Opinion and Editorial

Crisis talks on Afghanistan

Filed on January 9, 2013

PEACE IN Southwest Asia will be up for debate as the United States and Afghanistan leaders meet this weekend. US President Barack Obama and his Afghan counterpart will have a mammoth agenda to sort out, as after a decade of military presence, the war-torn country has shown no signs of reverting to stability.

The prime issue up for discussion would be the fate of the country in political and security terms once the Coalition troops withdraw by the end of 2014. With the Taleban now literally out of reach, since they walked out of shadow talks with Washington in Qatar, there seems to be nervousness in the corridors of power in Kabul. The militia was supposed to act as a cushion once the US and ISAF troops withdrew, and by making them part of the broad-based government, a major chunk of the country’s security issues would have been managed in a peaceful manner. Now the biggest challenge before Karzai is how to ensure an effective rule across the length and breath of the country, as he knows that his writ is squarely limited to the four-walls of the capital. This is why the Americans and many of the Arab allies are interested in brokering a thaw with the Pakhtoon militia that literally represent 70 per cent of the populace, and are in a commanding position as far as their stance on future governance is concerned.

Nonetheless, it seems the buck wouldn’t stop at Karzai and Obama doorstep, as Islamabad is seen waiting in the wings to become a part of an extensive arrangement in the region. Pakistan has, of late, signalled an apparent shift in its policy on Afghanistan and hinted at working for its long-term stability by posing that it is not averse to a greater role with other stakeholders. This positive aspect has to be kept in mind as Obama and Karzai dilate over the country’s geostrategic issues. The defunct AF-Pak and US mechanism should be revived and intelligence sharing beefed up to ensure foolproof coordination in fighting the war on terrorism.

The time has come for the US to disengage itself from the region, and by doing so it needs to ensure that it leaves behind a coordinated network of socio-economic and military gear that has to be managed by the Afghans themselves. Any move to opt for exigency steps by undermining the fundamentals of power transfer will prove to be too costly. Obama, who in his first term dispensed with his promise of ending the Afghan war, has a responsibility to hand over a free and stable Afghanistan back to its sovereigns.

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