A study released by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, USA on 14 Jan 2013 has totaled the direct spending by the US on the war in Afghanistan for the period FY2001 to FY2013 as $641.7 billion. Of this, $198.2 billion (over 30 per cent) will be spent in FY2012 and FY2013.Bulk of the total spending and aid has been allocated since FY2009 – after insurgency reached high levels – clear case of too much, too late.
More significantly, it states that vast majority of aid went to the ANSF and ‘not’ on development. This indicates a US priority weighted on military expenditure and not on economic development. The emerging overall US doctrine implies US will not take primary responsibility for events but allow regional crises to play out until a new regional balance is reached.
However, US will continue controlled engagement in accordance with its national interests. This is how the game will play out in Afghanistan, Syria and other conflict areas including Asia-Pacific. This matches Obama’s January 2013 speech of “a decade of war having ended and time having come for reviving economy”. Barry Cooper, Senior Fellow, Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute, wrote thus on 8th January 2013 in Calgary Herald…“Most important are our own interests: we are willing to let Pakistan (and even Iran) establish spheres of influence in Afghanistan because at the end of the day, we really don’t care how Afghans govern themselves”.
A run up to future instability and chaos in Afghanistan has already commenced. John M Gillete wrote in Small Wars Journal on 05 Feb, 2013, “ANSF has committed extraordinary assets to road clearing/ security… over large parts of the country offensive operations have ceased entirely and, in cases even resulted in a withdrawal of security forces from key terrain… without adequate supplies and effective communications large portions of the east, south and west are effectively isolated from Kabul… abandonment of key terrain have caused increasing numbers of security force personnel to become disillusioned and normally high attrition rates have swelled to epidemic levels that greatly exceed the rate at which new recruits are being added.”
Earlier, in December 2012, John Glaser writing in AntiWar.com had reported that around 50,000 Afghan soldiers (about 26 per cent) quit the army annually, so do eight per cent of Afghan police officers every year quite contrary to the “rosy picture” Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and top US military officials have been painting.
As per Chris Sands (Global Post, Kabul – 20 Feb 2013), parts of Afghanistan have already descended into ethnic violence and civil conflict. In the southern province of Urugzan, a militia headed by a Hazara (ostensibly backed by US) is accused of deliberately destroying houses, raping women and murdering dozens of civilians. Up north, Northern Alliance is remobilising in case internationally supported talks with the Taliban see them return to power. Then there also have been reports of extremists from CAR, particularly from Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) fighting alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan.
The US will be content if Northern Afghanistan holds as a buffer between Taliban and CAR. The power vacuum in southern and eastern Afghanistan may not be addressed if the US decides to restrict itself to training role and the ANSF resorts to fortress defence in face of mounting Taliban pressure. SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) will likely have increased influence in Afghanistan but China will unlikely commit any troops unless Chinese interests are directly threatened.
However, there is possibility of increased NATO-CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization) cooperation since China cannot provide security for her investments in the region and Russia understands the adverse effect of Taliban reaching Kabul. There has been some speculation of another international force like that from OIC countries but this remains speculative. A force under the UN flag too is unlikely as it comes into being only when both parties agree. So who is the other party besides Afghanistan; Taliban will not agree and Pakistan will say it was never involved. Can a UN force thus be deployed only on Afghanistan’s request to fight terror?
In the evolving situation in Afghanistan, Pakistan will continue to exert its influence to keep Afghanistan within its sphere of influence. Michael Hughes, geopolitical journalist spoke thus of Kayani in July 2010… “Kayani was brazen enough to try and inveigle Afghanistan to strike a power-sharing arrangement with the Haqqanis. And Kayani, apparently the spokesperson for the Haqqani group, said they’d be willing to split from and denounce Al Qaeda, which is President Obama’s primary rationale for the war. However, there is a higher probability of General Kayani converting to Hinduism than there is of the Haqqani Network ever being decoupled from Al Qaeda… Nine years, nearly $300 billion dollars and 1900 dead coalition soldiers later, the US has officially verified that the entire war effort has been focused on the wrong side of the mountains”.
Agha H Amin, a defence analyst and a former Pakistan army officer reinforces this by saying, “Utopians in India are jubilant that Pakistan has made peace with India. Nothing in reality can be farther from the truth… the real picture of true intentions of the Pakistani military will emerge when the US withdraws from Afghanistan. This will be the time when the Russians, Iranians and Indians will have no choice but to support the Northern Alliance against Pakistan sponsored Taliban who regard all Shias, Ismailis, non-Pashtuns, moderate Pashtuns as infidels who deserve to be massacred”.
Calls being raised for Indian military deployment in Afghanistan post 2014 are grossly unwise being out of sync with ground realities. In the first place, there has been no request from Afghanistan for the same. Secondly, supply lines would perforce have to pass through Pakistan which would make the move a non-starter.
In any event, sending Indian troops to Afghanistan when Karzai seeks the removal of all foreign troops is certainly not an option. India should however provide militarily assistance to Afghanistan. This could take the form of assisting Afghanistan in establishing country wide Industrial Security Force, reducing unemployment and providing security for mining, infrastructure and development projects to boost economy.
In addition, besides assisting in the training of Afghanistan’s young officers, India could assist ANSF set up Afghan National Army Officers Academy (ANOA) and provide instructors (as required by ANSF) to facilitate modulate US/NATO concepts of war fighting to Afghan requirements. India could also supply military equipment to Afghanistan consistent with envisaged Taliban/Al Qaeda threat – in conjunction/consultation with other countries. It could also look into having joint military exercises both in India and Afghanistan for counter terrorism, operations under UN and special operations and regular exchange of intelligence teams as part of ‘Security Cooperation’ under the India-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Agreement 2011.