Washington D C [United States]: Reflecting on the myriad policy challenges in South Asia, C. Christine Fair, Associate Professor in the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, has opined that the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump would need to deepen its relations with Iran to ensure that U.S.-Afghan policy is secure from Pakistan’s efforts to destabilise Kabul.
In an article for the warontherocks.com web site, Fair said, “U.S.-Afghan policy must be secure from Pakistani efforts to destabilize Afghanistan. This means it is vital that the United States and its partners deepen its relations with Iran rather than eviscerate them as the president-elect and his senior appointees have promised to do. Iran has more in common with the United States than does Pakistan.”
While acknowledging that Afghanistan is enjoying a semblance of democracy and access to education and health care as never before, and also the support of their own army, Fair is of the view that the high level of corruption that exists in that country, makes for a situation that is “precarious and unsustainable”.
“This corruption has fuelled the insurgency,” Fair says, adding, “Much of it is also driven by patronage politics that has a long history in Afghanistan.”
“Pakistan would find it much more difficult to exploit Afghan grievances if there were fewer grievances,” she states.
Fair suggests that Afghanistan would need to clean up its act on corruption for Washington to continue to remain committed to it under the incoming Trump administration.
Washington, Fair says has two options – it can leave Afghanistan altogether, keeping only a normalised presence at the embassy with an aid portfolio that looks like any other country. “This is tantamount to handing Afghanistan back to the Taliban and their Pakistani masters. Alternatively, the United States could agree to an open-ended commitment to continue helping Afghanistan’s security forces stave off the persistent predatory threat from Pakistan and its proxies. The goal should be to fund this at a level similar to that of current U.S. assistance to Israel.”
“The United States should be willing to remain committed to Afghanistan, but Afghanistan must clean up its act in specific ways and on a time schedule that is feasible. At the same time, the Afghan government and the international community need to begin re-sizing the Afghan government, expanding the tax net, and cajoling important investors to build the needed infrastructure to get Afghanistan’s resources out of the ground and to market. Afghanistan will soon be connected to railheads from Iran, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. It simply needs the internal connectivity to those rail heads, either by road or rail links,” Fair says.
“The United States has spent more in Afghanistan in real terms than it did in the entire Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe after the war. The gains are real. Afghans have enjoyed a semblance of democracy. The Taliban continue to make gains, particularly in the rural areas where most Afghans live. The Afghan National Security Forces continue to take casualties at an astonishing rate. The United States needs to make some serious decisions about Afghanistan as soon as possible,” she adds.
“Success in Afghanistan will also require the United States to forge a real and effective Pakistan policy. Even if a long-term U.S. commitment to Afghanistan and Afghan commitments to doing a better job at governing occur, the United States and Afghanistan will still fail if Pakistan continues to provide sanctuary, training, as well monetary, military and diplomatic amenities to the Taliban,” she concludes. (ANI)