Reorienting American presence

Strategic realignment is underway in South Asia. If reports from Kabul and Washington are to be believed, both the countries are in detailed talks to reorient the security umbrella over Afghanistan, and to work out modalities to station troops beyond the end of 2014.

Presently around 130,000 combat soldiers and an extensive war machinery is in the war-weary country, but with little or no success against the Pashtun Taleban militia. How effective this policy of retaining foreign troops will be for Afghanistan, however, cannot be assessed at the moment. The fact is that such a desire and necessity is purely borne out of real-politick considerations and doesn’t have much to do with the long-term peace and solidarity prospects of the war-destructed country.

The United States’ long-term objective of maintaining its presence in this part of the world is two-pronged: fighting the terror nexus, and ultimately flexing diplomatic muscles when it comes to dealing with China, Russia, Iran and India. This strategy is inherently ill-advised as it will hardly be a source of stability for the region, thereby buoying jihadi tendencies.

It is, however, unclear whether this script is solely that of Pentagon or allied countries are also on board. Washington, for long, has been pressurising its NATO allies to adopt a pro-active policy in Asia and the Middle East, and not to take cover behind US armoury while dealing with expeditions. Britain and France going solo in North of Africa, despite limited successes over Libyan skies, is gradually unfolding into a new intervention doctrine of Europe, and the Obama administration has stressed at length in copying the same elsewhere to further the agenda of West’s assertiveness.

While dealing with Afghanistan, the West’s strategy cannot be military-specific. The allies have already experimented at length with firepower. The need of the hour is a political approach to address the concerns of the locals, and ensure that the war-torn country sooner than later comes out of the abyss of indifference. Given to understand that the political and military leadership in the US is in favour of initiating a broad-based dialogue process, how effectively that is contoured in the forthcoming strategy remains to be seen.

Washington should tread a cautious policy and keep in mind that neither can it abandon Afghanistan nor afford to remain there for good. Exiting from Kabul with grace is sine qua non for regional stability.

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