`Power-sharing, ending regional conflict key to Afghan policy`

The US should emphasise power-sharing and political inclusion in Afghanistan along with using its influence to reduce tensions among the various regional actors.

Last Updated: Sep 09, 2010, 23:46 PM IST

Washington: The US should emphasise
power-sharing and political inclusion in Afghanistan along
with using its influence to reduce tensions among the various
regional actors, including India and Pakistan, as part of a
new strategy in the restive nation, a top American think tank
said today.

Washington should fast-track a peace process designed
to decentralise power within Afghanistan and encourage a
power-sharing balance among the principal parties, said Steve
Clemons, director of the American Strategy Program at the New
America Foundation, a bipartisan group of leading academics,
ex government officials and policy practitioners, in a report,
said.

"The United States should also use its influence to
reduce tensions among the various regional actors and
especially India and Pakistan in order to decrease their
tendency to see Afghanistan as an arena for conflict or to
view the Taliban or other non-state groups as long-term
strategic assets," the report recommended.

The report `A New Way Forward: Rethinking US Strategy
in Afghanistan` also recommended to narrow down US interest in
the Af-Pak region to prevent Afghanistan being a safe haven
and ensure that Pak nuclear does not fall into hostile hands.

"The United States has only two vital interests in the
Afghanistan / Pakistan region: preventing Afghanistan from
being a "safe haven" from which Al Qaeda or other extremists
can organize more effective attacks on the US homeland; and
ensuring that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal does not fall into
hostile hands," says the report.

The report argued that another vital American interest
is to keep the conflict in Afghanistan from sowing instability
elsewhere in Central Asia.

"Such discord might one day threaten the stability of
the Pakistani state and the security of Pakistan’s nuclear
arsenal. If the Pakistani government were to fall to radical
extremists, or if terrorists were able to steal or seize
either a weapon or sufficient nuclear material, then the
danger of a nuclear terrorist incident would increase
significantly.

"It is therefore important that our strategy in
Afghanistan avoids making the situation in Pakistan worse," it
said.

"Fortunately, the danger of a radical takeover of the
Pakistani government is small. Islamist extremism in Pakistan
is concentrated within the tribal areas in its northwest
frontier, and largely confined to its Pashtun minority (which
comprises about 15 per cent of the population).

"The Pakistani army is primarily Punjabi (roughly 44
per cent of the population) and remains loyal. At present,
therefore, this second strategic interest is not seriously
threatened," the report said.

"The United States should by no means abandon
Afghanistan, but it is time to abandon the current strategy
that is not working. Trying to pacify Afghanistan by force of
arms will not work, and a costly military campaign there is
more likely to jeopardise America’s vital security interests
than to protect them," it said.

The report said that the America`s ambitious
nation-building efforts in Afghanistan were costing too much
in US.

The Study Group recommended that the substantial
reduction in the US military role be accompanied by an
energetic diplomatic effort, spearheaded by the United Nations
and strongly backed by the United States and its allies.

"Downsize and eventually end military operations in
southern Afghanistan, and reduce the US military footprint.

The United States should draw down its military presence,
which radicalises Pashtuns and aids Taliban recruitment,"
Clemons said.

"This initiative should seek a formal commitment to
Afghan neutrality and a resolution of existing border
disputes. They need agreements to recognize and support the
more inclusive and decentralized Afghan government described
above," the report said.

PTI