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US must stop appeasing Musharraf: Expert
Suman Guha Mozumder in New York | December 15, 2006 12:14 IST
A noted American scholar in New York says that it is time for the United States to shift its policy from backing the (Pervez) Musharraf regime in Pakistan to supporting democracy in that country.
"The United States tolerated the quiet reconstitution of the Taliban in Pakistan as long as Islamabad granted basing rights to US troops, pursued the hunt for Al Qaeda leaders, and shut down A Q Khan's nuclear-technology proliferation network," said Barnett R Rubin, director of studies and a senior fellow at New York University's Center on International Cooperation.
In an article in the latest issue of the prestigious Foreign Affairs magazine, Rubin said that five years later, the safe haven Pakistan has provided, along with continued support from donors in the Persian Gulf, has allowed the Taliban to broaden and deepen its presence both in the Pakistani border regions and in Afghanistan.
"Even as Afghan and international forces have defeated insurgents in engagement after engagement, the weakness of the government and the reconstruction effort -- and the continued sanctuary provided to Taliban leaders in Pakistan -- has prevented real victory," he said.
Rubin said that "if Washington is willing to rethink its approach towards Islamabad, the US can still save the international effort to reconstruct Afghanistan."
Rubin said that with the Taliban resurgent, reconstruction faltering, and opium cultivation rising, Afghanistan is at risk of collapsing into chaos. He held that the Taliban enjoys sanctuary in Pakistan's border regions and support from elements of the Pakistani military and intelligence establishment.
Therefore, he argued, the time has come for the US to shift its policy from supporting the Musharraf regime in Pakistan.
"Only then," argued Rubin, "will the conditions be established for a more secure Afghanistan that has the room to overcome its many other serious problems."
Rubin is the author of The Fragmentation of Afghanistan. He served as an adviser to the special representative of the secretary general at the United Nations talks on Afghanistan in Bonn in 2001.
In the article, he argued that far from achieving that objective in the 2001 Afghan war, the US-led coalition merely pushed the core leadership of Al Qaeda and the Taliban out of Afghanistan and into Pakistan, with no strategy for consolidating this apparent tactical advance.
The Bush administration failed to provide those Taliban fighters, who did not want to defend Al Qaeda, with a way to return to Afghanistan peacefully, and its policy of 'illegal detention at Guantanamo Bay and Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan', made refuge in Pakistan, often with Al Qaeda, a more attractive option.
"For decades -- not only since 2001 -- US policymakers have underestimated the stakes in Afghanistan. They continue to do so today. A mere course correction will not be enough to prevent the country from sliding into chaos," he said.
"Washington and its international partners must rethink their strategy and significantly increase both the resources they devote to Afghanistan and the effectiveness of those resources' use. Only dramatic action can reverse the perception, common among both Afghans and their neighbours, that Afghanistan is not a high priority for the United States -- and that the Taliban are winning as a result," Rubin said in the article.
"Washington's appeasement of Pakistan, diversion of resources to Iraq, and perpetual under-investment in Afghanistan -- which gets less aid per capita than any other state with a recent post-conflict rebuilding effort -- have fueled that suspicion," he said.