It is rather premature to envisage the endgame in Afghanistan, as President Hamid Karzai does not intend to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) any soon, whereas the US wants him to sign immediately.
On 25th November 2013, he told US National Security Advisor Susan Rice in Kabul that the United States must put an immediate end to military raids on Afghan homes and demonstrate its commitment to peace talks before he would sign a bilateral security pact. The White House was unhappy over President Karzai’s conditions he outlined in the meeting with Susan Rice. The US indicated that it would have no choice but to initiate planning for a post-2014 future in which there would be no US or NATO troops’ presence in Afghanistan.
America is wary of scathing criticism especially when it has spent a fortune in war on terror and aid to Afghanistan. According to the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction ((SIGAR) created by Congress to monitor US spending in Afghanistan, the US has spent $54 billion on funding security forces in Afghanistan and $92 billion on reconstruction, agriculture and other development projects.
The total US cost of Afghan war vis-à-vis troops deployment is $642 billion; yet the US does not appear to have achieved any of its objectives. That point besides, there is a lot of theatre to the spat currently going on between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the US Obama administration over the BSA between their two countries. There is a perception that after having negotiated the deal and getting it approved by the Loya Jirga, Karzai’s purported reluctance to sign up the deal could at best be only posturing. And it appears that the agreement is almost a done deal, notwithstanding all that bullying and blackmail that the two sides are indulging in so ostentatiously. The agreement has ultimately to go to the Afghan parliament for final approval; and with the Afghan elite littered with the beneficiaries of the US-led invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, this ratification seems to be no big deal. After all, the deal promises the continued inflow of billions of dollars in aid, which will provide opportunities to members of the above elite to continue with their loot and plunder.
But given these stark ground realities, BSA will not be a harbinger of peace, security and stability in the war-ravaged Afghanistan. Last month, an assembly of Afghan elders, known as the Loya Jirga, endorsed the security pact, but Karzai suggested he might not sign it until after national elections next spring. BSA includes a provision allowing raids in exceptional circumstances - when an American life is directly under threat - but it would not take effect until 2015. Karzai also called on Washington to send remaining Afghan detainees at the US military detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, back to Afghanistan, saying that the Loya Jirga had endorsed the pact with this condition. US officials appear exasperated by Karzai’s stance on the security agreement, which they say is needed to help them plan a future mission that will assist Afghan forces fight militants and that will allow for future aid crucial for the impoverished nation.
The problem is that the Taliban vehemently opposed and rejected the BSA. Earlier, the Taliban had even warned the Loya Jirga not to give it a nod of approval. The Haqqani network and Gulbadin Hekmatyar are also deadly opposed to the presence of the occupation armies and they too want them out. Together, they keep the country’s south and east under their sway, where the occupiers are on the retreat and the Afghan security forces on the run. Clearly, the south and east will remain up in arms; the fighting will continue; and peace, tranquillity and security will elude the country. Americans, their NATO allies and Afghan palpably know it, as does any objective observer of the scene. The strategic cartographers over there have carved out the country into northern and western autonomous regions under the thumb of pliable friendly Afghan warlords, leaving southern and eastern parts under the domain of the insurgents. But this will prove to be a prelude to the division of Afghanistan. Last year, conservative MP and Foreign Office aide Tobias Ellwood had suggested a regionalized state.
His blueprint comprised three plans: Plan A was to turn Afghanistan into a smoothly functioning democracy; plan B to hand the war over to the Afghan security forces, which would be overseen by American military advisors; and plan ‘C’ was to split Afghanistan up into eight zones based around the economic hubs of Kabul, Kandahar, Herat, Mazar-i-Sharif, Kunduz, Jalalabad, Khost and Bamiyan. But often the things do not go the way their architects plan. Anyhow, if the US is serious in keeping Afghanistan together then it has to use its influence over Northern Alliance leaders to sit with the Taliban leaders and give the Pashtun majority their due share in governance.
In recent times, the Taliban including their spiritual leader Mullah Omer have said time and again that they are not hankering for monopolising power in post-withdrawal Afghanistan. Other groups and organisations should follow suit and show sense of accommodation to keep Afghanistan united.