Friday 2 October 2009

Afghanistan's impact on a rattled Pakistan

My apologies - three posts today is a record. However, I came across the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings on Afghanistan's Impact on Pakistan held yesterday in Washington and in the light of the passing of the Kerry-Lugar legislation into law, thought I should bring some of the contributions to your attention.
Steve Coll, author of the excellent Ghost Wars, spoke eloquently on the possible impact of a hasty US withdrawal from Afghanistan on Pakistan. He talked about how US foreign policy had contributed to a paranoia amongst Pakistan's military that the US would leave the region as soon as it had pacified Afghanistan and that US was secretly in cahoots with India.
His main point?:
"Between withdrawal signals and blind militarization there is a more sustainable strategy, one that I hope the Obama Administration is the in the process of defining. It would make clear that the Taliban will never be permitted to take power in Kabul or major cities. It would seek and enforce stability in Afghan population centers but emphasize politics over combat, urban stability over rural patrolling, Afghan solutions over Western ones, and it would incorporate Pakistan more directly into creative and persistent diplomatic efforts to stabilize Afghanistan and the region."
Former CIA officer Milt Bearden also made an interesting contribution. I will quote part of his testimony - on regional players - at length because it shows the extent to which China is also a player in Afghanistan:
"China, viewed by Pakistan as its most reliable ally, is jockeying for position in Afghanistan, partly as a counterweight to growing Indian influence and partly to advance its own long-term economic goals in the region -- the quest for natural resources. China has also built a new, turnkey Pakistani port at Gwadar on the Arabian Sea, in Pakistan's Baluchistan Province, a project China acknowledges as having strategic value matching that of the Karakoram Highway, completed by the Chinese in 1986, and linking Pakistan with Xinjiang. In addition to Gwadar serving as a potential Chinese naval anchor, Beijing is also interested in turning it into an energy-transport hub by building an oil pipeline from Gwadar into China’s Xinjiang. The planned pipeline will carry crude oil from Arab and African sources. Inside Afghanistan, China has secured an interest in the the huge (estimated $88 billion) copper deposits in Aynak, in Logar Province south of Kabul.
China is also interested in in the massive iron deposits in Hajigak, west of Kabul. Hydrocarbon and mineral deposits in the arc from Herat in the west, across northern Afghanistan are in play with Iran, China and Russia. In effect, the other regional players are busily setting the stage for exploitation of Afghanistan’s natural resources, while the United States remains bogged down with the war. This should change."

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