Negotiated settlement in Afghanistan a must
The departure of the US led NATO troops from Afghanistan is causing different kinds of concerns among countries in the region. After satisfying itself that it had taken revenge of the Vietnam defeat from the Soviet Union, the US simply abandoned the region in 1989, leaving Pakistan to deal with the militant groups that CIA had earlier financed, armed and launched inside Afghanistan. The US is once more leaving Afghanistan without achieving any of the aims variously defined at different times during the last 12 years and which included, democracy, reconstruction and defeat of the militants. Pakistan is keen to see a stable neighbouring country with a friendly government. Having invested millions of dollars hoping that the government in Kabul would help it in pursuits of its regional aims, India is worried over Islamabad being called upon to play a crucial role in the post NATO scenario. India would like some of the foreign troops to continue to stay till the Afghan Taliban are either eliminated or made to establish good ties with New Delhi. Both Russia and China however want a terrorist free Afghanistan but are concerned about the proposed presence of some of the US led NATO troops after 2014.
All these concerns found expression at the Almaty moot which was a part of the Istanbul Process, launched by Turkey and Afghanistan in November 2011. Fourteen ministerial and high-level delegations from the Asian countries including Pakistan, India, Tajikistan, Iran, Azerbaijan and China met on Friday to issue a declaration. There is a need on the part of Afghanistan and Pakistan to evolve a common strategy to deal with the situation after the departure of NATO troops. Relations between the two countries however reached another nadir during the last few months. Among other things Karzai’s verbal offensive against Pakistan added fuel to the fire. Hopefully the meeting between Gen Kayani, President Karzai and Foreign Secretary Kerry in Brussels last week would change the attitude.
Pakistan stands by its commitment to support Afghan-owned and Afghan-driven solution of the issue. When the Afghan Taliban were willing to talk to the US under certain conditions, Obama preferred to escalate military operations. The Taliban are now waiting for the departure of the NATO troops and the outcome of the Afghan elections next year. They know that despite the Afghan security forces being double the size of the foreign troops, they lack the crucial air cover and modern defence related gadgetry. All sides must realise that unless there is a negotiated settlement Afghanistan may pass through another civil war which would inflict new miseries on the Afghans besides having a destabilizing effect on the region.