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Afghanistan: How Americans fell in love with sloppy strategies?

WebdeskJul 12, 2021, 08:23 AM IST

Afghanistan: How Americans fell in love with sloppy strategies?

                                                                                                                                                                Nirendra Dev


New Delhi: There have been instances of Americans themselves carrying out the work of the locals, which ultimately resulted in an inability to create popularity for legitimate local government(s) in Afghanistan.


The ongoing turmoil in Afghanistan and the Taliban managing back its upper hand if not the hegemony yet could be attributed to one factor–the over-dependency over the years on some of the faulty American policies, the US forces, and foreign aid.


Over dependency on the US forces led to ‘destructive dependency’ in Afghanistan!


Experts say such a scenario had led to ‘delegitimizing’ the local governments and authorities and has also at the same time drawn the United States into “quagmires”.


Ever since the time of noted American diplomat Richard Holbrooke, it was argued at the policy-making level in Washington that the American foreign aid should be aimed at “empowering local governments” and the American troops and officials deployed in Afghanistan should not show impatience.


However, on the ground, most of the time, there have been instances of Americans themselves carrying out the work of the locals. This ultimately resulted in an inability to create popularity for legitimate local government(s) in Afghanistan.


On multiple aspects, it is also being argued now in retrospect that having burnt fingers in Vietnam in the past, America should have been doubly careful when it plunged into the war in Afghanistan.


Richard Holbrooke was named “Bulldozer", and his views were brushed aside as the establishment had little time or patience for his contrarian views.


George W Bush while vacating his office had said, “I think, I was unprepared for war”. Well, this was about Iraq and the faulty intelligence that was used to build support for the major conflict in the Gulf.


Perhaps the same presumption worked in Afghanistan as well. The issues in Afghanistan from the American perspective were as complex as in Iraq itself, but the local conditions and Pakistan's double standards were never

appreciated especially for the first 10 years.


The Americans had inadvertently undermined the local government in Vietnam as well.


There was one element where for some time the Americans remained ‘confused’ when it came to their fight against terrorism.


For quite some time even the Obama administration was perhaps barking up the ‘wrong tree’ and has been linking Pakistan’s settlement on its western border and the Kashmir dispute in the east.


Several American analysts had made a link between tension across the India-Pakistan border with the war in Afghanistan.


It only took to great pursuance by Indian officials and top guns to convince the US that this was both unfortunate and far away from the historical fact. It was only at a later stage that the then Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, had said that Pakistan should be careful about “snakes” in its backyards.


Holbrooke had problems with Afghan leader Hamid Karzai also and did not return to Kabul for several months following one 'angry meeting'.


Ultimately, as it is proved today – some short-term gains have created a ‘long term trap’ for the US and also its allies.


Of course, in between, there were certain progressive works like the appointment of Holbrooke itself as a special official to handle Afghanistan.


A visionary diplomat with a strategic mind, Holbrooke, for instance, had appointed a local Afghan expert named Rina Amiri to give him “the Afghan lens” and not necessarily the objective lens guided by some of the ivory tower experts in Washington.


During that time, the Obama administration also faltered by undertaking a pro-active initiative to co-opt China in its post-2008 recession hit economic recovery.


Pakistan's lip service in fighting terror and Islamabad-Beijing nexus were also not analyzed effectively at the global level.


It was never a realistic strategy to bank a military solution when Pakistan was actively supporting the Taliban.


In ultimate Afghanistan has proved once again–like Vietnam–that Americans cannot run a ‘cohesive’ effort in foreign countries.


Most times, different stakeholders in the White House, military, State Department, intelligence bodies, and Congress worked at cross purposes.


Thus, it was said the strengths of the United States had turned into ‘weaknesses’.


Holbrooke himself wrote: “Over time, each agency has acquired certain pet projects...These are often carried out by one agency despite concern and even mid-level opposition from others”


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