As if more war is the only solution to the Afghan imbroglio, Nato is assessing the need to send more troops to Afghanistan. They won’t be a combat mission but act as trainers and advisers to government forces, says Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenburg.
As the Afghan forces lose more ground to Taliban militants Nato commanders want a “about a few thousand” more troops. The decision on the scale and mission would be made at Nato’s annual summit on May 25. It’s doubtful that the surge will work where more than a hundred thousand foreign troops did not, given that such a surge had failed in Iraq even when things there were not as hopeless as in Afghanistan today. In Afghanistan, it is a sort of civil war in which the government forces are pitted against the insurgents who are not affiliated to al Qaeda any longer. Today they are fighting the government forces for control of their own country.
If there is an outsider it is the Islamic State militants, and it is being fought against the Afghan Taliban as tenaciously as it is by the government forces, if not more. If at all Nato wants to win the Afghan war militarily, it needs to be the ground not in thousands but hundreds of thousands. But a more pragmatic approach would be to strike a dialogue with the Taliban. Since both sides would want to come to the table from a position of strength, the Afghan Taliban would do so only after their “spring offensive” is over.
When the Nato summit debates its commanders’ call for additional troops, it will do so in the knowledge that the Afghan war couldn’t be won despite the loss of troops in the thousands and investment in the trillions. So how will a few thousand additional troops would turn the tables on the insurgents? And more so now when the Afghan Talban are in virtual control of nearly half of Afghanistan, threatening to take more?
It is time for Nato to differentiate between the Afghan Taliban and the Islamic State militants, two distinctly separately entities having nothing in common and who could even ideological adversaries. The Afghan Taliban are fighting for political power in their own country, but the ISIL seeks global control. The time for winning war against the Taliban is long past and they must be engaged in a constructive dialogue.
They are reality and they are rooted in Afghan soil and Afghan hearts. That Russia is hosting the intra-Afghan reconciliation talks it should not be red rag to the US-led western powers. They must also join the process, to which the Taliban are amenable, although only on equal terms.
Stoltenburg may object that the new venture is not about returning to combat operation in Afghanistan. But on the ground that is not the case, just as it was not in the past when the so-called trainers had to join the fighting to rescue beleaguered Afghan troops. -Business Recorder