Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Not surprisingly, the fifty plus nations Chicago Summit failed to accomplish any results. The summits at Lisbon, Bonn, Chicago etc. are purely meant to get US allies to commit funding and troops. Financial commitments may have been made, but like in the past, very few nations will actually deliver.

Eleven years of war with no clear outcome, is weighing heavily on the minds of citizens and treasuries of nations involved. The NATO led effort has turned from a justified war to a misadventure. Francois Hollande of France and Stephen Harper of Canada were very clear in conveying their nations desire to extricate themselves. Hollande will recall all French troops by end of this year and Harper will not keep any Canadian troops beyond 2014.

President Obama escalated this war with minor gains. In the process he is beginning to look like Lyndon Johnson, who was defeated by Vietnam war. He has made the same mistake Johnson did, place his trust in the Generals. President Obama has sided with Leon Panetta and his Generals who are war hawks and believe in winning militarily over Hillary Clinton, who most likely is able to deliver diplomatically. Sooner or later President Obama will come to realize that the Generals did not deliver in Vietnam, nor will they in Afghanistan.

It is time to change gears from military to diplomacy. President Obama should tell Panetta and his Generals to stand down and take a back seat and assign Hillary Clinton the task of accomplishing peace in Afghanistan. Nixon assigned the task of ending Vietnam war to Henry Kissinger, Obama needs to do the same with Hillary Clinton.

There are only five parties that need to come together for the war to end and to chart the future of Afghanistan. These are:

                      1. The Karzai Government
                      2. The Northern Alliance (representing non-Pashtun minority)
                      3. Taliban & Pashtun representatives
                      4. U.S.
                      5. Pakistan

A summit involving these groups will ultimately accomplish peace in Afghanistan. The first three can then  draft a new Constitution and hold free and fair elections for a representative Government. Hillary Clinton should be charged with meeting each group to prepare grounds for a 'Summit of the Five' (not fifty) later this year. She can ascertain the genuine needs and fears of each, then begin the task of bringing them together for a continuous dialogue.

The main problem for the last ten years has been that US has backed the non-Pashtun Northern Alliance, who despite being a minority, have had virtual control of all organs of the State. In the current composition of Afghan Armed Forces nearly 65% come from minorities and as many as 77% Generals are from Northern Alliance. Until these anomalies are rectified, the Pashtun will not enter a serious dialogue. All parties in Afghanistan need to get a fare representation. The minority must not rule the majority and the majority must seriously commit to a fair representation to the minority.

Contrary to US Congress' ill advised position, Pakistan has vital interests in seeing a fair settlement in Afghanistan as it does not wish to see the country fall apart after the troop pullout in 2014. It had to endure over six million Afghan refugees, of which two million still reside in Pakistan. If US is ready to play a fair hand, Pakistan can influence the Taliban and the Pashtun to come to the table for a serious dialogue. The continuous war since the Soviet invasion has caused enormous economic losses to Pakistan - some estimates put it at $70 billion. The pipeline from Turkmenistan that was to be built in the 80s and 90 bringing gas to an energy deficient Pakistan has still not been built due to turmoil in Afghanistan.

US citizens are tired of this war and its treasury is empty, Afghans are fed up of the war and so are the Pakistanis. It is time to let diplomacy work. For that to happen, President Obama needs to demonstrate leadership, which has been lacking so far.  If he continues to follow the advice of the Generals and does not go for a diplomatic solution, he will make a bigger mess in Afghanistan and end up exiting in the same manner as US did in Vietnam - with tale between his legs.

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