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US, Russia and Blackwater mercenaries plot different futures for Afghanistan (Comment)

IANS 

Two parallel peace processes on are underway. In Doha, Zalmay Khalilzad, US for Afghanistan, has held extensive round of talks with leaders, spread over several days last month. The authorship of this process is, quite jealously, America's. But on February 5 and 6, and other Afghan political groups also met in A roadmap for the future, titled the Declaration, was announced. Among its nine points is one which also suggests coordination with the process - there is no jealous guarding of ownership of the peace process here. Anyone interested in peace is the The Declaration was immediately rubbished by the in "declaration will not have impact on the peace process in Afghanistan," said

There are, meanwhile, doubts in many capitals on whether the US is truly contemplating total withdrawal. To some extent these doubts are a function of Donald Trump's confusing statements and tweets. Take his recent statement in His troops in will enable him "to keep a check on Iran", something way outside the US-agreement. In too, while Khalilzad is ploughing the furrow promising one kind of crop, his makes a totally confusing statement. Trump says he will leave behind in "intelligence elements". How many?

I have Russian estimates of five years ago. They may have changed, but in those days the Russians were convinced of 30 US bases in Afghanistan.

Of these, the ones at Bagram, Jalalabad, Kandahar, Helmand, Shindand (Herat) and Mazar-e-Sharif were, by the sheer volume of masonry and architecture, not temporary. These bases will remain. Are we then talking about a qualified departure?

If the US is actually planning departure, why would it build a consulate in the heart of Mazar-e-Sharif on a scale which would dwarf large embassies? is the only in Mazar-e-Sharif.

It does not take long for great powers to develop more than one point of interest once they have entered an area of strategic significance. It would therefore be fanciful to imagine an America-free Afghanistan in the foreseeable future. "All this blood and treasure was spent for what?" some will ask. Also the chant in once was "We must remain in the vicinity to keep a watch on the world's only Muslim nuclear state."

After Obama announced in a speech delivered on December 1, 2009 US intention to leave Afghanistan in July 2011, I had argued in a paper for the that can simply not leave Afghanistan. I have been proved right so far. And now once again the "We are leaving" story has been let loose. True, this time the circumstances are different, but let us take a look.

Last July, Zalmay Khalilzad, and Morgulov Igor Vladimirovich, Russia's Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, (who was behind the scene in the Intra-Afghan dialogue in Moscow on February 5 and 6) attended a high-power meet in on Regional Issues.

In a more cooperative world order, one would have expected the representatives of the US and to exchange notes on Afghanistan. What transpired was to the contrary. Vladimirovich made an allegation that startled the gathering. "fighters were being flown to Northern Afghanistan" from The Afghan air space is under the control of the US and the government in "So, who is responsible?" Khalilzad offered a tepid denial. The denial lacked credibility because the Russian allegation had been preceded by another made by Iran's supreme leader, In the course of his Friday address in January 30, 2018. Khamenei said: "The US transfer of IS terrorists to Afghanistan is aimed at creating a justification for its (US') continued presence in the region."

In countries surrounding Afghanistan, doubts about American intentions may be more muted but are quite as strong. It is deeply ironical that Jehadism, terrorism and manufactured in Afghanistan to fight the Soviets in the 80s may be returning to complete the circle. Indeed, there is a certain inevitability about Islamic militancy becoming a tool of American foreign policy. The triangular romance between Washington, and will ensure this state of affairs for as long as this romance lasts.

Let me explain the inevitability. When Animal Rights groups forced the famous annual fox hunt to stop in South India's most station, Ooty, I expressed my curiosity to the master of the Hunt: "What have you done to the hundreds of hounds of high pedigree trained diligently for the Hunt." The lovely canines had been transferred to an expensive kennel from where dog lovers could acquire them.

So now we know what to do with redundant foxhounds of high pedigree. But what does a state like do with spare Islamic militants who have been heavily equipped and trained to kill at the cost of billions? They can only be relocated to newer theatres of conflict like Afghanistan. From here they can plague all the countries the US wishes to destabilize - Xinxiang in China, the in Russia, and too if it does not behave according to the US diktat.

To make confusion worse confounded, Erik Prince, founder of the world's biggest mercenary military company, which has mutated from Blackwater to Academi and Triple Canopy, is back in Afghanistan floating the idea of US troops to be replaced by Prince's mercenary army. His plan that Afghanistan be administered by a "Viceroy" was shot down by and After the two were shown the door, has been all over Afghanistan again in and Khalilzad's notice. The only person who has refused to meet him in Kabul is

(is a on political and diplomatic affairs. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached on <mailto:saeednaqvi@hotmail.com>)

--IANS

naqvi/mr

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mon, February 11 2019. 11:56 IST
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