ARIF AYUB The New York Times has published two telegrams from the US Ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl W Eikenberry (a retired Lieutenant General), in which he has offered his assessment of the US strategy in Afghanistan, in November 2009, conveying his reservations about the counter insurgency strategy that relied on an additional deployment of 40,000 troops, giving the following reasons: > President Karzai is not an adequate strategic partner. It strains credulity to expect Karzai to change fundamentally this late in his life. Beyond Karzai himself there is no ruling class that provides an overarching national identity that transcends local affiliations and provides reliable partnership. > We overestimate the ability of Afghan forces to take over . The armys high attrition and low recruitment rates for Pashtuns in the South are crippling. Building an effective Afghan National Police will prove even tougher. > The exorbitant political and fiscal costs of large scale US deployments. > Rather than reducing Afghan dependency sending more troops is likely to deepen it. > We underestimate how long it will take to restore or establish civilian government. The proposed strategy does not remedy an inadequate civilian structure. UNAMA is not capable of coordinating all the civilian efforts because its role is not to serve as the civilian policy programme counterpart to NATO-ISAF. Unless we create a civilian authority comparable to the military chain of command this problem will deepen and we are likely to see further militar-isation of our efforts instead of civilianisation and Afghanis-tanisation. > We should revisit our decisions over development funding. Accelerating our work on signal projects to deliver greater access to electricity, water and education could have a high pay-off in stability over long-term. > More troops wont end the insurgency as long as Pakistan sanctuaries remain. In his second cable the ambassador called for US strategic re-examination with Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudia Arabia, and other important regional players including Iran as well as NATO and the UN. Earlier in October 2009 Zbignew Brzezinski had given the following advice at the RAND Centre for Middle East Public Policy: > Do not withdraw from Afghanistan. > Do not repeat the Soviet experience. > Do not make this a solitary US engagement. > Focus on a realistic and central strategic objective of denying safe haven to Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan. > Be extremely sensitive to the ethnic diversity of Afghanistan. > Shape an Afghan national army and police force recognising the countrys ethnic diversity. > Depute only the number of extra troops that are essential for the counter insurgency campaign. > Pursue the Taliban. > Keep economic assistance flowing. > Involve the Europeans. > Be more respectful of Pakistans strategic interests in Afghanistan. > Engage China and Iran more regarding their concerns in Afghanistan. > Help to create a north-south natural gas pipeline to create a wider regional interest in the stabilisation of the country. Both these comments focus on the existing problems in Afghanistan and clearly provide a road map for overcoming the present impasse by suggesting practical and pragmatic solutions. The comments show the strength and resilience of the US political system, which allows such frankness and candour in providing analysis, which run counter to what is the considered wisdom in the Pentagon and Department of Defence. If something like this had been done in Pakistan the ambassador would been qui-ckly shown the door. We have also had a number of generals as ambassadors but except for Sahibzada Yaqub Khan (who was dismissed for providing a contrary view on East Pakistan) none of them approached the level of sophistication exhibited in the telegrams. The analysis also reveals that they are sufficient experienced officials within the US system who understand the systems for the current stalemate in Afghanistan and the means for providing the solution. The only problem lies in convincing the remaining cumbersome US military bureaucracy of the correctness of these arguments. Hopefully, when the withdrawal of troops starts in 18 months, the primacy of the civilian viewpoint would prevail. What is particularly striking in the comments is the fact that both Ambassador Eikenberry and Brzezinski realise the increasing importance of Pakistan and the other regional countries in reaching some sort of settlement in Afghanistan. Luckily at least this part of the analysis has begun to filter down to all levels of the US bureaucracy, and following the endorsement by the London Conference the neighbouring countries of Afghanistan have been given the importance they deserve in resolving an issue which affects them all directly. All of them require a peaceful border which implies a peaceful Afghanistan, and if that is not possible, as the last four decades have demonstrated, then at least they need to be assured that the Afghan soil is not being used against their security interests. Pakistan had always relied on regional consultation to try and resolve the conflict in Afghanistan because it realised that the economic and political problems were too immense to be dealt with unless there was involvement of the international community. In the nineties the six plus two formula (neighbouring countries plus US and Russia) was therefore found to be a convenient forum to resolve their issues and prove the bonafides of the negotiating partners. Surely international conferences are convenient for evolving a consensus, but actual negotiations require a more compact group which can meet regularly and focus on the problem at hand. For Pakistan, this change in focus is particularly important as it enables us to maintain our minimalist position (recently reiterated by General Kayani) of ensuring that Afghanistan is not a threat to our security, as well as providing an opportunity of obtaining our maximalist position of ensuring a safe and credible link with Central Asia. Not surprisingly these are objectives which Pakistan shares with all the Central Asian countries as well. The writer is a retired ambassador.