New Delhi: The latest news coming out of Washington sounds extremely ominous for a much battered Afghanistan. It seems President Barak Obama is giving up his policy to defeat the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
Instead an alternative is being worked out to seek peace with these very terror outfits. The objective is to make sure that Afghanistan and Pakistan are no longer launching pads of terror attacks against the US. It is clear that the US may be working out a deal similar to Pakistan's surrender to the Taliban in Swat.
Pakistan has obviously succeeded in confusing policy makers in Washington by its talk of good and bad Taliban? Is there an extremist who could be called a good Taliban? The very birth of Taliban has its roots in violence. This was the creed and training that its Pakistani mentors gave this organisation in late eighties.
Taliban was created by Pakistan as a force that carried out inhuman acts in the name of Islam-and justified it as a step to red Afghanistan of Soviet forces. . Such inhuman violence apparently in the cause of Islam was also used to wipe out the tolerant Islamic society of Afghanistan.
The mentors of Taliban wanted to turn Afghanistan into a colony of Pakistan albeit via proxy rule of the demon that Pakistan created. Afghanistan was pushed back into the Stone Age with little chance of being able to regain its individuality.
The entry of Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda into Afghanistan consolidated the first terrorist state in the world, As for Pakistan, it got its much needed depth to deploy its missiles against India in that country. That did not worry Al Qaeda or the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan.
Let it not be forgotten that the US administration was --directly or indirectly-- negotiating with the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in the late nineties to secure pipeline access from Central Asia. They did not know that the Taliban and Al Qaeda had something else on their mind : the attack of 9/11 on the US.
President Bush reacted by declaring an all out war against terror. It now seems that the Obama administration perhaps treats the "war on terror' as a legacy of the Bush era that it wants to get away from.
During his tenure as President, Clinton dithered in his response to Al Qaeda even as he bombed their hideouts in Afghanistan. Why did the US administration not go all out against Al Qaeda at that time? Was there a secret understanding with Pakistan or its Agencies? This author came away with that impression after a long interview with the then US Under Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs Ms. Robin Raphael.
Whatever explanation one may unearth, the simple fact is that the Taliban and its mentors managed to hoodwink the world's one super power and mounted the 9/11 attack with impunity. They had the last laugh.
President Barak Obama during his election campaign made his intentions quite clear that the Taliban, Al Qaeda and jehadi terrorism waged around the world had to end. To that extent the US President also made his intentions and policy clear towards Pakistan on this issue. To eliminate the evil if he had to attack it in Pakistani territory he would do so. And he has done that. Why now the cold feet?
Pakistan has mastered the art of deception and double- talk as no other nation in the world. General Musharaff succeeded in keeping the wrath of US administration away even as the various arms of his government kept Al Qaeda and Taliban well protected. No one knows it better than India. It has seen how Pakistan has drawn innumerable circles around its so-called investigation into the Mumbai attacks.
In Pakistan if ever there was a challenge or threat to the existence of Taliban and their supporters it only came through the short lived pronouncements of late Benazir Bhutto as she prepared to return to Pakistan.
She had kept the US administration fully informed. Yet when she landed in Karachi, she had to face a dastardly attack on her life, but survived. Her luck did not last long. She was killed in Rawalpindi as she campaigned for the return of her party to power. In her death a major threat to the Taliban was removed.
Even before Barak Obama formulated his policy for Afghanistan, Pakistan succeeded in planting enough doubts in the minds of US officials about the ability of the Karzai government in Afghanistan. They want the US to accept 'good' Taliban and hand the country back to it.
That much for the resolve of the new President of the United States to settle the Afghan issue! If the current confusion about the role of Taliban continues, then the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan could get compounded in a terrible manner.
Pakistan is not interested in a sovereign and independent Afghanistan. It does not want to return to the glorious era of Afghanistan. That was the period when the country was ruled by King Zahir Shah. Afghanistan was a modern state even under the Presidency of Daud or for that matter even Najibullah.
Pakistan wants a puppet regime of Taliban in Kabul, one that would play to its tunes. Is that the kind of peace that the US is looking for in Afghanistan by surrendering that country to Taliban and Pakistan? The US and Pakistan perhaps do not realise that the 'good Taliban' hopes to take over Pakistan some day.
This unfolding scenario throws up a huge challenge not just for India, but also for China, Iran and countries of Central Asia. India cannot remain a silent witness to all this.
Afghanistan should be able to regain its sovereignty and independence that it had during the reign of King Zahir Shah, President Daud or under Najibullah after the withdrawal of Soviet troops. Today the United States seems to have lost all respect for Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
India can help rebuild the Afghan defence forces. That alone can safeguard that country from the evil designs of Pakistan or the threat of Taliban. US sponsored democracy cannot work in a multi- ethnic and fiercely tribal society of Afghanistan. India can help bring various ethnic groups into an all encompassing "loha jirga" a meeting of the tribal heads.
Being protective as they are of their identity such a "loha jirga" can never permit the country to go under Pakistan or bring back the Taliban. The success of former King Zahir Shah of Afghanistan lay in retaining the loyalty of all such ethnic tribal groups. To back it up, he had a strong and powerful Afghan army and air force.
It is here that India must take the initiative and offer to train and equip Afghan army with or without US help. This alone is a sure guarantee against any evil designs by Pakistan or its proxy the Taliban. It is not something that any US administration can understand easily. They are too used to dealing with pliable sycophantic states.
India cannot afford to allow Afghanistan to slip back into the Stone Age. India's strategic and economic interests in Central Asia will take a heavy beating if it were to ignore what is happening in Afghanistan. India needs to act on its own. The manner in which the United States and NATO are approaching the Afghan issue is fraught with dangers for India.
Weighed down as it is by its economic woes, clearly the United States does not have the will to take this war on terror to its logical end. The compromise that it now seeks with the evil, can lead to a much greater damage to its interests in the long run. Irrespective of this, it seems that the Obama administration may be looking for some quick fix solution to pull out of Afghanistan. Call it by any name; it would only be surrender.
India has to face the challenge. It should be able to persuade the Obama administration to pause and see the situation with clarity. Surrender by the Obama administration will plunge this region, including Central Asia, into huge turmoil and Pakistan may go the Taliban way. This must not be allowed to happen. By Prem Prakash (ANI)