Obama’s Britain Speech and Afghanistan

My Outlook op-ed on May 26

The US President Barack Obama while addressing the joint session of British Parliament made another historic and inspiring speech of his times. It was not only his strong words and the power of speech talking about the special relationship between the US and UK which had moved the members of the World’s mother of all parliaments in London, but more importantly, for us, once again President Obama in a clear-cut message affirmed the commitment of the international community in Afghanistan led by the US and UK.

President Obama arrived in Britain on Tuesday in his second-stop of the Europe visit after Ireland. He held talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron and earlier visited the Queen. Afghanistan was an important topic of his talks with British officials. The President gave speech to British Parliament on Wednesday. And his important focus was again the situation in Afghanistan. Prior to the speech at Westminister Hall, British Prime Minister Cameron and President Obama hosted a barbeque party in honor of the wounded soldiers who had served in Afghanistan. Both leaders gave a joint press conference iterating the importance of international community’s commitment to Afghanistan till the end of the conflict.

Addressing the British Parliament, he said that Afghanistan is central front of the fight against terrorism and UK has been a stalwart ally of the US in the efforts. He paid tributes to the fallen soldiers because of whom, the President said, momentum of Taliban has been broken. While we have deep respect for the sacrifices of all international soldiers who have fought terror in Afghanistan with their lives, we differ with the confidence of President Obama about Taliban. Insurgency has intensified across Afghanistan, and the US and NATO troops are fighting the most difficult year of this war so far. Taliban have not been defeated. Rather they seem to be stronger. Just during the last four months, Taliban have killed more than 2000 innocent Afghan civilians. This does not show that the momentum of Taliban has been broken, rather they are attacking more sophisticatedly and deadly.

President Obama said the international community is in a period of transition in Afghanistan, and will pursue peace with those who break free of Al-Qaeda and respect the Afghan constitution and lay down arms. The President has uttered these firm words before too, but again we warmly welcome this stance. The international community led by the US and UK should ensure a long-lasting peace and end of conflict in Afghanistan, not an endgame deal with Taliban patched up in a rush of withdrawal, that many so-called “Afghanistan experts” suggest nowadays.

The militants have not only shown any sign of disassociation from Al-Qaeda, but they have started a wave of merciless attacks on Afghans as revenge for the death of Osama bin Laden. We demand the international community not to make any kind of deal or “endgame settlement” with Taliban unless they denounce Al-Qaeda, accepts the current Afghan system, our constitution and lay down arms joining the peaceful society.

The leading expert Peter Bergen of CNN in a recent analysis explains many reasons why the international community should not count on a deal with Taliban. He says,

“The Taliban have had ten years to reject Bin Laden and all his works, and they haven’t done so”. He adds, “The history of peace deals with the Taliban in Pakistan shows that the groups can’t be trusted. Deals between the Pakistani government and the Taliban in Waziristan in 2005 and 2006 and in Swat in 2009 were merely preludes to the Taliban establishing their brutal emirates, regrouping and then moving into adjoining areas to seize more territory”. Mr. Bergen reminds us the most important fact that President Karzai has been trying his best to persuade Taliban for peace talks in the last two years, but all in vain. “The several meetings over the past three years between Afghan officials and Taliban representatives in Mecca and in the Maldives to discuss reconciliation have so far produced a big zero.”

The problems expressed by Peter Bergen have been talked about on the opinion pages of the Outlook Afghanistan by our writers for the last two years. We are still skeptical of this process to reach out to Taliban and make a deal. We believe it will not work even at the minimum optimistic level of expectations. Therefore the international community should not focus all efforts on this considering the talks and an eventual deal as the only endgame option remaining. We support the efforts to persuade Taliban to lay down arms and end the conflict, but also strongly urge the international community to have their clear alternatives other than a political deal with Taliban if it does not work at all.

President Obama made the conditions very clear that; the Taliban must disassociate from Al-Qaeda, lay down arms and accept the Constitution of Afghanistan. We hope these are not mere uttering, rather a solid policy position. The international community must not leave Afghanistan trying a hurried solution of deal with militants. It will lead us to the situation of 90s, when the US left Afghanistan all on its own, after extensive support in our resistance against the Soviet invasion. What came of that abandonment was an Afghanistan in bloodshed of civil war followed by the rise of Taliban who gave protection and training places in Afghanistan for all the terrorists of the globe. History will repeat itself not very differently if the international community led by the US and UK leave Afghanistan behind in a fragile situation and uncertain future.

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Filed under Insurgency, Taliban

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