Sinking in Afghan quagmire


There is enough evidence available now to indicate that but for the superpower hubris on the part of the Bush administration, Taliban leadership could have been persuaded in 2001 to gradually get rid of Osama bin Laden and, with further pressure from the international community, to tone down its extremist hype. Confident of the highly lethal and devastating war machinery at his disposal Bush thought he could achieve its objective through military action alone. He even agreed to provide international acceptance to Musharraf who had overthrown an elected government and was willing to go to any extreme to oblige the US in exchange for recognition. The US is facing the consequences of its two major blunders now. While Musharraf gained recognition, he hunted down some of the extremist groups while patronizing and providing safe haven to others to ensure international support over a longer period and pursue devious policies in Afghanistan and the region. Musharrafs dual tactics allowed extremists to flourish and play havoc in Pakistan.

The US invasion of Afghanistan has proved, as had the invasion of Iraq, that it is easier for a super power to defeat a country and affect a regime change but hard to control and govern it through stooges if the population remains hostile. Civilian and military leaders convinced of the destructive power of their weapon systems fail to realize the potential of the will of the people and of their ability to devise, even in primitive communities, low intensity warfare strategies based on guerrilla tactics and cheap IEDs that can cause huge material and manpower losses to the invader. Tribal societies are used to prolonged fighting which is highly unpopular in democracies.

Any failure in Afghanistan has the potential to destabilise the region. While one agrees with the ICG that there is a need to strengthen the working of the Afghan state and overcome the pervasive atmosphere of impunity, much more funds need to be diverted to rebuild Afghanistan destroyed by two invasions and four decades of civil war. Equally important is to take the countries bordering Afghanistan like Pakistan, Iran and China on board about the exit strategy.