Former Pakistan diplomat urges Trump Administration not to rush deal with Afghan Taliban

By: | Published: December 7, 2018 8:29 AM

Taliban's current negotiations with the US might be a ruse to get the Americans out of Afghanistan, which may lead the country to become a safe haven for international terrorists again, a former top Pakistani diplomat warned Trump Administration.

Former Pakistan diplomat urges Trump Administration not to rush deal with Afghan Taliban (Representational image)

Taliban’s current negotiations with the US might be a ruse to get the Americans out of Afghanistan, which may lead the country to become a safe haven for international terrorists once again, a former top Pakistani diplomat warned the Trump Administration on Thursday. “If the Americans are seen to abandon Afghanistan in a hurry, jihadists worldwide will tell future recruits how the combination of their religious zeal with terrorism overcame the military prowess of two superpowers,” the first having been the Soviet Union, wrote Husain Haqqani, former Pak Ambassador to the US, in an article in the prestigious Foreign Policy magazine “The United States does not lose wars; it only loses interest,” he wrote, implying that some Americans seemed to be in a hurry to end their longest war without regard to the consequences.

The piece comes days after US President Donald Trump sent a letter to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, seeking help in bringing about peace in Afghanistan. “From America’s point of view, Afghanistan is a poor backwater that becomes strategically significant only when a hostile power controls it. The US supported Afghans wage a holy war against the Soviets during the 1980s only to walk away after the Soviet withdrawal and return after the 9/11 terrorist attacks,” he wrote. Haqqani noted that the US had never deployed its full force to eliminate the Taliban operating from safe havens across the border in Pakistan.

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“Reports about corruption and Afghanistan’s venal politics contribute to the view that the Afghans contribute less to the war effort than they should and that, after the killing of Osama bin Laden and the degrading of al-Qaida, the US has little reason to continue expending blood and treasure there,” he added. Haqqani, who is currently the director for south and central Asia at the Hudson Institute, cited statistics to point out that contrary to perception, America’s Afghan allies were bearing “the vast bulk of the human cost of fighting in their country, especially in recent years.” At least 28,529 Afghan security personnel have been killed in the fighting since 2015. American fatalities are low in contrast. In 2015, 10 American troops lost their lives, nine were killed in 2016 and 11 in 2017.

In 2018 so far, 12 American soldiers have died in combat in Afghanistan along with four other coalition soldiers. According to Haqqani, the Taliban have engaged in talks with Americans several times since the 1990s only to deceive the US. The former ambassador praised President’s Trump’s Special Representative for Afghan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad as “uniquely qualified to navigate the treacherous politics of Afghanistan” but cautioned that “even Khalilzad may not be able to overcome the difference in outlook – and commitment – between the United States and the Taliban.” According to Haqqani, “military missions must be tied to the attainment of objectives, not to their length of time” and it was a mistake to say that just because the US had been in Afghanistan for 17 years, it was time to leave. “If defeating the Taliban militarily has proved difficult, negotiating with them has not been particularly easy either,” he observed.

“The Taliban have been playing the long game, hoping to wait the Americans out before defeating the inadequately trained Afghan forces,” Haqqani said, citing high profile Taliban attacks in Afghanistan since the recent revival of talks with the group. He said, “While negotiating with the Taliban, Americans must remember that international terrorism is not over and precipitate US withdrawal from terrorist-infested regions like Afghanistan would only recreate ungoverned spaces that could again serve as operational bases for global terrorists.” In his view, any Afghan settlement “would have to involve verifiable guarantees that Afghan and Pakistani soil will not be used to harbour or train terrorists responsible for attacks around the world.” Haqqani advised the US to heed the “concerns of ordinary Afghans” while talking to the Taliban so that “developments that are anathema to the Taliban” such as a democratic constitution, access to education for women and the desire among Afghans to engage with the rest of the world are not trampled. Husain Haqqani concluded that “While pursuing peace, Americans should not lose sight of the difficulties in securing a deal with the Taliban, a less easily reconcilable enemy, as well as Pakistan, a country with regional ambitions that are not always compatible with American objectives.”

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