KARACHI:-Dr Marvin Weinbaum, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Illinois at Urban- Champaign and currently a scholar-in-residence at the Middle East Institute in Washington D.C, delivered a lecture on “ The Future of Afghanistan” at the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) on November 18th , 2016. He has worked for US Department of State Intelligence & Research for four years (1999 to 2003). Dr Masuma Hassan- Chairperson PIIA moderated the lecture.
Some of the highlights of his topic are as follow
- For Pakistan at this point, “Don’t expect a real change after change of US President. Some of the Pakistani newspapers earlier suggested that President Trump would jump into Kashmir dispute is almost laughable.
- The future of Afghanistan is not very bright, unfortunately. The insurgency mainly by the Taliban and their allies probably have effective control more than one-third of the country, mostly the rural areas. This gain is not because of Taliban reorganisation and gaining popularity but due to the failure of the Afghan government to meet the expectation of their population.
- Pakistan influence on Taliban was stronger in the past, which is lesser today. But Pakistan never was able to dictate Taliban even when they were in Kabul.
- US has a very clear strategy for winning the conflict with the Taliban. I don’t think there is much confidence here that it’s going to be anytime soon an outright military victory. It’s rather a strategy to buy time.
- As the international forces step down, Afghanistan Security Forces (ASF) must be able to take responsibility to provide security. Altogether they are 350,000 which is quite a formidable number. They have shown bravery at several times and trying to trace the problem but most observers say that what happening is the failure of command besides, political appointees, lack of cooperation and coordination, lack of leadership from the top.
- It’s the prime time for Afghanistan to enter adjustments for the economic transitions when the international military forces are there in very large number. Unemployment and to accommodate the Afghan refugees returning from Pakistan and Europe is a great challenge for Afghan economy.
- The Afghan leadership need to work together for good governance, to set a level of performance which encourage ordinary Afghans clearly stands with their government against the insurgent groups.
- Political agreements and political deals are needed to solve the issue of insurgency. To accommodate any insurgents in the political system.
- In the last two elections in Afghanistan, there was energy in the civil society. The young people throng to the election campaigns. This was nothing like this in the 1960s and 1970s. It is the rebirth of Afghanistan.
- In 2009, we have surged troops to break the back of Taliban, it’s not necessary to destroy them because the feeling was we never destroy then as long as they have places to go back to Pakistan. So, without Pakistan, we never destroy the insurgency in Afghanistan.
- The regional countries have to step in to assist Afghanistan, rebuilt the economy and get the political system. We have the regional countries will step in when Americans step out. Stable, prosper and peaceful Afghanistan is need of other countries as well.
- Since there is no military solution then has to be a political solution. So, all our effort from 2010 aside from military operation is to join others in Kabul and here in Islamabad to find a political solution.
- Pakistan concern is if Taliban return they will alley themselves with TTP and energised extremist group in the country. Pakistan want a settlement on the table, to make sure the arrangements, as they don’t want negotiation with Taliban separately. In the political settlement, we offer the Taliban to participate in the political process.
- Afghanistan has from the very beginning seen Indian as the counterweight to Pakistan. Indian today has great soft power inside Afghanistan. Cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan is absolutely critical for the future of both countries. Pakistan no need to worry about the India’s role in Afghanistan as the Indian will not be given the opportunity to play a role of any consequences.
The lecture was followed by interactive question answer session. People from the different segment of life, mostly the members of PIIA, attended the event.