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Nato summit: what next?

Published May 23, 2012 12:15am


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THE hoopla is over. President Obama can congratulate himself on having presided successfully over the largest Nato gathering ever arranged and on having won an endorsement for the ‘irreversible’ departure of all Nato troops from Afghanistan by Dec 31, 2014 and for the cessation of active combat operations by Nato forces after July 2013. Beyond this what was achieved?

No firm commitments or pledges were made by the Nato members for funding the $4.1bn that the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) will need annually for a decade. It was said that this was not a pledging conference but for the last few months American diplomats have been doing the rounds of Nato and non-Nato countries to get these pledges.

Only Germany ($190m), UK ($110m) and non-Nato Australia ($100m) have made firm annual pledges and even these are not for the entire decade. The American hope was that it would pick up half the tab, the Afghans themselves would contribute $500m and the balance would come from Nato and non-Nato allies.

This has not happened in Chicago and will probably not happen in the next few weeks before the Tokyo conference in July where pledges are expected for funding Afghan reconstruction and development. There too it is hard to visualise that the donors will come up with the approximately $6bn a year the Afghans believe they need.

Much of the burden will fall on the Americans. First, they have to finance the additional $2bn to $2.5bn annually that the ANSF will need during the 2014 to 2017 period while the drawdown of the ANSF is under way. Second, they will willy-nilly have to make up the shortfall in the Nato contribution — possibly $750m annually. Third, they will have to give $3bn to $4bn annually for Afghan reconstruction if a collapse of the Afghan economy is to be avoided and if the shortfall in contributions from others is to be made up.

One can argue that this is a small price given the $120bn annually that the Americans are now spending on the military presence in Afghanistan. But the mood in America now is such that very few in Congress will be prepared to take on this burden.

One can anticipate that funding both for the ANSF and for reconstruction will fall far short and that such a shortfall will be justified by the inability of the Afghan government to live up to the pledges it has made to curb corruption and to institute reforms. The already serious economic problems of Afghanistan will be exacerbated and give fresh impetus to ethnic rivalries relating to the division of a shrinking foreign-aid pie.

The Nato statement talks of “a new post-2014 mission of a different nature in Afghanistan, to train, advise and assist the ANSF, including the Afghan Special Operations Forces”. It emphasises that “this will not be a combat mission”. This does not mean that American forces in Afghanistan post 2014 will not continue their counterterrorism operations within and outside Afghanistan.

The target will be the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan where the Americans are convinced Al Qaeda and its local allies who endorse its global agenda are located. The American intervention in Vietnam was justified by the ‘domino theory’ — if the communists won in Vietnam then all of East Asia would go ‘red’. When public opinion so dictated, this theory was discarded and American allies in South Vietnam were abandoned but only after millions of bombs had devastated neighbouring Laos and Cambodia to destroy the Ho Chi Minh trail.

For Pakistan it would be prudent to assume that this pattern could be repeated in Afghanistan where it can be argued that what remained of the terrorism threat could be controlled through other means.

This is one facet of the continued American presence. The other is the pressure it will bring to bear on the Taliban to engage seriously in reconciliation talks with the Karzai administration.

The Pakistan Defence Council argues that when all foreign forces are withdrawn the Afghans will work out a solution amongst themselves. The record of past efforts at reconciliation between 1989 and 2001 when there were no foreign forces seems to suggest otherwise. These were the years in which the Afghans waged a civil war that wreaked greater havoc than the decade-long Soviet occupation. Will there be patience in Washington, if the Afghan Taliban remain obdurate and retain safe sanctuaries, to stay the course? The prudent assumption should be that reconciliation, acceptable to all Afghans, must come by 2017 or the Americans will abandon this path.

The third facet of a continued presence is that it may guarantee the flow of a measure of economic assistance that prevents the collapse of the Afghan economy and a consequent flow of Afghan economic refugees to Pakistan. Again, prudence would support the assumption that with the mounting number of ‘green on blue’ incidents the Americans may find it difficult to sustain a presence even on joint bases with joint training programmes for very long after 2017.

To me, the summit suggested that America and its Nato partners, despite the hoopla and the brave words, are quite prepared to cut their losses in Afghanistan and treat it as a lost cause. It is quite conceivable, even in today’s world, that they will in the process wreak the same havoc that impoverished not just Vietnam but also Cambodia and Laos. The equivalent of the Khmer Rouge and the killing fields could easily emerge in this disturbed region. This may be an exaggeration. The global consequences of the creation of such chaos in this region would be horrendous but let us not dismiss the possibility out of hand.

So what is the solution? It lies in the words of our president who in his speech at the summit said, “We firmly believe that only an inclusive intra-Afghan dialogue can lead to sustainable peace in Afghanistan”. He also recalled that parliament had said that “foreign fighters and non-state actors seeking to destabilise Afghanistan and the region, if found on our soil, must be expelled”.

If we work sincerely using the levers we have to promote this intra-Afghan dialogue — one lever being the expulsion of those seeking to destabilise Afghanistan — we can succeed. This will not be a panacea for all the ills of the region but it will be an indispensable first step. Let our mantra now be ‘reconciliation, reconciliation, reconciliation’. This, more than the transit route issue, should be our principal preoccupation.

The writer is a former foreign secretary.


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The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (33) Closed

Samir May 23, 2012 06:53am
Pakistan and Afghanisthan have been neighbors always - why then did afghanisthan fail - for decades even before any American interference in that region ? Why couldn't Pakisthan have done better to stabilize Afghanisthan year after year ? Why could it not spend its own money and help that country stabilize and prosper - economically - e.g build infrastructure, help cultivate industry etc ? Why did it support the Taliban ? The fact is Pakisthan never did anything to improve Afghanisthan across the history of that region. Never did anything in order to maintain a stable and prosperous Afghanisthan. Now - this gentleman seems to complain that American's/NATO should do more and foot the bill even more ? Why can't Pakisthan foot the bill and do more for Afghanisthan's economy ? What has it done effectively so far but boycott meetings, or hold an entire supply route for NATO to ransom !! If it truely means well for Afghanisthan , Pakisthan needs to make sure it does more on the ground for Afghan industry, education ,society rather than just offer lip service and blame the Americans for all their ills. Look at China and the way it is progressing ? Maybe it can leverage it's close ties with China to get funding to help a hapless nation instead of complaining about NATO, Americans etc. Outside of NATO & the Americans - there are many countries in the world that Pakisthan can go to for help ..& money... What is Pakisthan waiting for ?
NASAH (USA) May 23, 2012 05:28am
One thing you can be sure of -- nobody is financing nobody -- first of all there is no money -- secondly we don't want our tax dollars wasted in AF-Pak's 'nation building' -- when we in the US desperately need that money for nation building here at home. Obama will right now promise the moon only to get out of the AF-PAK mess without obstructions by sweet-talking to everybody -- never to look back at this ten year trillion dollar Afghan nightmare created by GW -- if Obama gets elected. If not -- then it will be Mitt's Rosemary baby.
Cyrus Howell May 23, 2012 06:06am
A very clear and straight forward piece of writing. + "The American intervention in Vietnam was justified by the ‘domino theory’". This is true in so much as every major oil company in the world was drilling in and around the Gulf of Siam. They didn't want the oil rigs to fall like dominoes, so that was their story.
Aviratam May 23, 2012 06:13am
Mr. Shaikh is probably the only ex-Foreign Secretary writing, who makes any sense; although at the end of the day, he too is unusually "prudent" to offer any real solution except quote the drivel put out by Pakistan's leaders. Afghanistan is a sovereign state, and Pakistan has no special rights there. The honest recognition of this fact is the first step towards peace in that hapless nation.
Cyrus Howell May 23, 2012 06:14am
Vietnam today is the second largest producer of rice and the world's third largest producer of coffee. Highway 1 a North-South highway built by the American Army is used now to transport farm commodities to market.
Maroof Alam Kashkoli May 23, 2012 06:29am
...and these were the American bombs that turned arid land to one of the most arable.....
Maroof Alam Kashkoli May 23, 2012 06:32am
...and so does India have no special rights in other neighbouring states....
Haji Ashfaq May 23, 2012 06:42am
Cyrus Howell is the darling of the DAWN team censoring comments. Is it not ?
Safdar Rizvi May 23, 2012 06:43am
Presence of USA in any form would hurt Pakistan's interest.
Safdar Rizvi May 23, 2012 06:46am
The present regime can not deliver come what may.
Naemm afridi May 23, 2012 07:36am
like Pakistan india also dont have any special rights there.the problem of special rights have to be curbed.same way norhtern alliance dosnt possess any special rights,pashtuns of afghanistan(talibans) has equal right to decide and share of their country.
Vikram May 23, 2012 08:14am
... He also recalled that parliament had said that “foreign fighters and non-state actors seeking to destabilise Afghanistan and the region, if found on our soil, must be expelled”. -- Reading between the lines here itself exposes Pakistan's double-game, that will no doubt continue until their attainment of "strategic depth" (whatever that means) in Afghanistan, or perhaps even until their total destruction as many others have predicted. Note the phrase "must be expelled" -- why not instead "will be expelled" ? And most importantly -- where and what are the mechanisms to guarantee this? Why should and indeed why would anyone in the world take the word of Pakistan's parliament at face value? The best that Pakistan and indeed its Parliament and leaders provide these days is a good laugh or three, and that's it.
shafi May 23, 2012 09:19am
President Obama's agenda in the region is his secret. Did anyone know he was tracking OBL? Pakistanis only found out the day after. He is not concerned what happens to Afghanistan, he is more concerned about Pakistani establishment and its nukes. So watch out.
Shafi May 23, 2012 09:13am
Everyone knows where and why you stated what you stated.
Awais Kharl May 23, 2012 10:12am
This was Asymmetric war and the results of such kind of adventure more or less remained same in history .. Vietnamese used booby trap technique and in this case suicidal concept emerged. Eventually US has received another slap of nearly same force but on the other side of face.The biggest issue for US , even bigger than the dollars pledged to Afghanistan and Pakistan is the humiliation among their own ppl...and the transition of power to newly emerging economies of world i.e China and India
A.Bajwa May 23, 2012 10:50am
A good piece of writing. Very much to the point. What to do in post bellum period. is for GOP to figure out. Pakistan should release NATO supplies and work out parameters written by Parliament in the post bellum period.
Shakil khwaja May 23, 2012 12:29pm
What does your comment have to do with price of fish in China?. I see no relevance that your comment has with the article.
Dr V. C. Bhutani May 23, 2012 12:58pm
I This is a tongue-in-cheek presentation which glosses over the fact of Pakistan’s long standing interference in Afghan affairs in all the years after 1979, first in league with the US to oust the Soviets from Afghanistan by using jihad and mujahideen and, after the Soviets left, to use the same jihad and mujahideen in Kashmir and other parts of India. Pakistan nearly made itself arbitrator in Afghan affairs. V. C. Bhutani, Delhi, India, 23 May 2012, 1830 IST
Dr V. C. Bhutani May 23, 2012 12:58pm
II After December 2014, Pakistan shall revert to its familiar role of making nonsense of all vestiges of Afghan authority and encourage Afghan Taliban to throw out the present government of Afghanistan. It is a question of time before Mr Karzai is Najibullah-ed at the nearest lamppost. After that it will be return to the now familiar rule of the Taliban in Afghanistan (1996-2001). The Chicago conference of Nato and non-Nato heads of state and government was an effort to devise a consensus, which in outline was achieved. But, of course, it remains for US and other diplomats to put flesh on the skeleton that was put together at the conclave. It is a moot question how well the Afghan security forces shall be able and free to look after Afghan security. With Pakistan breathing down Afghanistan’s neck all the time, it is unlikely that Afghanistan shall be able to do much. To the contrary, Afghan failure is written into the situation as it will arise after December 2014. V. C. Bhutani, Delhi, India, 23 May 2012, 1830 IST
Dr V. C. Bhutani May 23, 2012 12:59pm
III When Mr Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was pleased to demand that Mr Obama should apologize for Salala, I was provoked to remark: Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Unfortunately, Mr Bilawal is not the only one asking the US to apologize for Salala before the supply routes to Afghanistan can be reopened. By adding his voice to the chorus, Mr Bilawal has merely underlined his inexperience and lack of maturity. It is clear already that the US is not going to apologize. Then, negotiations are said to be on and it is expected that agreement on reopening of the supply routes is likely if a rate per truck can be negotiated: it has to be a figure between $250 as heretofore and $5,000 now demanded. A compromise is not impossible. If Pakistan goes on being obdurate, the US and Isaf shall have no option but to withdraw from Afghanistan by other air routes. In that case, Pakistan shall lose in a big way, apart from the complete loss of the relationship with the US. There is a limit beyond which the US shall not accept such nonsense from Pakistan. V. C. Bhutani, Delhi, India, 23 May 2012, 1830 IST
Dr V. C. Bhutani May 23, 2012 12:59pm
IV Chicago was indication enough that all was not hunky dory and that much needed to be done if US-Pakistan relations were to come back on track. The US has been extraordinarily indulgent towards Pakistan in spite of all kinds of misdemeanours on Pakistan’s part. Clearly, US patience is being tried. The president, the foreign minister, the ambassador, and now the PPP co-chairman – that makes an impressive collection. Clearly, there has been some sort of a mutual consultation that this is the line that Pakistan will adopt – in the assumption doubtless that the US needs the routes badly. Pakistan may be in for a surprise. If the US and Isaf take recourse to other routes, even if they are expensive, it will leave Pakistan high and dry and also out in the cold. Other routes cannot be so expensive that 48 governments cannot afford. Someone in Pakistan should wake up before everything is lost. Concluded. V. C. Bhutani, Delhi, India, 23 May 2012, 1830 IST
dr mustafa shaikh May 23, 2012 01:02pm
pakistan has been playing double game in the region since 2001.its time the civilised world called iher's farce off and ask pakistan to stop supporting terrorism around the world.
SL DUA May 23, 2012 01:08pm
I don't think Pakistan has discarded the idea of 'Strategic Depth'. Until Pakistan does so, there can be no peace or even reconciliations in Afghanistan.
Ozzy May 23, 2012 01:30pm
As far as the American's let us look at the real truth. They came here because of 9/11 and bin Laden period. They did not come here to bring peace or prosperity. The rest of the what they said was all waffle. Now they have got Bin Laden and Al Qaeda is degraded. So job done and exit.__As far as Afghanistan it will float back to where it's own people take it. Peace, prosperity and another Japan. Or war, internecine warfare, warlords, lawlessness,drugs etc and another Somalia. The choice is their's.__Looking at their past history I would not raise hopes of having another 'Japan' next door.
Muhammad Ahmed Mufti May 23, 2012 02:09pm
American's have never been wrong! not even in Vietnam, the fact that Vietnam today is the largest producer of rice and the world's third largest producer of coffee may found in the secret recipe in Bombs that Americans dropped on these fields. Poor Vietnamese don't understand American benevolence. Same goes to Pakistanis , we should all celebrate American wisdom in aerial bombing by drones. As for Highway 1 a North-South highway built by the American Army and used now to transport farm commodities to market was built just for this purpose. America believes in helping the poor nations otherwise the highway could have tolled to pay for expenses incurred on this nation building mission.
cautious May 23, 2012 02:44pm
Maybe it's just as simple as the American's abandoning the impractical but politically correct cause of building expensive Afghan infrastructure and just focusing on the strategic goal of leaving a small, cost effective, and lethal footprint inside Afghanistan which is capable of deterring militants within Afghanistan and the tribal territories of Pakistan. This small footprint will be sufficient to keep Al Qaeda and their allies from using this territory to launch attacks on the USA. Unfortunately for Pakistan the American's wont' require your cooperation to sustain this lethal footprint and the drone attacks will probably escalate.
shafi May 23, 2012 04:44pm
Why is Dawn afraid of publishing the truth?
BRR May 23, 2012 04:49pm
Is Pakistan does not want to be left alone to tackle the Taliban, despite its inclination to side with it for Pakistan's nuisance value, it had better figure out a way to side track them or push them into a negotiated end to the war. Otherwise, its "victory" by using Taliban as a proxy will be short lived one, before the monster created eats the master.
Mandeep May 23, 2012 06:16pm
And what are Pakistan's intrests ? To use Afganistan as its slave and rule Afganistan through its proxies? Afganistan will never be left at Pakistan's mercy.
Arbab Zahid May 23, 2012 08:23pm
Dear Aviratam, Pakistan suffered alot from the unstability of Afghanistan from last three decades. This battle ground has been used by the major powers to test their new armistic innovations, but it is Pakistan which had given honor to the 3.5 million refugees. How can you exclude Pakistan ?
S.S.Sohoni May 24, 2012 03:03am
Time for a reality check. 'Pakistan' was created to serve a strategic purpose. of late, the creature is seen to be turning on its makers and doing worse than biting the hands that had fed and feed it. Expect change then, PAQistan. For those who carved you out, have the wherewithal to re-carve, re-make or unmake you.
awaiskharl May 24, 2012 04:35am
Why US forgets the consequences of Asymmetric type of warfare ... Pitty on them
ivabigun May 29, 2012 02:11am
That's funny!