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NATO Afghan Withdrawal:CIVIL SOCIETY ROLE CRITICAL, By Prof Arvind Kumar, 25 June, 2014 Print E-mail

Round The World

New Delhi, 25 June 2014      

NATO Afghan Withdrawal


By Prof Arvind Kumar

(Dept. of Geopolitics & Intl Relations, Manipal Univ)


The debate on the future of Afghanistan in the regional security environment has again gained salience. There are conflicting perspectives. Some feel that the situation in Afghanistan is going to be stabilizing after the NATO troops’ withdrawal. Others argue that the country will continue to be a very highly volatile place and peace and stability would be too difficult to realize.


The declaration of drawdown strategy by the United States’ had raised a fundamental question whether it would be drawing down from a position of strength. The other related issue has been whether the US has been able to accomplish the enshrined task when it had launched the global war on terrorism in October 2001. So far in the past over a decade, the US hasn’t been able to bring normalcy and stability in the region. In fact, the problems in Afghanistan have been compounded and many time gone beyond control. 


Therefore, the continuing challenges in Afghanistan emanating from the current situation, where peace and stability seems to be a distant dream, has renewed interest among members of the strategic community about the probable of its future in the emerging regional security environment. It is a well known fact that the intensity and the degree at which the levels of insurgency and terrorism have been growing in Afghanistan reflect major concerns among the members of the international community in general and the US and India in particular.


Undeniably, the internal fabric and architecture of Afghanistan’s security has been threatened especially in the context of the growing influence of the Taliban. The ongoing war on terrorism since its launch in October 2001 has so far not been able to produce desirable results and it’s generally believed it cannot eliminate or eradicate terrorism unless and until the root cause is properly addressed. The killing of Osama Bin Laden by the US has to a greater extent aggravated the situation by way of increasing the vulnerability. How best the nation States across the globe can make a concerted effort in terms of seeing that the existing vulnerabilities get decreased remains a real challenge.


Indeed, Afghanistan has by and large been always plagued by insecurity, insurgency, impunity and corruption, besides being confronted with problems including terrorism and war lordism. These have always undermined the potential for progress on all other fronts. The lack of competent security institutions in Afghanistan has become the main reason for the continuing crisis. In fact, within the international coalition, the goal of establishing internal Afghan-focused security achieved less primacy than the goal of destroying the international terrorist networks.


It should have been the other way around because stable Afghan governance and security forces are required to create a viable long-term alternative to the Taliban. The challenges have always been to create a capable and efficient government in Afghanistan and to develop effective Afghan security forces, which can help in administering and maintaining law and order.


Undoubtedly, the future of Afghanistan depends upon the legitimacy of its government and its will and capacity to implement the rule of law, which is crucial for effectiveness and delivery of governance. In the past, the amir established a centralized administration to assure security and sharia courts for justice and the authorities for local governance and dispute settlements were left to tribes and communities. Currently, the central government continues to ensure security and justice on the national level and has been showing signs of its seriousness in terms of adherence to the rule of law within the communities. However, the civil society has to be more mature and aid the government and its participation in framing and evolving State’s policies may be a good way forward in terms of legitimizing the government.


However, the rise of Talibanism and Al Qaeda’s strategy of global jihadism has unfortunately kept Afghanistan in perpetual tension, wherein the complete Talibanisation of the region will somehow see how best they can dominate and serve their interests. At the same time, the ongoing reconciliation process has indicated that the role of Pakistan has become significant on this front.


This is so as there is no denying that Pakistan has a central role to play in the stabilization of Afghanistan. Likewise, India too will remain important for the overall reconstruction. However, Pakistan has become a victim of its own State’s policy and hence the Talibanisation of the regional security environment has lots of negative implications for its own national security and that so also for India. Further, the US too becomes highly vulnerable if the Taliban gets stronger by the day.


Worse, the back-channel diplomacy with the Taliban in the reconciliation process has so far failed as it hasn’t been able to garner the latter’s confidence and support. Sadly, though New Delhi had never been included, there is a much greater acceptance among influential Pakistani civilians of India’s presence in Afghanistan, as it remains the most popular foreign country at the local level there. 


What needs to be taken into account is that the probable return of Taliban in a dominant role in the foreseeable future will have negative consequences for India and the region. However, New Delhi has been supporting for a reconciliation policy targeting foot soldiers and field commanders. The London conference on reconciliation saw changes in India’s approach, wherein it has by and large been in consonance with its policy towards domestic insurgent groups, in which rehabilitation and reintegration is commonly offered to militants who wish to give up violent methods and adopt constitutional means.


Therefore, it’s high time the international community and the Afghan government engage the capacity of the broader Afghan society making it the engine of progress rather than an unwilling subject of rapid change. India must work to create a regional environment which would be conducive to Afghanistan’s success. The ongoing global competition in terms of its creating each nation’s sphere of influence in Afghanistan has to a greater extent become a stumbling block in the overall stability of the region. The most immediate requirement would be to renew regional cooperation, which would help provide significant security and give an economic boost in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the region as a whole.


Further, India can help Afghanistan in evolving a coherent and systematic strategy, which would help in bridging the gap between conflict and democracy and between tribal councils and a Supreme Court. New Delhi’s responsibility will increase after the complete implementation of the US’ drawdown strategy. The primary goal should be to help Kabul secure an environment with sufficient food and basic elements of justice.


This apart, Afghanistan should be spared from the tentacles of terrorists’ networks. Security of a nation is an essential ingredient of stabilization and reconstruction process. The challenge of creating rule of law and legitimate institutions in Afghanistan to transform or eliminate both the root and perpetrators of conflict can only be addressed when the role of civil society becomes dominant and a larger part of decision making process. While the US drawdown strategy might help the civil society in Afghanistan in regaining confidence, it’s time the latter resumes its responsibility of maintaining security and develop bilateral relations to promote economic cooperation and reconstruction. --- INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)













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