Afghanistan needs a political settlement’

Thursday, June 1st, 2017, 4:47 am

But relying on Pakistan to broker peace with the Taliban may not work, say experts.

A political settlement with Taliban is the only way to bring about an end to the conflict in Afghanistan, a group of experts who focus on the region said, hours after a blast killed at least 90 people, bringing the war to the doorstep of the tottering U.S.-supported government in Kabul. But relying on Pakistan to broker peace with the Taliban — as the U.S. has been doing for years — may not yield the desired result, and military pressure must compel the insurgents to come to the negotiating table, these experts said.

The U.S. approach to resolving the Afghanistan situation must be narrowly focussed on the conflict and leave out other regional questions, said Ashley J. Tellis, the Tata Chair for Strategic Affairs at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

‘U.S. Policy in Afghanistan: Changing Strategies, Preserving Gains”, a report he co-authored with another expert Jeff Eggers, argues that “regional options — resolving the India-Pakistan conflict, creating a neutral Afghanistan, or squeezing Pakistan — are too difficult to rely on alone.”

Policy review

“Since a counterterrorism-only solution is unlikely to be efficacious, the U.S. should prioritise reaching a political settlement with the Taliban while continuing to bolster the Afghan state and its security forces,” the authors argued.

The Trump administration is reviewing the U.S.’s Afghanistan policy and is likely to announce a new approach in the next few days. The U.S. commander in Afghanistan has asked for a moderate increase in troops levels and the administration is likely to approve an additional 3,000 to 5,000 troops to the existing 84,00. A U.S. military spokesperson in Kabul told the National Public Radio on Wednesday that the additional numbers are required to fill in some gaps in the training and support missions that the U.S. undertake in Afghanistan.

No timeline

Husain Haqqani, Senior Fellow at Hudson Institute, said the U.S. must stop announcing timelines for leaving Afghanistan. “The only way to escape from Afghanistan is to say that we have no intention of leaving. Whatever else you do, don’t put a timeline,” Mr. Haqqani said, recalling a statement by a Taliban leader who said, “we have the time and Americans have the watches”.

“All wars end in a political settlement. But Taliban is not any other group. For them, time is not important and worldly goods are not important,” said Mr. Haqqani.

He said Pakistan’s argument that India was fighting a proxy war against it in Afghanistan was misplaced and exaggerated.

“Stop fantasising that Pakistan would help broker peace with Taliban. Try to talk directly to the Taliban,” he said.