Sep 25, 2010

US plans for the region

Saleem Safi
When I came to know about the visit of Hamid Karzai I conveyed a request to him through his staff for an interview. I was informed that the president would not give a formal interview but that he had invited me for an informal discussion at breakfast. On the breakfast table, the chief of staff, the scribe and the president sat side by side. The president ordered the hotel staff to remove the water bottles and glasses as they were creating hurdles between him and the scribe. In support of the idea I stated that these large bottles were becoming a hurdle between us just like the Americans.
Ostensibly both Pakistan and Afghanistan need the Americans, but in fact the Americans are creating troubles between the two countries. If these interventions ceased to exist, the problems would disappear altogether. This was the starting point of the discussion. The president seemed to be enjoying my criticism of the Americans. The president said that he was making sincere efforts to find a political solution to the Afghan crisis with the Taliban and Hizb-e-Islami. In the same vein he expressed his sincere desire to bury the hatchet with Pakistan and establish a relationship based on mutual trust and respect. Despite being appreciative of his and Pakistan's limits in this regard, he had chosen the path to Islamabad via Torkham, and not via Delhi or Washington. President Karzai viewed Pakistan's problems as his own; he viewed the multitude of problems faced by both countries as interconnected and common. The rest of the world played the role of an interested spectator while Islamabad and Kabul bore the brunt. He said that he sincerely expected Pakistan to side with the Afghan government. When I was leaving the hotel after meeting Hamid Karzai, the security officer directed me towards another gate, not the normal exit-point, because Gen David Patraeus was arriving at the hotel for a meeting with Gen Kayani and Hamid Karzai. It showed me what the compulsions of Pakistan and Afghanistan are, and why the Afghan issue is still unresolved.
Ostensibly after the withdrawal from Iraq, the US had started talking about a political solution to the Afghan problem. But actually it has begun a very dangerous game in the garb of a political solution. The US has failed to appreciate the fact that it has been defeated in Afghanistan. And therefore as a first priority it wants to put maximum pressure on Pakistan for active help in defeating Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. It wants a political solution, still the second option, which would prove to be a precursor to the destruction of both Afghanistan and Pakistan. The US wants to send the message to the Taliban and other resistance groups that peace talks with Afghanistan and Pakistan have no value unless they are sanctioned by Washington. Therefore, any reconciliation or political solution should be discussed with the US. The US does let Pakistan and Afghanistan offer any incentives to the Taliban, but is itself offering concessions to them to deceive them out of resistance.
The US appears committed to the plan of administratively dividing Afghanistan into two halves; the north and south. For this purpose it had covertly supported Abdullah Abdullah in the previous election and is still busy strengthening him. On the other hand Hamid Karzai and Pakistan are trying for a rapprochement with leaders from northern Afghanistan. For this very reason Hamid Karzai had given the two positions of vice president to Tajik Qasim Faheem and Hazara leader Karim Khalili and is also in coalition with the Uzbeks. Pakistan, being appreciative of US plans, is also making efforts to establish good relations with Qasim Faheem, Karim Khalil and Ustad Muhaqqiq. If US plans are to be successful, it will hand over southern and eastern Afghanistan to the Taliban in the second phase. The Americans will shift their camps to northern Afghanistan and will strengthen these military outposts. The Americans will then pitch Afghans against each other. It is also feared that the US will incite the Taliban against Pakistan to teach Islamabad a lesson. For the success of this conspiracy, the US plans to dub the Taliban movement as a Pakhtun-nationalist movement. Then, it will also call upon the nationalists to side with the Taliban to pave the way for Pakhtunistan. It is pretty clear that the US is neither sincere with the Taliban nor with Pakhtun nationalists. It only wants the region to burn in the flames of ethnic and sectarian conflicts of various hues so that American interests in the region are not challenged by any other power.
The Americans may be intelligent and good planners, but they do not control everything on the planet. Many of their conspiracies and plans have been defeated in the past and can well be defeated in the future as well. But this will take courage from the leaders and a real coalition and unity among the states in the region. What these three states are, will be discussed in the next column. The Taliban and Hizb-e-Islami should not be part of this conspiracy. They should make it clear to the US that they will only talk to the Afghan government and Pakistan; if the US is interested, it should really empower the Afghan and Pakistani governments for a political solution.

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