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The Frontier Post, Pakistan

It's Obama's Afghanistan Now


"The situation is precariously similar to when Lyndon Johnson was at the helm during the Vietnam War. Obama must connect all the dots in the region - be they in Tehran or in Srinagar."


By Husham Ahmed


July 13, 2009


Pakistan - The Frontier Post - Home Page (English)

Genghis Khan: Since he invaded Afghanistan in the 13th century, one major power after another jas tried to bring Afghanistan to heel - all to no avail. Will the United States manage to get out with its dignity intact?


BBC NEWS VIDEO: In Great Britain, the Afghan War turns political, July 13, 00:3:38RealVideo

Abraham Lincoln said: "What has once happened will invariably happen again, when the same circumstances which combined to produce it, shall again combine in the same way."


Obama might like to recall this statement, particularly now that he's launched a new offensive in Afghanistan. The situation is precariously similar to when Lyndon Johnson was at the helm. Johnson inherited the Vietnam War from his predecessor and opted for an increase in the number of U.S. troops. The number rose from 16,000 in 1964 to 553,000 by 1969. But it failed to do the job and Richard Nixon had to withdraw after buying some time to save face. New Zealand and Australia decided to pull out earlier in 1971 and were followed by the U.S. in 1973.


This time the battlefield is Afghanistan. Obama has inherited a war on a landscape that throughout history has been notorious for brutal civil wars. Genghis Khan failed to prevail here - even with his naked barbarity. Great Britain retreated in 19th century - as did the Russians when they were "Vietnamized" in a war of attrition during the 1980s. But Obama thinks he can win.



Operation Khanjar, which is the first big offensive of the Obama presidency, must be seen in this context. This time the plan is to enter Helmand Province, the stronghold of the Taliban, and to hold and build the area for the upcoming Afghan elections. Obama has already increased U.S. troop levels by 21,000, bringing the total number of American boots on the ground to 68,000. Simply put, this number isn't enough to win militarily. Perhaps, Obama would like to pay heed to the advice of Fikryat Tabeyev, former Soviet ambassador to Afghanistan from 1979 to 1986, who is of the view that no escalation of troops can bring lasting peace to Afghanistan.


The coalition countries already know this and hence at the last NATO summit, we saw a reluctance to commit more troops. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has already termed the war "unwinnable" and has refused to pledge additional troops. So to pull his country out of this quagmire, what other choice does Obama have?



To answer this, let's go back to the beginning. The U.S. only came in Afghanistan to capture Osama bin Laden and disrupt the al-Qaeda network. There were no other grandiose plans like nation-building or promoting moderate elements and democracy. Milton Bearden, CIA station chief in Pakistan from 1986-89, wrote prior to the U.S. invasion in 2001: "Washington may be tempted to try to oust the Taliban regime, but doing so could rekindle Afghanistan's brutal civil war. The United States must proceed with caution - or end up on the ash heap of Afghan history."



But the Yankees lost the sight of this and turned their faces toward Baghdad, putting an indigestible amount on their plate. The U.S. has to understand that no amount of voting will bring a representative and a consensus-based government to Kabul unless all ethnicities, including the alienated Pashtuns, take part. And at that point Washington must have an exit strategy, for lasting peace will be given a serious chance only once the foreign troops are off of Afghan soil.


Henry Kissinger proposed such a strategy while writing in the International Herald Tribune. He suggested a formal neutrality for Afghanistan that would be guaranteed by all its neighbors and the great powers. Meanwhile, the government in Kabul would give assurances not to export terrorism. The 1839 Treaty of London is one accord that comes in one's mind. It contained a similar agreement of neutrality for Belgium.


Afghanistan has always been the battleground of proxy wars between various nations. The inclusion of India in Obama's contact group for Afghanistan shouldn't be views with suspicion. For if India is on the table along with other neighbors of Afghanistan, the prospect for reaching a comprehensive agreement for the neutrality for Afghanistan is much brighter, provided Pakistan's concerns are also addressed. But for this to take place, Obama must connect all the dots in the region - be they in Tehran or in Srinagar.




































[Posted by WORLDMEETS.US July 13, 11:38pm]