Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, January 27th, 2020

The End Game in Afghanistan


The End Game in Afghanistan

The unpopular war in Afghanistan, if defined properly, is now becoming notorious. Going through what is being called as "The End Game" is becoming very tough for the International community involved in Afghanistan and led by US or it may be that it is not yet the end of the game. Though many in international media and politics emphasis that it is now the end game in Afghanistan, there are indications that end is yet to come. The fear is that this emphasis should not turn out to be forcefully implemented as there are many factors that do not seem to be going towards their conclusion.

If it is the end, the issues that have been creating problems should be reaching to their conclusions; however, the scenario in Afghanistan is depicting a very different picture. The issues seem to be intermingling, and the ambiguities, uncertainties and current distrust have made optimistic thinking very much difficult. It would not be inappropriate or even critical if someone says that the future is dark and the vision is non-existent.

Different incidents that have been occurring in Afghanistan recently are adding fuel to the fire. A political solution in Afghanistan – which is a real solution of the Afghan issue - is not very close and these incidents are further hindering the process. The reconciliation with Taliban seems to be out of track and the Afghan people do not appear to be having confidence about the outcome of the ongoing reconciliation process. Even the Afghan government, which is labeled as Puppet government, does not seem to be in concurrence with the process, let alone the opposition parties and the minority groups.

Though on many occasions Western decision makers have agreed that a lasting solution for Afghanistan is not through the war; it is political solution alone that has the hope of stability in the country, yet the measures have not been carried out appropriately in the same direction. Instead of the process being participatory and inclusive, it has been the reason of widening the gap between Afghan people and the Western allies and the current situation is making sure that this gap should keep on increasing.

The unfortunate events of the US marines urinating on the Taliban corpses, the burning of Quran in a US base, the killing of NATO officials by Afghan culprits and now the killing of 16 Afghan civilians in Qandahar by an ISAF soldier have all been adding distrust between Afghan people and foreign allies. These incidents, at the same time, are also pressurizing the US and European countries to make the process of withdrawal speedier. Afghan President, while talking with a delegation of the families of the victims in Qandahar incident has mentioned that foreign forces should be withdrawn as soon as possible.

British Prime Minister, David Cameron, has also admitted that it is time for the End Game in Afghanistan. He has also agreed that British soldiers and people now believe that the Afghan war should be ended. During his visit to White House, he has mentioned, ''I think people want an endgame… They want to know that our troops are going to come home; they have been there a very long time… What I define as doing the job is leaving Afghanistan looking after its own security, not being a haven for terror, without the involvement of foreign troops.

That should be our goal. So that the British public, our troops and the Afghan government, frankly, know there's an end to this.'' These statements clearly depict that the pressures are mounting on US and European countries to withdraw their troops from Afghanistan as soon as possible. However, it should be kept in consideration that British Prime Minister, David Cameron, had earlier, during the Afghan President Hamid Karzai's visit to Europe and after the announcement of the French President to withdraw troops till the end of 2013, said that withdrawal should be made conditional. As per the conditions, there are not clear indications that the international troops should withdraw immediately; not at least there is a political solution to the Afghan issue.

The US Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta, in a recent visit to Afghanistan, has emphasized that the mentioned tragic events would not change the US strategy in Afghanistan. He said, "I understand that questions are going to be raised as a result of the events of the last few weeks but it is very important for policy-makers to keep their eye on the target." Though he tried to emphasize that US would conclude the war calmly and would keep their strategy intact, the mounting pressure on US government and the US's political considerations do point out that their strategy may change. The most important decision in that regard is expected to come in Chicago Conference in May this year.

Definitely, the ongoing circumstances are raising concerns about the future of peace and tranquility in Afghanistan and they may keep on becoming serious if they are not addressed appropriately. It is important that these events should not prove to be detrimental for the factors that may bridge the gap between the Afghan people and foreign allies.

Moreover, they should not become so much influential so as to dictate the timeframe for the withdrawal of international troops from the country. The withdrawal process should be made conditional, if a lasting peace has to be achieved in Afghanistan and the most important condition for the withdrawal is a sustainable political solution for the issues in Afghanistan.

Neither the incidents of the type mentioned above nor the so-called pressure on international allies should dictate the withdrawal. The last decision regarding the End Game in Afghanistan should be made on the basis of situation of security. Even the claim that the End Game in Afghanistan has already initiated should be revised. With so many factors still undecided it is yet too early to claim that the time is ripe for the End Game. At the current situation international allies can only end their involvement, not conclude it.

Dilawar Sherzai is the permanent writer of the Daily outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at dilawar.sherzai@gmail.com

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