Javid Husain The current US policy in Afghanistan marked by pious intentions but a flawed strategy is doomed to failure. The policy suffers from lack of clarity about its aims and employs questionable means to achieve them. It is not surprising, therefore, that even after nine years of fighting in Afghanistan and a huge loss of lives and treasure, the US is nowhere near the realisation of the goals that it set out to achieve. (According to a recent study, US taxpayers are paying nearly $100 billion annually for the war in Afghanistan.) President George Bush invaded Afghanistan to defeat Al-Qaeda for having organised the 9/11 attacks and punish the Taliban for having provided sanctuary to Al-Qaeda. Having toppled the Taliban government in Afghanistan, his administration proceeded to impose a government of its choice on Afghanistan through the Bonn Accord. In the process, the US blundered into the internal armed conflict between the Pashtuns and non-Pashtuns which had been raging in Afghanistan since the fall of the Najibullah regime in 1992. While the military defeat of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban government was within the reach of the US power, the establishment of an effective government of its own choice on a sustainable basis and the restoration of durable peace in Afghanistan proved to be elusive goals. The main reason for this failure was the fact that the US political re-engineering in Afghanistan established a government dominated by the non-Pashtuns. This was naturally resented by the Pashtuns, who constituted almost half of the population of the country and who had ruled Afghanistan for more than two centuries since the days of Ahmad Shah Abdali. Considering Afghanistans history and cultural traditions, as well as the combative character of the Pashtun tribes, it was inevitable that sooner or later the Pashtuns in Afghanistan would join the Taliban, who were overwhelmingly Pashtun, in their fight against the US-led forces. It was also predictable that the Pashtun tribes in Pakistans border areas would join their Afghan brethren in this fight. Thus, it is the US policy to impose a flawed political dispensation in Afghanistan which is responsible for the continuation of the armed conflict in that country. Washingtons pressure on Pakistan to stop the Pashtun tribes in FATA from joining the fight in Afghanistan and our willingness, howsoever reluctant, to oblige the Americans destabilise our tribal areas initially and is now posing a serious security threat to the rest of Pakistan. President Obama has scaled down US objectives in Afghanistan to the dismantling of Al-Qaeda and the prevention of terrorist attacks on the US organised from the territory of that country. These goals are reasonable and deserve our support, particularly as we ourselves have been the victim of terrorism. What is required, however, is the right strategy for the achievement of these goals. It is here that the US strategy in Afghanistan leaves a lot to be desired. The central thesis on which Oba-mas Afghanistan strategy is based is deeply flawed. Obama like his predecessor has reversed the cause and effect relationship between the situation in Afghanistan and that in FATA. It is the fighting between the Pashtuns and the US-led forces in Afghanistan which has sucked in the Pashtun tribesmen from our tribal areas because of close crossborder tribal ties. To pretend that the Pashtun/Taliban tribesmen from FATA are primarily responsible for the continuing armed conflict in Afghanistan is illogical and has predictably led to a defective analysis, erroneous conclusions and a flawed strategy. The real cause of the fighting in Afghanistan lies in the unfair political dispensation imposed by Washington in Afghanistan, which has alienated the Pashtuns and made them rise against the US-led forces in that country. Furthermore, the Karzai government suffers from the stigma of having been brought into power through foreign military intervention and sustained in power by foreign forces in the face of the well known and fierce Afghan dislike of foreign occupation. The ruthless use of violent means by foreign forces to defeat the Taliban, which has frequently resulted in the loss of innumerable lives of innocent people, and the disregard of the cultural traditions of the Afghan society by the US-led forces have added to Washingtons difficulties. The foregoing analysis suggests the main elements of a modified US strategy in Afghanistan, if Washington has to have any reasonable hope of achieving its goals of rooting out Al-Qaeda and terrorism in Afghanistan in the foreseeable future. The US must place greater reliance on political initiatives, rather than the use of force for achieving its objectives in Afghanistan. It should encourage the commencement of dialogue for national reconciliation involving the various political forces in Afghanistan, including the Pashtun tribes, non-Pashtun communities, the Taliban and others for the establishment of a broad-based government in the country. It is true that the Taliban represent a retrogressive interpretation of Islam which is out of tune with the challenges of modern times. At the same time, it cannot be denied that they are a political and military force to reckon with in Afghanistan. It is necessary, therefore, to engage them politically to find a settlement which is in the best interest of the whole of Afghanistan. Obviously, terrorism in any form or manifestation should have no place in such a settlement. Further, this task of national reconciliation must be accomplished by the Afghan people themselves free from foreign interference. The US must also recognise that the coalition forces have become a problem, rather than the solution to the problem in Afghanistan. Their withdrawal and replacement by troops from some neutral countries, preferably OIC countries excluding Afghanistans neighbours, to ensure peace and security during the transition period before the establishment of a broad-based government would have to be an essential element of the new US strategy in Afghanistan. It is also important that the political initiative for national reconciliation and a broad-based government in Afghanistan should enjoy the support of the neighbouring countries, particularly Pakistan and Iran. There is growing realisation even within the US of the shortcomings of its current strategy in Afghanistan. An example is the recent report by the Afghan Study Group which has recommended, inter alia, power-sharing and national reconciliation as well as suspension of combat operations in southern Afghanistan. Pakistan must adopt a clear-headed strategy in dealing with the situation in Afghanistan and the issue of domestic terrorism. Our Afghanistan policy must ask the US to do more politically in the interest of national reconciliation, a broad-based government and durable peace in that brotherly country. We should tell the Americans forcefully that we are not prepared to dest-abilise our country to meet the demands of their flawed strategy in Afghanistan. While we must maintain our friendship and partnership with the US in combating terrorism, Washington should be advised not to treat Pakistan as a scapegoat for its policy failures in Afghanistan. My next article would focus on the problem of terrorism in Pakistan. The writer is a retired ambassador. Email: javid.husain@gmail.com