Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding

Opinion Editorials, July 2011


Al-Jazeerah History


Mission & Name  

Conflict Terminology  


Gaza Holocaust  

Gulf War  




News Photos  

Opinion Editorials

US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)





On the Cusp of Afghan Drawdown and Reconciling with Taliban

By Rahil Yasin

 Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, July 4, 2011



Osama bin Laden’s death has provoked a flurry of new solutions to the Afghan war. Some argue his killing must lead the way to the end of war in Afghanistan but others aren’t agreed with the idea on the basis that main objectives of the war have not yet achieved as Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants are still capable to strike deep inside Kabul, a city supposed to be safer than other areas. Although the US has to leave Afghanistan one day, but ground realities suggest President Obama’s impetuous decision carries unwarranted risks. 

The US and Nato forces have killed almost 20 Al-Qaeda leaders, through counterinsurgency operations in Afghan or drone attacks in tribal areas of Pakistan, along with a covert operation by US Special Forces in Abbottabad in which Osama bin Laden was killed. But, Al-Qaeda and Taliban remain committed as they were, on the day of start of this war. Their continuous and forceful strikes on allied forces defy any logic of speedy drawdown. It exposes the capacity and potential of Afghan forces which are unable to secure a hotel in the middle of Kabul, and in the presence of Nato forces. 

A question comes to mind: would Afghan forces be capable to handle security operations by their own in 2014. The answer is not more than a single word, ‘no’. These incidents also negate President Obama’s claim that “the tide of war is receding” and that troop reductions will be taking place from “a position of strength”. As the US is on the cusp of transition, it is now looking for a political settlement of the Afghan conflict. Reconciling with Taliban is the first option and splitting Taliban and Al-Qaeda by the UN provides a legal basis to the rationale. 

The US had been trying for the last few months to directly talk to Taliban, without giving any space to Pakistan in this regard. Most probably to get Taliban consent on providing permanent bases in the country to the American forces which the former would not allow in any case. Afghanistan is not Iraq, where Americans achieved their goal of securing permanent bases, after directly holding talks with the Sunni insurgents. This time there is tough task for America to get out of Afghan quagmire, because here are more players this time, in this ‘game’. But the question is that: how would it be possible to cut the Gordian knot on Afghanistan. Because the solution of this complex issue is not as simplest as the US might have anticipated. 

With the announcement of Afghan drawdown plan by US President Obama, Afghan Taliban are likely to follow ‘wait and watch’ policy in which they are supposed to revitalise their energies, regroup their factions, recruit ‘new blood’ and widen their control in most of the provinces. Another danger is that the talks will fail to achieve any objective if main Taliban leaders, all ethnic groups and major regional players are not made part of the process. Afghanistan’s history points to the importance of including all ethnic groups in any centralised political set-up. Mere talks for the sake of talks will have a limited life span. 

Any political settlement in which Taliban remain on the upper hand could pave way for a return of civil war. In this case, regional players, with conflicting interests, would step in to get their stakes in the country. Interests of Pakistan and India bound to substantially clash with each other. Pakistan has undeniable strategic interests in Afghanistan while India’s largely economic interests cannot be ruled out, either. 

This also seems unrealistic that both the countries would reach any understanding on Afghanistan, while defining their specific non-conflicting roles in the country. It is either difficult to strike such a deal, or even impossible to ponder it, in wake of unsettled Kashmir dispute. Hostile policies of both the countries towards each other will further complicate the situation because any arrangement, without taking all the regional powers on board and safeguarding their interests, will doom to fail. India, Pakistan, Iran, China, Russia and Afghanistan should engage in a direct dialogue with the United States as mediator in an attempt to make the war-ravaged country a stable and secure place.


Rahil Yasin is a senior columnist and researcher based in Lahore. He can be reached at




Opinions expressed in various sections are the sole responsibility of their authors and they may not represent Al-Jazeerah & &