It is naive to think that American policies change with a new President in the White House. If we recall, we will know that Obama also said that he would bring an end to the Afghan war. It is the same thing Trump said in his political campaign. However, when Trump or Obama took charge, they could not deliver what they promised in their campaigns. Trump Afghan policy reflects what has already been said about this issue in the past.
We see this Afghan war lingering on for over a decade and a half. The underlying tone may have changed by the new Trump Afghan policy. However, it echoes what the previous US Presidents had said.
Here is why Trump Afghan policy will probably not work.
1- Not Based on Ground Realities
Donald Trump and the American establishment have been harping on the same string to, “do more.” They do not recognize the thousands of Pakistani lives lost in the war against terrorism. The epic failure of American forces to take control of Afghanistan still reflects 40% territory belonging to Afghan Taliban.
A denial to include and recognize other political forces in the country keeps a large Afghan population alienated. Similarly, India does not share a border with Afghanistan. Trump is bent upon giving more role to it in development of the country. He is ignoring countries like Pakistan, China, Russia, and Iran with much higher stakes in Afghanistan.
2- A Greater Inclusive Role in Government Through Delegation of Power
Afghans have never accepted outside rulers imposed on them. The post 9/11 war and victory of the American forces in Afghanistan saw Northern Alliance taking over the country. They are an ethnic community different from the Pashtuns. Northern Alliance mainly consists of Tajiks, Hazaras, and Uzbeks.
There is a long history of conflicts between Pashtuns and the Northern Alliance. The world powers need to understand that lamenting the entire Afghan problem with Taliban label will not resolve the dispute. It needs to understand the different tribal regions that operate in Afghanistan and the greater distribution of power on a more equitable basis.
3- Trump Afghan Policy Underestimates Pakistan’s True Potential
Yes, Pakistan has seen a lot of ups and downs as a nation. A lot of these ups and downs belong to the shaky partnership that it had with the US. The policy makers in Islamabad have started to realize and appreciate the other powers in the region, mainly Russia and China.
The recent rhetoric by Trump on Afghanistan has seen an outright rejection by China and Russia. Chinese top diplomat Yang Jiechi stated that the world must recognize the sacrifices by Pakistan in the war on terror. Furthermore, he added that the world must also address Pakistan’s security concerns. Similarly, Russia has warned the US that pressuring Pakistan will jeopardize security situation in the region. Furthermore, it added that such situation would result in destabilizing of the entire region.
4- China and Russia Know the Stakes Are Much Higher
China is already working with Pakistan on CPEC, the OBOR (One Belt One Road) initiative. An investment of $56 billion involves many important projects. The access to Gwadar is a significant milestone for the Chinese businesses.
The visit by Russian special forces in Pakistan and subsequent high delegation meetings mark the end of the bitter standoff between the two countries.
Both China and Russia understand the consequences of letting the United States dictate unrealistic policies in the region. China’s restive Xinjiang region shares the border with Afghanistan. Similarly, Afghanistan neighbors Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, previously part of the Russian Federation. So, it would be interesting to see what China and Russia come up with to tackle the challenges in the wake of the new Trump Afghan policy.
5- Can India Do More in Afghanistan?
India is already very active in Afghanistan, despite its border with China. Trump Afghan policy expects India to “do more” this time. The US President wants India to take care of the developmental projects and invest more. Trump thinks that since India earns money from its trade with the US, it gives the United States the right to ask India to do more in Afghanistan.
Will this stabilize India in Afghanistan? The political analysts believe that the so-called rogue elements in the countr see the US as the invader. An open invitation for India to become part of that label can jeopardize the Indian national’s security in Afghanistan.
Furthermore, China sees itself as an alternate to the US in the region for making massive infrastructural investments. It will be a difficult challenge for India to surmount, expecting it to surpass Chinese investments in the country.