US troops withdraw from Afghanistan and India-Pakistan dilemma
Under immense pressure from its own public the only face saving policiy that Obama could or want to implement is the withdrawal of American troops from Afganistan by 2014 as declared earlier. His comprehensive recent defeat to republican has made his position weaker than ever. Even after 10 years of its operation in Afganistan and northern area of Pakistan, American masters are still clueless about the location of Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar. Their record against controlling Taliban is also far less than impressive. President Karzai is currently nothing more than mayor of Kabul. People of Afganistan feel less secure now as compared to a year ago. Taliban are now more confident and united than ever before. Road side bomb blasts and sucide attacks have increased in outskirts and inside Kabul significantly. In a nutshell, situation is getting worse than ever in Afganistan.
Trouble in leaving Afghanistan without defeating Taliban and strengthening Afgan government to stand on its feet is that America will loose its support for its war against terrorism. Bear in mind that US didn't seek UN security council approval for its invasion on Iraq where it didn't find any WMD and its image has already tarnished. US cannot afford to loose another battle to terrorism when its has already started loosing support from its NATO allies. Germany, Canada, UK and other NATO allies have already declared to either completely remove or reduce their troops from Afghanistan. And if Obama is not able to create a suitable environment to withdraw troops by 2014 then there is no doubt about his removal from white house in 2013 US election.
There is more more development happening in neighbourhood which is also a pain in a** for Obama. Iran is fast and secretly developing its Nuclear bomb which has gathered speed in last year. According to reports, Iran may develop a working nuclear bomb within a year. Many specialist think that it may have already developed one and have now speed up its enrichment process to accumulate as much as enriched uranium before the world comes to know about it. If this is true, US and Israel will have to attack Iran as they cannot afford to have another Islamic nuclear bomb. Although Pakistan also have nuclear bomb but it is not hostile against either US or Israel.
If US need to attack Iran , then it cannot do that just with NATO support as Iran is no Afgan or Iraq. It will need not only UN security council support but also UN general body support. Iran is a semi developed nation and many times stronger that Iraq and Afghanistan. US know this fact and gathering support against Iran will be a much tougher task. This is the reason why US do not want to leave Afghanistan without a working settlement as doing so will weaken its case against Iran.
As it is getting more clear that a clear win over Taliban is highly impossible, US focus have now shifted from winning the war to getting a political settlement. With approval from US, president Hamid Karzai have already started secret meeting with top Taliban leaders. It is now becoming more clear now that Afgan Taliban are now fast becoming part of the solution from the problem in less than a year. It looks like Haqqani group will also be a part of this peace talk. Karzai is ready to accept report about these peace talks but is not ready to reveal identity of the people or group he is talking with which is understandable looking at the critically of these talk. However more than anything else the fate of these talks or should we say trump card of this game are held by Pakistan and India.
Among all these peace exercise every one knows that gate of Afghan peace settlement open and close at Islamabad. Pakistan consider Afghanistan as own natural territory and will not allow any peace process in Afghanistan without it being a party and it wishes fulfilled. It will not allow a government in Kabul which is friendly to India. This goes to the era when Russia invaded Afghanistan and put its puppet government there. India was one of the first countries to recognize Northern Alliance government and had a very good relationship with Kabul. Pakistan left cornered at that time and did the same to India when Taliban took control of Kabul. This time Pakistan was only one of the three countries to recognize Taliban government and India was uprooted from Afghanistan. Now when Northern Alliance is again in the power, India have almost retained back what it lost in 1995.
This time India not only looked for Political support in Afghan government but also economical and public support. Indian is the largest donor to Afghanistan after USA. India have almost spent more than $1.8 billion in Afghanistan on infrastructure development and health. It had build several roads including highway which connect Kabul to Iran, many hospital and dispensaries, providing free medical facilities and medicines and it is also building Afghanistan's new parliament.
Afghan public feel more comfortable in associating itself with India than with Pakistan as they see Pakistan a supporter of Taliban. President Karzai has been accusing Pakistan ISI of spreading violence in Afghan through Taliban and other organizations like Haqqani group. Pakistan intelligence agency ISI was also accused of bombing Indian embassy in Kabul and other construction sites where Indian companies were involved. They are also accused for playing a double game with US and Afghanistan by calling themselves allies in war against terrorism and also supporting and protecting Afghan Taliban.
Pakistan on the other hand accuses India and Afghanistan of helping Pakistan Taliban, Pushtun nationalist movement and Baluchistan Liberation Army. The fact is that Pakistan government have little or no support from its public and tribal leaders in raiding its own people in NW frontier. Pakistan may have lost more than gaining anytihing in helping US in this war. It almost lost control of one third of its land in FATA, SWAT and other tribal areas when Pakistan Taliban and other groups captured all of the areas and were close to take over Peshawar. However Pak army retaliated back and captured most of the areas back but it is still becoming harder and harder everyday to keep these area secure. This have also started a series of bomb blast and suicide attacks in all the Pakistani cities.
Encouraged by these events, Baluchistan liberation movement also started its freedom movement which was almost dead for two decade. It has been reported that BLA have been secretly supported by India and also US to keep Pakistan in check in Afghan and war against terrorism.
As it is becoming more clear that peace talk with Taliban leaders is the only solution for Afghanistan, Pakistan have been trying it best to place its people in Taliban in the discussion table. India on the other hand do not want Kabul to be soft on Taliban and want less Taliban involvement in final settlement. As the 2014 deadline is coming near both sides have intensified their efforts in maximising their stake. India is also worried as US and Pakistan have now also included China into the play. China has been long time threat to India's influence in the region and China also support Pakistan against India. Pakistan played a gamble by stopping NATO supply line for three days opposing America's drone attack in Pakistan's territory which paid off as US has to make an apology which have boosted Pakistan's confidence.
How ever till now India and Pakistan are the biggest player in this game along side US. But it has been shifting slightly in Pakistan's favour as US is getting more and more desparate to leave Afghanistan. On the other hand Obama know that only way to stabilize this whole region is to break a peace deal betwen India and Pakistan first before thinking about Afghanistan peace deal. This is the reason why Obama on his recent visit to India gave the hint that US is ready to play any role in Indo-Pak peace deal. However he didnot utter the K word as he cannot afford to offend his host.
As the deadline for troop withdrawal is coming near, options for Obama is getting narrower. There is growing dissatisfaction both in Kabul and back at home. He is already standing on the weak ground and if he has to keep his chances for second term in white house he has to do something and he has to do that very soon. But what ever he does, he has to keep wishes of India and Pakistan in mind. Till that time both these regional forces will keep fighting their proxy war on Afghan soil and it might get intensified if the deal fail to please any one of them.
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