April 4, 2007Foreign AffairsSecurity

An interconnection too far

More commitment from the West can secure and stabilise Afghanistan

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

Over at Registan.net—that excellent blog on Central Asia—Joshua Foust writes about the India factor in Afghanistan:

Pakistan still supports the Taliban holding its western provinces because they train terrorists to stir up trouble in Kashmir. And Pakistan is terrified of India establishing a foothold in Afghanistan.

After a long official absence, Indian consulates have begun to spring up all over the place, causing worry from Pakistan that they’re inciting ethnic hatreds. Barnett Rubin takes this all at face value, claiming it to be a legitimate concern. In one sense, he could be right, as Pakistan wouldn’t like having an active India on both sides. But in another, he should know that Pakistan will seize on any excuse to keep the training camps open, tacitly if not explicitly approving their use and expansion from Islamabad. [Registan]But then, he goes on to write:

It is, alas, a tragic example of interconnectedness. Afghanistan cannot be solved without solving Kashmir, which cannot be solved with the current leadership in both countries. [Registan]

The thing about the everything is interconnected” argument in general is that while it may be proven through a process of induction, it complicates the problem to such an extent to make it unsolvable. Afghanistan cannot be stabilised because Pakistan wants Kashmir but India is unwilling to give it up because it might lead to the Tamils demanding secession along with their Sri Lankan brethren who the Sinhalese Buddhists have oppressed in retribution for the colonial policies of the British government which destroyed the island’s eco-system and traditional way of life by introducing tea plantations so that the English could have their breakfast. That bit about Israel and Palestine should fit in somewhere too. As also the bit about people hating America.

It is possible to stabilise Afghanistan and defeat the Taliban if only the United States and NATO have the appetite for it. The military aspect of defeating insurgencies requires boots on the ground. Security forces must outnumber insurgents many times over. That’s hardly the case today. The economic aspect requires the creation and protection of livelihoods and the rebuilding of the markets and infrastructure. But where’s the Marshall plan for Afghanistan? These are the necessary conditions for Afghanistan’s stability, and the West has failed to ensure that they are met half-a-decade after Mullah Omar departed from Kandahar on a motorcycle.

Despite the obvious fact that it is sponsoring the Taliban insurgency across the border in Afghanistan, there is some truth to Pakistani complaints that the United States and NATO are blaming Pakistan for their own failure. Cutting off the external support is important, but commitment to win the internal war is more so. To be fair, Foust is only too aware of this. For example, he refutes Charles Krauthammer’s claim that Afghanistan is a distraction from the real war on terror. Likewise, looking for remote interconnections is a distraction from the real war in Afghanistan.

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