Absence of a withdrawal strategy – Senator A Rehman Malik


US’ withdrawal from Afghanistan without a proper withdrawal strategy will be very detrimental for Afghanistan and may give rise yet to another monster-like terrorist organisation worse than Al-Qaeda. Daesh and its sponsors will have a great opportunity like in Iraq wherein the USA withdrawal gave room to them to grow and strengthen. Hence the world has to be watchful of any new terrorist monster emerging from Afghanistan. Pakistan has already suffered the maximum because of a troubled Afghanistan and it is perhaps the first country in the world that has suffered because of mistakes and interests of other countries, as neither the USSR taking over Afghanistan nor the creation of the Mujahideen force was Pakistan’s mistake.

Afghanistan became first the victim of the USSR and faced unprecedented and terrible suffering. When the Soviet tanks rolled into Afghanistan in 1979, threatening the free world’s frontiers, Pakistan stood by the USA and fought one of the most significant guerrilla wars that routed the Soviets from Afghanistan. But in return, Pakistan bore the brunt of unbridled militancy and a tide of millions of Afghan refugees, which to date remains an unbearable burden on Pakistan’s economy. The ungoverned space left behind by the USA provided space of all sorts to non-state actors who infiltrated Pakistan through its long Pak-Afghan borders. Militants who had been radicalised to function as ferocious Jihadists were threatening Pakistan’s internal stability, and plunging its economy, while freely mingling with the Afghan refugees, and providing breeding grounds for today’s Al-Qaeda and it was a matter of time that this all would blowback, and it did on 9/11. It was unfortunate and barbaric that despite the fact that none of the actors was a Pakistani, or Afghan, nor trained or incubated in Pakistan or Afghanistan, yet, Pakistan was branded as Al-Qaeda’s sympathiser.

The USA left without a proper withdrawal plan last time which resulted in Mujahedeen transforming into Taliban and subsequently to Al-Qaeda. The 9/11 attack brought another devastating effect on Afghanistan and Pakistan and American pressure forced Pakistan to provide logistics and other war support and it was a blunder on the part of the then Pakistani leadership to succumb to the pressure of the USA.

These two mistakes basically have driven Pakistan to the verge of bankruptcy because of the forced stopping of our developments and foreign investments and it will take a long time for us to emerge out of these crises. President Joe Biden has given a usual generic statement to withdraw all US forces from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021 which we had seen multiple times earlier coming from almost every newly elected American President which is a matter of public record. However, I welcome the statement of President Joe Biden as it is a sigh of great relief for this region particularly for Pakistan as our Army, under the command of Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, has carried out tireless efforts for peace in Afghanistan as it is important for peace in Pakistan and the whole region. The Americans at the highest level recognise Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa’ efforts towards Afghan peace process.

I have already given my hypothetical model of Afghanistan after the American withdrawal. This withdrawal without a proper withdrawal strategy will provide a straight opportunity for the Taliban to rise unhindered to make their government under the flag of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

The local Afghan forces of President Ashraf Ghani will not be able to resist the marching Taliban towards Kabul. Taliban leaders are even of the view that they have won the war already as they even did not attend the peace conference in Afghanistan. The future Taliban roadmap can be well judged from the statement of Sirajuddin Haqqani, deputy leader of Taliban who recently stated: “that one day we would face such an improved state, or that we will crush the arrogance of the rebellious emperors, and force them to admit their defeat at our hands. Fortunately, today, we and you are experiencing better circumstances.”

The Taliban will turn Afghanistan into a mass graveyard if President Ashraf Ghani offers any resistance to the takeover of the Afghan Taliban.

The USA must also keep in mind the past ultra-destructive role of India and other interested parties in Afghanistan. President Ashraf Ghani must come out with a mutually agreed plan of some interim government with the nominees of Taliban and create an atmosphere of some peaceful transition rather than creating an environment of bloodshed.

Pakistan has been trying and will continue to try to work for peace in Afghanistan and I am confident that COAS Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa will do his best by convincing both sides to give peace a chance in the follow-up of his doctrine displayed in the Afghan Peace Agreement of Qatar.

Pakistan is always there for Afghan brothers and sisters for all kinds of support to see peace returning to their motherland. I have seen physical miseries of Afghan people during my undercover exile journey through the remote areas by foot and some journeys on broken jeeps through the destroyed roads by the USSR. Poverty and fears on the faces of Afghans were disturbing and let us hope soon Afghanis will have a smile on their faces and once again they all will live together. I wish to drive through peaceful Afghanistan to refresh my memories and see those unknown Afghans who were very helpful. I appeal to Mr Sirajuddin Haqqani and President Ashraf Ghani to sit in a country and work to give a peaceful governing system before the fleeing of those who matter nowadays as I feel the diplomats will also leave the country because of the expected civil war. I have few suggestions for the consideration of US President Joe Bidden and his Secretary of State to avoid civil war post-US withdrawal from Afghanistan. My suggestions are based on my observation after the withdrawal of US forces post-USSR defeat.

1. USA to consider ensuring a one-to-one meeting of President Ashraf Ghani and Sirajuddin Haqqani with the pre-agreed future roadmap.

2. Ask the UN to deploy a peacekeeping mission to enforce peace.

3. Establish an interim government representing all factions of Taliban and the present government and others.

4. Undertaking from Taliban that they will not dismantle the female schools.

5. Let the interim government be for one year and it should be headed by a mutually agreed non-controversial leader equally respected and having a good working relationship with all stakeholders.

6. India must be kept away from this withdrawal strategy to avoid its negative role.

7. Pakistan, China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia may be taken on board as observers of peace.

8. Sufficient rehabilitation funding should be announced for the rebuilding of basic infrastructure and educational institutions.

9. The UN must pass a resolution prohibiting certain actions by the Taliban-led coalition government.

Pakistan Railways will operate 10 special trains for Eid-ul-Fitr
My final advice for the American administration to withdraw from Afghanistan but work out a withdrawal plan in place while leaving Afghanistan.

The views expressed above are solely mine and in the national interest and do not necessarily represent the views of my party.