Attaining victory in Afghanistan on its respective terms — continues to be the prime objective defined by the US for the year 2017. The stated aims include defeating various belligerents that pose a threat to US interests and eradicating IS. The likely options emerging so far– reminds one of the famous saying “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is insanity”. On its part; the US aspires to win this round by surging troop levels, enhancing the scope of decisive force, enhancing training and assistance of Afghan forces and lastly, offer relevant security branches, greater autonomy to undertake certain decisions based on ground dynamics.
But, the crucial choice of partnering with various regional players on the issue of Afghan stability continues to be divided between two key prisms: one which carries a genuine desire to resolve security crises and the second, which seeks for ways to limit expanding footprints of other major powers.
The US and Pakistan interests could largely align under various areas; but certain contradictory approaches under the second prism may encourage a stronger US-India convergence for now. In Order to assist the US, consolidate its gains, one could expect India to negotiate for a relatively free hand in devising certain regional strategies, which in turn would also seek to legitimize its actions in both Afghanistan and Kashmir.
The recent statements by the director of National Intelligence US, which seem to have spurred up an ecstatic joy among a few in India– unfortunately appear to reflect this one sided- Indian enunciated view. The continuing conditions set under the Consolidated Appropriations ACT 2017, is another recent example; where expecting Pakistan to unilaterally tackle issues well beyond its control and jurisdiction could be likely. But, the world is not estranged from the various internal crisis embroiling Afghanistan and Kashmir, many of these concerns have been highlighted by sensible prominent Indian voices.
The reactions to enhanced Indian oppression in Kashmir, self-perpetuates radicalization. The situation in Afghanistan is enveloped in a greater paradox– where on one hand prominent US military voices confer to the fact that no significant migration has occurred from Levant but instead a loose coalition of regional groups such as TTP and IMU are extending allegiances to the IS name. Indian intelligence links with some elements in these groups is a publicly surfaced fact. Afghanistan’s cooperation with Pakistan in resolving various security crisis also often finds itself in flux due to rifts created by India Pakistan tensions.
Therefore, on the other hand, turning a blind eye to these interlinked chains of atrocities and subversion, the US not only increases the scope of keeping itself engaged in a perpetual war but also dim the very aim of breaking the stalemate.
Furthermore, the coalition of groups in question, are not explicitly anti-Pakistan, but pose grave threats to all regional players including the US.
An Expanding operational space of such non-state actors increases the scope of internal fighting in Afghanistan, promulgation of illicit activities, and compounds various pressures on the fragile Afghan government — which already finds itself entangled in multidimensional power rivalries. This delicate situation also compels various regional players to devise unilateral defensive strategies which are presently becoming a prominent reason for burgeoning suspicions.
Ideally, a deeper plunge down this rabbit hole needs to be halted. The prism of terrorism and the prism of power rivalries should not find overlapping areas. India should weigh in certain the long term costs of its current posture and work closely with Pakistan to resolve various issues. The US too, needs to work closely with Pakistan and other key regional allies to devise a coherent security framework to eradicate terrorism and stabilise Afghanistan while alongside make serious efforts to explore opportunities emanating from China-Pakistan initiatives.