The question of 2014

NATO’s Afghanistan withdrawal and Hurriyat (M)’s Pakistan visit

ARJIMAND HUSSAIN TALIB

As NATO forces begin to pack up their bags in Afghanistan from their longest-ever war, the post-2014 scenarios in the country are attracting deep interest.
The post-2014 scenarios are as important to Pakistan and India as they are to the United States and its allies. The complex web of convergence and divergence of interests is clearly making at least the US, Pakistan and India to arrive at some mutual understanding. That mutual understanding seems to have three immediate goals: security and political stability in Afghanistan, containment in Pakistan’s tribal areas and some Indo-Pak understanding on de-escalation in Kashmir.
As the International Crisis Group (ICG) and the Carnegie Endowment recently warned, in the post-2014 scenario no. 1, Afghanistan is all set to witness another sad and bloody civil war with a complete NATO exit. Very probably, as what the ICG has predicted, the Taliban are very likely to re-capture Kabul and return to power.
In scenario no. 2, the US would not leave Afghanistan altogether. As hinted by the Pentagon in recent weeks, the US is very likely to retain some 10,000 troops in Kabul to defend the city from a Taliban takeover. The US would also keep some special forces in the country, aiming to keep any possible Al Qaeda resurgence at bay.
In scenario no. 3, there will be a long-drawn civil war in Afghanistan after a complete NATO withdrawal with no clear winners. The current political dispensation will continue to retain Kabul, while rest of the county will sink into a new era of chaos and instability.
All these scenarios, quite obviously, do not fit into the NATO’s exit strategy. Despite the limited attainment of some of the goals set for the 2001 invasion, Afghanistan will be left as volatile as before. All the three scenarios put vital western interests in jeopardy.
Western strategic community is today busy in debating these situations and proposing contingency plans. One of the key recommendations of the Carnegie Endowment in its recent report on Afghanistan’s future is “that the United States engage with India and Pakistan without any contradictions.” 
For years, the US has been roping in India to take a more pro-active role in not only Afghanistan’s developmental affairs but also training of its security apparatus. It has also been relying heavily on Pakistan in achieving political stability and economic reconstruction there. Now as 2014 nears, both India and Pakistan are weighing their strategic and tactical options for Afghanistan as cautiously as never before.
The United States’ best case scenario in a future Afghanistan is a representative government taking over in 2014 with the Taliban on board. Despite a lot of efforts to get the Taliban on board for this kind of a political arrangement, the fact is that no Taliban formation – whether the “moderate Taliban” or the Haqqani Network – has shown any serious inclination to be part of this process.
For Pakistan there was a time when a pure Taliban regime in Afghanistan best served its geo-strategic interests. Not necessarily any more. Given the extent of Taliban and its allied groups’ penetration in Pakistan’s mainland, Pakistan is clearly seeking a situation where Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan does not threaten its own political and security stability.
For India a return to pre-2001 situation continues to remain unacceptable. But it is today not too to go out of the way in trying to prop up a regime in Kabul which is closer to it.
This situation has exposed weaknesses as well as opportunities for the US, Pakistan and India. This situation also seems to impact both Pakistan and India’s dealings on Kashmir. In the meantime, Washington seems to be listening to its policy establishment in trying to get India and Pakistan closer to support its post 2014 interests.
As Pakistan and India enter into a new phase of dialogue with Kashmir’s political formations, a US role in making these efforts complement its strategic objectives in Afghanistan is very much possible. Both the countries today seem to agree that forces that have had a historical interest in Kashmir are best kept confined to Afghanistan.
In these circumstances, the upcoming Hurriyat (M) visit to Pakistan is significant. Given the US interest in ensuring that Pakistan and India do not enter a new shadow war in Afghanistan that would undermine its own efforts there, there is a real opportunity for political bargain for the Hurriyat (M).
Interestingly, there seems to be a lack of clarity in Kashmir about the importance of this new realignment of political and strategic interests in this region. There seems to be a lack of interest in grabbing political opportunities. 
Whether Kashmir’s political formations appreciate this situation or not, the fact is that all the post-2014 Afghan scenarios are going to impact Kashmir. The problem is that Kashmir is too close to and too involved with Afghanistan to afford indifference.

The columnist is presently a consultant in international development, covering Asia-Pacific and Africa regions.

Lastupdate on : Sat, 8 Dec 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 8 Dec 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 9 Dec 2012 00:00:00 IST




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