News reports of a tripartite (Pakistan-Afghanistan-US) meeting in Kabul ‘to eliminate IS’ is just another example of the paradoxical, one-step-forward-two-steps-back approach that has typified this war effort.
Just the other day Trump all but dumped Pakistan as an ally and heaped criticism on Islamabad, prompting a possible strategy reset spearheaded by Foreign Minister Khwaja Asif, for allegedly harbouring American, and Afghan, enemies. Perhaps they had this round (of talks) because Trump did not mention IS in the speech?
So far, Pakistan has clearly conducted the most successful operations in the wider war against terrorism. That is because it has made quantifiable progress since the initiation of Zarb-e-Azb; from the decimation of the enemy’s command and control centre all the way to intel-based combing operations in urban centres. Both Nato and the Afghan army, on the other hand, have been on the retreat for years, to the point that the only people enjoying some sort of success against IS are the Afghan Taliban.
The Americans and Afghans, too, must make their approach more realistic. For starters, they must finally agree to fence the border, not the least because they cry about cross-border infiltration all the time. Secondly, they must finally admit what has been staring them in the face all these years – that the Afghan government will not be able to wipe out the Taliban, no matter how many Americans help them.
They will, eventually, have to talk. Hopefully they won’t waste another sixteen years realising this. Tripartite meetings, like the one in Kabul on Thursday, will grab headlines and win some diplomatic points, but talks for the sake of talks will only prolong the war, which means lives will continue to be lost needlessly.