the spurning of the Pakhtun majority to promote the Afghan minorities at its expense. And it is this exclusiveness that has laid out the minefield for Afghanistan to explode in a civil war, sooner than later.
And this is what should concern the Islamabad establishment, most of all. In such an eventuality, in the eye of storm will be none else but Pakistan. The troubles that would stem forth for Pakistan from this conflagration will be manifold and horrendous, indeed. Make no mistake about it.
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