In 2015, the US will have approximately 9500 plus 2000 troops deployed in combat support role in Afghanistan under the rubric of recently signed Bilateral Security Agreement and the State of Forces Agreement.
The reduction of foreign troops will saddle the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) with onerous responsibility of defending the nation against heavy odds. By not succumbing to the Taliban during the election, the ANSF has given an excellent account of its capability. Such forces are often hampered by a shortage of arms and ammunition from giving an even more befitting response to anti-national elements. The international community, particularly US, has a moral obligation to render maximum support to ANSF in terms of intelligence, artillery/air support, logistics and training. The ISAF has an unfinished task to fulfill the promises made to the Afghan people.
It is imperative that India, Afghanistan, US/NATO and Russia to join hands in the fight against terrorism. These countries, except Turkmenistan, are members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Likewise, Russia and three Central Asian states (Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan) are members of the Collective Security Organizations (CSTO). Both these organization have established Anti Terrorists Centres in Central Asia and regularly conduct joint military training to combat terrorism. On the other hand, NATO under the Programme for Peace (PfP) is engaged in capacity building in non-traditional threats in the region. These organizations should assiduously shed their traditional mindsets and explore the avenues for creating a collaborative security framework and mechanisms to foster cooperation between NATO, SCO and CSTO to fight terrorism.
Peace building in Afghanistan should be Afghan inspired and Afghan driven with an international community fulfilling its commitments of civil aid made during a series of Donor Conferences held during last 14 years. Must foreign countries to closely cooperate with the Afghan government on the type of assistance, financial, technology and expertise they need and leave it to the Afghan government its actual implementation. The focus should be on the outcome and not on bureaucratic procedures. The assistance rendered should be based on the local aspirations and not decided arbitrarily by outsiders.
Creation of an enabling environment for early construction of new strategic transportation and energy grids from Central Asia / West Asia to South Asia via Afghanistan. The opening of Chabahar – Zaranj – Delaram road will connect Afghanistan with Iran and India and provide this land- locked country an alternate access to the Arabian Sea. The route will also provide the largest regional economy-India direct connection to Central Asia. Early operationalizations of North- South corridor will further boost inter-regional commerce and trade. The TAPI and IPI gas pipelines: popularly called the pipelines of peace will boost energy cooperation between energy – rich Central Asia and energy – starved South Asia.The return of peace will also facilitate the completion of the electricity grid under CASA-1000 program that envisages export of electricity from Tajikistan/Kyrgyzstan to Pakistan via Afghanistan.The realization of these projects will help in integrating regional economies, earn huge transit fees for Afghanistan, generate employment opportunities for youth of Afghanistan and promote peace between India and Pakistan.
India has spent about $2 billion on various projects in Afghanistan to assist the ANSF, as well as building and constructing civil infrastructure. India is committed to supporting the new Afghanistan Government under the aegis of the strategic agreement signed between the two countries. India is against any Zero- Sum outlook on Afghanistan and favors an inclusive and collaborative approach to peacebuilding in the country.
In terms of Pakistan – Afghan relations, there is scope for improving economic ties, enhancing regional connectivity and rehabilitating refugees. The Pakistan military must crack down on Taliban sanctuaries on its side of the border. The recent offensive against TTP in North Waziristan is welcome but may hardly prove useful till all terrorists operating in the area are gunned down. The TTP has links with terrorist groups working in Afghanistan and India, as well as Al Qaeda.
A selective approach towards terrorists would not only jeopardize Pakistan’s international relations but put the country’s internal security at risk from attacks like the one at Wagah. Cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan in monitoring of the terrorist movement across the Durand line and destroying terrorist strongholds on both sides of the border is a real thing. However, a multi – lateral level cooperation among all stakeholders fulfilling their obligations for security and development in Afghanistan is even better.
The international donors should tie their economic assistance to reforms like fighting corruption, reforms in judiciary, implementation the rule of law, improving financial management system and governance. Condition-based aid pushes for much needed, in Afghanistan. Hopefully, these should give President Ghani and his team the opportunity to satisfy the Afghan public that in the absence of reforms, Afghanistan the foreign aid will be difficult to get.