WASHINGTON - Former Pakistani Ambassador to the United States, Hussain Haqqani on Friday urged the US to stay in Afghanistan “for as long as necessary”, instead of withdrawing its troops in 2014 as planned.
“Instead of signalling eagerness to exit Afghanistan, Washington should be demonstrating that the United States is willing to stay for as long as necessary,” wrote Haqqani who is now a professor of international relations at Boston University and a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.
“Ironically, a firm display will all along, coupled with a global strategy to combat extremist Islamist ideology, might have made an early withdrawal easier,” he said in his piece: Why the US needs Muslim allies.
“Although the Taliban increasingly threaten Pakistan, the Pakistani military and intelligence services continue to make distinctions among groups of Taliban and jihadis and considers some of them strategic allies. Pakistan is still clinging to hopes of greater influence over Afghanistan with the help of various Taliban factions after the withdrawal,” Haqqani claimed.
The former Pakistani envoy wrote: “In last week’s foreign policy debate, President Obama said that success against al Qaeda can be achieved simply by tracking down and killing those identified as terrorists. This view is no doubt rooted in the US electorate’s disapproval of distant wars. But this thinking fails to take into account how drones and other remote tactics are used to encourage extremism among the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims. Ideologically motivated radicals can recruit, train and regroup even after their leaders have been killed in drone strikes. And the American aversion to long wars fits into Osama bin Laden’s prediction that the United States would withdraw from the greater Middle East rather than stay and fight.
Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney speaks in general of the need for a multidimensional strategy to marginalise extremists in the Islamic world. But he is seeking to get elected by war-weary voters in an environment of economic difficulty. There are no votes for either candidate in questioning the wisdom of fighting under a deadline.
Although important, the killing of Osama bin Laden did not end the war that began with the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Al-Qaeda and its affiliates continue to recruit from North Africa to Southeast Asia. The ideology of Islamist revivalism, rooted in a culture of grievance and victimhood, remains powerful. Newly elected Islamist governments in some Arab countries, such as Egypt, will most likely fuel hatred of the West as a substitute for economic and social success, just as Iran has done since its 1979 revolution. This, in turn, will continue to produce a steady flow of terrorists ready to kill Americans.
Using drones to find and kill al Qaeda leaders already known to US intelligence will not end the war, either. Eventually, the United States will have to find Muslim allies who help limit the influence of ideas or organisations that turn some young Muslims into terrorists. Washington has made few efforts toward that end, depending on friendly autocrats or whoever manages to get elected instead of working to strengthen modernising democrats who share Western values. Governments in the Muslim world would also have to deny terrorist groups the havens they enjoy now and shut down the organised recruitment and training of future terrorists.
Taliban leader Muhammad Omar is frequently reported to have said, ‘Americans have the watches, but we have the time.’ By announcing the deadline for withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, the Obama administration has effectively told al-Qaeda and the Taliban how long they have to wait for the Americans to depart.
For the sake of not sounding like a neoconservative interventionist, Romney has committed himself to the 2014 cut-off date. But that deadline may have to be reviewed.
Time is needed to raise an effective Afghan national Army able to secure the country. The Taliban’s ability to infiltrate the fledgling Afghan force— evidenced by the “green-on-blue” killings this year — shows the shortsightedness of assuming that a quickly assembled Army can, on its own, defeat an ideologically motivated enemy.”