The lack of success in operation enduring Freedom in Afghanistan results from the US-led coalition’s failure to develop and implement, jointly, a coherent strategy for its conduct that integrates counter-insurgency, counterterrorism, and stability and reconstruction operations. The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), internal cohesion for development of the Afghanistan operation, is becoming increasingly fragile. The willingness to share risks has become a key issue. National caveats are increasingly disputed. Not all North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) member states are prepared to send their forces into combat. This puts the fundamental principle of alliance solidarity on the line.
As long as parts of Pakistan serve as a safe haven for the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, coalition forces will not be able to control Afghanistan.
Above all, the conflict has increasingly become a regional one. Taliban bases in Pakistan cannot be targeted by coalition forces; however, logistical and armament supplies out of Pakistan are significant, and Pakistan is used as a recruitment base. As long as parts of Pakistan serve as a safe haven for the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, coalition forces will not be able to control Afghanistan.
The endgame of the US-jihadist war in Afghanistan has, therefore, to be played out in Pakistan. Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda command cell are located in Pakistan and have all the signs of having regenerated to an alarmist proportion. Ever since their egress from Afghanistan in November 2001, the Taliban’s command and control structures have re-established themselves in Pakistan, directing insurgency propaganda and activities from a safe haven close to the border with Afghanistan. Furthermore, the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) have become a training ground for an array of actors intent upon driving out NATO forces from Afghanistan. Bolstered by support from elements of Pakistan’s overbearing military establishment, the Taliban have established firm roots within these regions. Parts of Waziristan in NWFP are now controlled by militant Islamists, with the harsh social rules imposed upon Afghanistan in the late 1990s taking hold.
In less than three years, the NWFP has seen the exit of three governors. From Lt-Gen (Retd) Syed Iftikhar Hussain Shah to Commander Khalilur Rehman to Lt-Gen (Retd) Ali Mohammad Jan Aurakzai, all three governors of the NWFP had to bow out of office, all trying to grapple with an increasingly difficult and complicated situation in FATA. And it wasn’t just the governors; political agents and several other senior civil officials, were all tried and tested and then shown the door in an unceremonious manner. These changes indicate a faltering policy, if there ever was one, to rein in a growing militancy in tribal borderlands.1
Another reason for the inadequacy of ISAF operations is the lack of troops. Where the Soviets lost with 300,000 troops, the Americans and NATO are fighting with less than 50,000.
The war on terror should know no borders. The international community should address the root causes of terrorism-wherever they are. After the bloodiest year since the 2001 US-led invasion, it is clear that the NATO-ISAF coalition won’t make lasting progress in Afghanistan unless the militants’ ability to command and control the insurgency from across the border in Pakistan is tackled.
Another reason for the inadequacy of ISAF operations is the lack of troops. Where the Soviets lost with 300,000 troops, the Americans and NATO are fighting with less than 50,000. Any hope of defeating the Taliban, or of reaching some sort of accommodation, depends on isolating them from Pakistan. So long as the Taliban have sanctuary and logistical support from Pakistan, ISAF troops in Afghanistan have an uphill task.
Despite the bad faith in starting the operation, withdrawing from Afghanistan without defeating the Taliban and destroying al Qaeda is not a feasible option. Their presence is increasingly bolstered by foreign jihadists, many of whom have brought the tactics and modus operandi of the Iraqi insurgency into Afghanistan. Suicide bombings and sophisticated Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) are now commonplace. The response of President Musharraf oscillates between repression and accommodation, but ultimately net gains are being made by the insurgents, with the Karzai Government, the Afghan people and NATO forces left to pay the price. While the insurgency is sustained by cross border sanctuaries and support, disillusioned, disenfranchised Afghans are also responding to the call of extremists.2 Security for the people of the region is essential.
The Pakistani armys ability to carry out operations effectively on their side of the border is doubtful. It is not completely united and motivated in this endeavour due to its several competing interests. It is a complex and shifting constellation of relationships.
The coalition strategy in this global war against terror (now being realistically referred to as the ‘long war’) is seriously flawed. The Pakistani army’s ability to carry out operations effectively on their side of the border is doubtful. It is not completely united and motivated in this endeavour due to its several competing interests. It is a complex and shifting constellation of relationships. Since all events take place in the shadow of history, the historical context is important to understand the dynamics of the conflict and draw relevant conclusions and lessons.
An analysis of this jihadi war will be covered as under:
- The Historical Context
- The Pashtunistan Angle
- Operation Enduring Freedom
- The Way Forward