A leading expert on South Asian political and military affairs Friday said that serious questions need to be asked as to why successive US administrations kept making the same mistakes and why there was no serious strategy in place for Pakistan.
“US knew that Pakistan was being perfidious but it continued to pay that country money. We are now in a more dangerous situation than we were on 10/11. Pakistan is more aggressive,” said Christine Fair.
She said this while taking part in a discussion on the ISI, Taliban and Afghanistan on the opening day of the Military Literature Festival (MLF) here. Others who took part in the discussions were former diplomat Vivek Katju, former Secretary in cabinet Secretariat Tilak Devasher, and Maj Gen BK Singh.
Fair said the war in Afghanistan was lost the day the Americans went into the strife torn country.
“This was so because the Americans made Pakistan a partner in this area and it was one country which did not want this project to succeed. I am yet to see a failure purchased on an installment plan as this one,” she said.
Fair added that people do not appreciate how many wars have been fought in Afghanistan since 9/11. “The first was a CIA effort. Some of the promises, which were made to General (Pervez) Musharraf, were not easy to keep. The CIA wanted Pakistan’s cooperation in operations against Al Qaeda. Almost every major Al Qaeda capture at the time was made with Pakistani cooperation,” she added.
Making his opening remarks, Devasher said that US policy in Afghanistan has been ‘confused’. “Many question whether Taliban in Afghanistan have now changed and has their attitude to women changed. Pakistan wants Taliban to have a significant role in Afghanistan. Any deal with Taliban has to go through them (Pakistan),” he said.
Devasher said that there were three elements in the present situation in Afghanistan. First: a hasty withdrawal of US forces from the country may be more destabilizing. Second: In last one year, Pashtun civil rights movement has come up in neighbouring Pakistan with focus on disappearances of Pashtuns and extra-judicial killings by the Pakistan security forces. Third: The growth of Islamic State in Afghanistan. “ISIS has drawn disgruntled elements in Taliban,” he said.
Katju said that India must engage in a dialogue with the Taliban in Afghanistan and that there was no alternative to having a dialogue. “That does not mean that we like them. But they are there and you cannot wish them away,” he added.
He said that Afgnaistan today was in no better situation than it was in 2002 or in the 1990s as far as the nation building project was concerned. He said that the Taliban could not have achieved the success that they did without Pakistan’s help. “Pakistan made Taliban their instrument of interference in Afghanistan after they abandoned Gulbudin Hekmatyar. With Pakistan’s support, Taliban have showed a remarkable staying power,” he said.
The former diplomat added that the Americans have suffered an enormous strategic defeat in Afghanistan as shown by the “tantrums of Trump”. The political class of America have not been able to come to a cohesion. “As of now, the US is trying to convince Taliban to give certain concessions. I do not see Taliban relenting easily as they have the upper hand,” he said.