IN THE NEWS: AFGHAN WAR A ZERO-SUM GAME FOR THE US (APRIL 15, 2018)

Written by admin on Sunday, April 15th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Afghan war a zero-sum game for the US
SOURCE: Daily Times
Sunday, April 15, 2018
By TARIQ RAHIM

Situation in Afghanistan is getting worse with the latest wave of attacks. These attacks have killed dozens of people and injured hundreds.

This is evident of US failures in Afghanistan and militants’ success of getting strong foothold even after 16 years of war. The resurgence of terrorists and their coordinated attacks are very alarming for peace in Afghanistan. With the announcement of Trump’s strategy for south Asia and rising number of deadliest attacks raises questions for stable and peaceful Afghanistan in years to come.

Recent wave of attacks at high security points reveals reorganization and capacity of insurgents to do attacks even after massive escalation in US air strikes. Afghan Taliban claimed the responsibility of the first two attacks while the third one was reportedly carried out by the militant Islamic State (IS).The uncertain situation in Afghanistan is very disturbing with the rise of militant attacks at the heart of Afghanistan.

It is extremely worrisome due to the fact that insurgents in Afghanistan have shifted their strategy to focusing on the capital rather than gaining territorial control. There seems a competition between Afghan Taliban and Islamic State to make Kabul a horrifying place for security forces with increased attacks. Attacking the capital of Afghanistan serves the objective of militant groups to demoralize Afghan and foreign security forces.

Afghan Taliban and IS seem to be in a carnage competition

However, Afghan National Army has done a great job and improved the operational performance significantly but it still lacks capabilities to tackle hardcore and organized terrorist attacks. Lack of competence in Afghan security forces has been exposed due to frequent security lapses in the capital. The situation in Afghanistan is extremely grave as IS is gaining grounds while Afghan Taliban have control in most parts of the country. Islamic State has been fighting both Taliban and Afghan security forces and has claimed several high-profile terrorist attacks in recent months. IS has made inroads in northern and eastern provinces of Afghanistan resulting in the increase in attacks and civilian casualties.

The latest wave in attacks has come at a time when US airstrikes have forced the militant groups and Afghan Taliban to retreat from some parts of the western provinces. US-led military operations have failed to curtail the rising insurgency in Kabul’s surrounding as there seems no reduction in terrorist attacks. The weakening control of the Afghan security forces will give further impetus to the insurgents. Washington has showed strong reaction over violence in Afghanistan and it seems that Trump administration will intensify the military options. President Trump vowed to finish the battle in Afghanistan while speaking at UN Security Council in the backdrop of Kabul attacks. “What nobody else has been able to finish, we’re going to be able to do it”, he had said. Nevertheless, Trump’s approach towards Afghanistan is not much different from previous US administrations after 9/11. It seems unlikely to be able to end the war in Afghanistan through massive airstrikes by US forces.

Trump is in no mood to start negotiations with the Taliban. Trump administration also envisages military victory like the previous administrations even after 16 years of war with more than 150,000 troops on the ground. There are reports that Trump administration could deploy more troops after new wave of terrorist attacks in Afghanistan.

Washington will go deep in Afghanistan quagmire with more troop deployment. However, close allies of the US are skeptical of the Trump administration’s approach towards Afghanistan.

The massive attacks in Afghanistan, during the past few days, have increased pressure on Islamabad as well. Both the US and Afghanistan blamed Pakistan for providing safe havens to the terrorists and likeminded militant groups. Pakistani security agencies are also blamed for playing a facilitating role for terrorists inside Afghanistan.

Pakistan too has serious concerns over growing Indian-Afghanistan nexus.

In addition to this, US have also increased pressure on Pakistan by putting conditions on financial assistance along with a tougher tone to do more. Trump administration is committed to put more pressure on Pakistan and increase airstrikes on Taliban sanctuaries allegedly backed by Pakistan in the tribal areas. In coming days, there is possibility that US may slap military and economic sanctions on Pakistan and likely to influence other international financial institutions to squeeze and stop financial assistance to Pakistan as in the case of FATF recently.

Washington has already suspended military aid to Islamabad partially.

There are efforts in the US to get Pakistan declared a terrorist haven.

Certainly, this is not going to happen in near future as Pakistan enjoys pretty good diplomatic ties around the world. However, Washington has still maintained diplomatic pressure on Pakistan to clamp down on all forms of terrorists and their hideouts inside its tribal areas.

Islamabad is facing serious challenge to maintain relationship with Washington since 9/11. There is serious deliberation within the military and political leaderships about foreign policy options towards US.

Pakistan lost thousands of civilians and armed forces in fighting terror.

Unfortunately, Pakistan is blamed for US failures in Afghanistan. The fact is that several militant groups operating from inside Pakistani areas cannot be denied completely. The presence of militant groups and their planned attacks on military and civilian places have made Pakistan vulnerable to the US pressure.

Since there is dire need for Pakistan to take steps according to her national security interests, instability and violence in Afghanistan are threats to the security of Pakistan too. Indeed, it is in the security interest of Pakistan to cooperate with the US and international forces to contain violence and terrorism in the war-torn country.

 

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