The endgame


Pakistan, Afghanistan and the US

The Afghan conflict has dragged on for far too long, mostly because of a lack of a policy mutually agreed upon to bring an end to it. Military conflicts usually last only as long as the political class wants them to. If the latter make up their mind about having peace, militaries alone cannot continue a war. The endgame in Afghanistan is something that requires a solution of the sort.

President Obama’s surprise visit to the war-ravaged country does show an inclination towards bringing an end to a war that has lasted almost a decade. By saying that he would not want his forces to remain in harm’s way any more than needed, he has made his intentions clear: a withdrawal and finishing the job responsibly. What has, however, stood at odds with this is his signing of an agreement for the American presence in the form of trainers and advisors beyond 2014, the deadline for the withdrawal of US troops. This is quite unsettling for Pakistan who wants greater leverage in how affairs settle down after the US leaves the country. It is only natural for Pakistan to demand such control, just to avoid a repeat of the situation that panned out after the earlier US withdrawal in the late ’80s. Moreover, it is Islamabad that has paid a heavy price, some say even more than Kabul has, in this war on terror. Islamabad is also wary of New Delhi’s increasing influence in Afghanistan.

Any solution that even hints at concluding this war, without Pakistan’s active participation, is more than likely not to work. It will be hard for the Afghan government to sustain itself for long, in case the Taliban threat is not mollified. The US needs Pakistan as it is the only party here that can tackle the Taliban, both on the negotiation table and in the field. While the US’ distrust of Pakistan makes it hesitant in handing over a greater role to it, it is the endgame that is at stake. Pakistan, however, also needs to realise that the greater the power, the greater the responsibility. It would perhaps be better if it does not go solo and works with the US and Afghan government to ensure peace in its neighbouring country.