Surreal Contradictions: Obama’s call with Karzai.

In the modern Afghan history it is a truism that anyone the outsiders tried to negotiate with became the person who wasn’t worth negotiating with. Hamid Karzai seems aware of this Afghan temper. By publicaly exhibiting an independent streak, Hamid Karzai, in the recent months, has been quite successful in impressing the discerning Afghans.

In a still recent interview with the British writer and historian William Dalrymple, the Afghan president sounded firm. “America and Britain behave as if we also came through a colonial experience,” Karzai said. “We did not. We always won in the fight, but we lost politically. This time I want to make sure we win politically too.”

Next in the interview, the presidential tone becomes characteristically nationalistic, “I would like to give a message through you to the West. Pressure tactics will not work on me. We are only looking for a fair deal — a deal in which the interests of Afghanistan are kept in mind. . . . You will not get an Afghanistan divided into fiefdoms. We will not allow it. Over our dead bodies.”

On a lighter side, Dalrymple had chip in comments from the associates of the Afghan President. “He’s very fit indeed,” said Amrullah Saleh, the former Afghan intelligence chief. “He takes at least an hour’s exercise each night and exhausts the guards that have to keep up with him.” Mahmood, who is a brother, agreed: “He’s very disciplined physically. And he’s extremely moderate in his eating. You know how delicious our melons are? I’ve often seen his hand hovering over a second slice, and then he resists. He has steely discipline.”

To cap it all, the Afghan President had tell, “I am not an opponent of the West. I am just the slave of the interests of the Afghan people. And that I shall fulfill.”

But, there is more beneath the surface. Afghanistan is a land of bewildering yet fascinating paradoxes. To politically govern it, a leader is thrown with the challenges of surmounting surreal contradictions of his position. It is not clear that the US President Barack Obama intellectualizes this Afghan surreality. Obama’s recent telephone call to Karzai is bland in its political content.

In the latest academic literature on Afghanistan, there is one piece in Afghan historian Tamim Ansary’s Games without Rules: The Often-Interrupted History of Afghanistan, which US President may look into. The passage is liberally quoted herewith, “Trying to negotiate between the local and global forces, between the inner and outer worlds, put Afghan rulers in a double bind. Anyone who wanted to rule this country had to secure the sponsorship of the strongest foreigners impinging on the country at that moment; yet no Afghan could rule this country for long without the allegiance of the country’s deepest traditional forces. To the dominant outside power, therefore, every would-be ruler had to portray himself as a partner. At the same time, to his country’s internal forces, he had portray himself as a tough guy standing up to foreign bullies. The kings who best succeeded in this balancing act did so by covertly pursuing “modernization” while overtly proclaiming themselves champions of conservative social and religious values.”

But, the curious part is: What if Obama is already aware of this Afghan surreality?

Asimov Arifov is a political scientist/researcher with The École des hautes études en sciences sociales, (EHESS) Paris, France. He is about to publish a book on the geopolitics of the Hindukush Region. He can be followed on twitter @asimovarifov for his latest updates.

 

 


Afghanistan-Iran Relations & the proposed BSA

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The Afghans have last sacked Iran in the early eighteenth century by ruling it from 1722 to 1730. The internal decline of the Safavids, especially during the reign of strictly orthodox and last Safavid ruler Shah Sultan Hosain, worked to the advantage of Afghans. That was an era when classical empires, in the Middle World, were coming to an end. From then on, Iran has quite a successful, though extremely turbulent, history of becoming a relatively cohesive nation state. Afghanistan has lagged behind Iran in this state building process. Historians and political scientists have provided some explanations for this difference between Kabul and Tehran. But, the recent visit of Afghan President Hamid Karzai to Iran was not about differences. It was in the context of charged regional geopolitical templates.   

It needs emphasis that the suggestion that Hamid Karzai should lead Afghanistan was raised by the Iranian delegation to the international conference on Afghanistan in Bonn, Germany, in 2001. According to the US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, James Dobbins, he and Javad Zarif, then Iran’s delegate to the conference and its present minister of foreign affairs, found informal settings in which to “accidently” meet and hold important substantive discussions.

Shireen Hunter, in her book “Iran’s Foreign Policy in the Post-Soviet Era” quotes Barnet R. Rubin, who attended the Bonn Conference as part of the UN delegation, talking about Javad Zarif. Barnet said about Zarif that he “supported efforts to frustrate Rabbani’s goal of preventing the meeting from reaching agreement in the hope of consolidating his own power and formation of a broader government. Zarif’s last minute intervention with the Northern Alliance delegation chair, Yunus Qanuni, convinced the latter to reduce the number of cabinet posts he demanded in the interim administration.”

Iran had been satisfied with the overthrow of the militant Taliban and their allies; as earlier, the situation in Afghanistan was extremely pesk for Tehran. In September 1998, several Iranian officials were murdered in the Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif. By the end of that horrid month, seventy thousand revolutionary guards were exercising along the Afghan-Iran border. Then, in October, 200,000 Iranian troops were ordered to take positions on the same border – Tehran’s largest ever mobilization and deployment against its eastern neighbor. The US policy had thus helped Tehran in Afghanistan.

On the other hand, Iran is now confronted with the possibility of US bases in Afghanistan. Earlier, the US intervention in Afghanistan to remove the Taliban setup had also provided Washington with an opportunity to expand rapidly its ties with the Central Asian states. Herein lies a strategic trade-off that continues to confront the Iranian diplomacy.

Hamid Karzai is under extreme US pressure to expedite the signing of the BSA (Bilateral Security Agreement) which is a document of a far-reaching character for Afghanistan’s future and regional geopolitics. In such a charged regional setting, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has taken a position to reinforce the Afghan Presidency. Rouhani has stated, “We are concerned about the tensions arising from the presence of foreign forces in the region and believe that all foreign forces should exit the region and (control of) Afghanistan’s security should be ceded to the people of that country.”

Is Tehran the solitary supporter of Hamid Karzai’s present defiance to the US in Afghanistan? James Dobbin claims so in his testimony before the US senate foreign relations committee in Washington. But, what about Beijing and Moscow? Are they really willing to make accommodations with the BSA in Afghanistan? And in the immediate neighborhood, has an accurate assessment of the thinking in Islamabad and New Delhi been made?

Interestingly, Iran and China maintain longstanding civilization and geopolitical links. To mention one related example, On May 9, 1980, Iran’s then foreign minister Sadeq Qotbzadeh met with China’s then premier Hua Guofeng for a half hour at the Intercontinental Hotel in Belgrade, while attending Josip Tito’s funeral. John W. Garver, in his book, “China & Iran: Ancient partners in a Post-Imperial World” recounts that Hua and Qotbzadeh other than discussing and agreeing on the expansion of Sino-Iranian relations on the basis of mutual respect and noninterference in each other’s internal affairs also agreed that “Soviet forces should withdraw immediately from Afghanistan, leaving the destiny of Afghanistan to be decided by its people.

On last Sunday in Tehran, Yang Jiechi, a senior member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China held a meeting with the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani. Yang is reported in the Iranian press telling Shamkhani, “Iran and China could work together to help promote peace and stability in Afghanistan and Syria.” 

In the meantime, the Afghan government has released the text of the BSA, which is of a climacteric reading time for any serious Afghanistan watcher. 

Asimov Arifov is a political scientist/researcher with The École des hautes études en sciences sociales, (EHESS) Paris, France. He is about to publish a book on the geopolitics of the Hindukush Region. He can be followed on twitter @asimovarifov for his latest updates.


From Napoleon to Najibullah – Jostling for Control in & around Afghanistan

BamyanFrench Emperor Napoleon and Russian Emperor Alexander II approached the Peace of Tilsit on July 7, 1807 to settle, mostly, the questions of war and peace. The agenda included the fate of French possessions in Europe and the future of Prussia, yet Napoleon had included several secret clauses that were not made public at that time. The undisclosed Franco-Russian understanding was about Napoleon’s wish to aim at Britain’s eastern source of opulence. India needed to be relieved from its British burden. That is how William Dalrymple touches upon the story of the genesis of the great game in Hindukash/Khurasan/Afghanistan in his Return of a King – The Battle for Afghanistan.

Dalrymple informs that the seizure of India as a means of impoverishing Britain and breaking its growing economic power had been a long-standing obsession of Napoleon and of several previous French strategists. Few years earlier, in 1798, French Emperor had based his troops in Egypt. “‘Through Egypt we shall invade India,’ he wrote. ‘We shall re-establish the old route through Suez.'” To the military assistance plea of Tipu Sultan of Mysore, the Emperor’s response was, “You have already been informed of my arrival on the borders of the Red Sea, with an invincible army, full of the desire of releasing you from the iron yoke of England. May the Almighty increase your power, and destroy your enemies.”

But Admiral Nelson, then, intercepted Napoleon’s plans in the Nile. Relentless in vacating India from Britain, the Emperor now turned his attention towards the land routes through Persia and Afghanistan. Persian Emperor was asked to grant passage to the French army. Dalrymple tells, “At Tilsit, the secret clauses spelled out the plan in full: Napoleon would emulate Alexander the Great and march 50,000 French troops of the Grand Armée across Persia to invade India, while Russia would head south through Afghanistan.”

British Governor General in India, Lord Minto had soon been made privy to the secret clauses of Tilsit Peace by his effective British intelligence. To this, Minto sent four separate diplomatic expeditions to ‘warn and win over’ the in-between authorities. British Indian emissaries went to Fatteh Ali Shah Qajar in Tehran, to Ranjit Singh in Lahore, to the rulers of Sindh states and to Shah Shuja in Kabul. According to Dalrymple Lord Minto did not regard Napoleon’s plan as fanciful. “A French invasion of India through Persia was not ‘beyond the scope of that energy and perseverance which distinguish the present ruler of France’, he wrote as he finalised plans to counter the ‘very active French diplomacy in Persia, which is seeking with great diligence the means of extending its intrigues to the Durbars of Hindustan.'”

Henceforth, William Dalrymple goes deeper into the story of Shah Shuja and of his handling by the British Indian administration.

On the other hand, Napoleon’s military expedition to India through Persia never took shape as the French Emperor got embroiled in subsequent European politics. His accord with the Russians had collapsed. In the east, Persia was passing through its own post-Safavid turbulence. Yet, Britain was consolidating its presence in northern India. As the 19th century advanced, British merchants were broaching the Central Asian markets; its intelligence agents were surveying the geopolitical dimensions of the region. The Russians were not pleased.

It was in such a setting that Governor of Orenburg, General Perovski, had argued to his Russian superiors that if the British succeeded in establishing themselves in Kabul ‘it would be only a step for the British to reach Bukhara; Central Asia would be subjected to their influence, our Asian trade would be ruined, they might arm…our Asian neighbours against us, and supply them with powder, weapons and money.’ This argument is borrowed from Afgantsy: The Russians in Afghanistan, written by retired British diplomat Rodric Braithwaite, who, in a pithy style, introduces the elementary moments in the genesis of the great game, especially from the Russian perspective: “One confidential analysis after another argued that the British were aiming at establishing control over Central Asia and driving out the Russian trade; and that it was essential for the Russians to pre-empt them. Whether the British ever had any such intention is not so important. The belief affected and distorted policymaking in St Petersburg and Orenburg, just as policy-making in London and Delhi was effected and distorted by the belief that the Russians intended to come through Afghanistan into India. Paranoia affected judgement in all four cities.”

As the 19th century approached its end, German ascendancy in Europe impelled a hesitant Anglo-Russian arrangement over Afghanistan. Amu Darya was agreed as a frontier between Afghanistan and Russia. The British insisted that the Afghan ruler Abdur Rahman assume sovereignty over the Wakhan Corridor, in the north east corner, so that British India and Russian Empire could remain noncontagious.

Still, most derisive for the local inhabitants – with grave and lasting international and strategic consequences – was the sketching of the Durand Line among the tribal lands of Pushtun. On one hand, the line delineated British India from Afghanistan, but on the other hand, it had split the Pushtuns who were the principal regional ethnicity. Peshawar went under the Hindustani Durbar. Successive Afghan regimes never acquiesced to the loss of territories. Kabul voted against Karachi when the Pakistani inclusion was sought to the United Nations in 1947. Daud Khan, Afghan Prime Minister and later President, backed the cause of ‘Pushtunistan’ which called for the recovery of the Pushtun lands on the Pakistan side of the Durand Line. Islamabad, in its discontent in the nineteen seventies, was beginning to experiment with retaliation and control tactics on its smaller eastern neighbor.

Yet, how the local Pushtuns responded to the imposed borders? Braithwaite has an interesting account, “The local people took no notice of the Durand Line except when they were compelled: they feuded, smuggled, traded, and fought indifferently on both sides of the border. The British attempted to control the border in the 1920s and the and the 1930s by a policy of ‘butcher and bolt’, with punitive raids against errant tribesmen, including the destruction their villages from the air. Soviet attempts to seal the border during the war of 1979-89 were almost a total failure.” The US intelligence was made aware of this situation during ‘the Mujahideen’ resistance against the Soviet military presence in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, Washington would also, militarily, try its luck in and around the steppes, gorges, defiles and cliffs of Hindukash by the turn of the twenty-first century.

For the Soviet administration, US threat had replaced the waning British presence in Afghanistan after 1945. US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had shown attention to the landlocked country by visiting Kabul in 1974 and 1976. Before in 1955, Nikita Khrushchev, the First Party Secretary of the Soviet Union had visited Kabul. Khrushchev’s thinking was that Washington was enticing Kabul into the American camp, because it intended to set up military bases in Afghanistan (Khrushchev Remembers, London, 1971, cited in Braithwaite’s Afgantsy) Such concerns played a part in the Soviet decision to militarily intervene in Afghanistan in 1979.

Soviet Union had to respond to many questions. First, how should they react to Kabul’s increasingly desperate pleas for Soviet troops to help put down the insurgency? then, What could the Russians do about the deviousness, brutality and incompetence of their Communist allies in Kabul? finally and after being ensnared, What was the real Soviet interest in Afghanistan? Historians and strategic experts would continue to grapple with such puzzling enquires, however Soviet government’s official justification for intervention was provided by its Defense Minister Dmitriy Feodorovich Ustinov as follows: “In view of the political and military situation in the Middle East the latest appeal by the government of Afghanistan has been considered positively. It has been decided to introduce a few contingents of Soviet forces, deployed in the southern regions of the country, on the territory of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan in order to provide international help to the friendly Afghan people, and also to create favourable conditions for the prevention of possible anti-Afghan actions on the part of neighbouring states…”   

That Moscow’s intervention in Afghanistan was a Soviet thrust for the sake of Great Game was a canard. No one in New Delhi felt threatened. India was, on the contrary, the only South Asian country which recognized the Communist People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) government and the presence of Soviet military personnel. General Zia of Pakistan was made aware of the limited scope of the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan by his able Foreign Minister Agha Shahi. But, Pakistani General, nevertheless, went on to paint the Soviet intervention with the semantics of the Great Game. He was part of fostering a belief among the people of region that the Russians were aiming for warm Indian ocean. In this endeavor, General Zia was assisted by the US administration, and was especially prompted by the Congressman Charlie Wilson to do more than just keep the pot boiling in Afghanistan. The water did boil over in the region and General Zia did fatally burned from its spill. Some twenty years later, and just before his death, Senator Charlie Wilson, with a nonchalant demeanor, would share that he had always considered the Soviet intervention as Afghanistan specific sans any Russian desire to cross the Durand Line.

The cold war ideological construct is more suitable to ponder over the events related to the Russians in Afghanistan. The last days of Soviet intervention substantiate. When the Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze forwarded to Moscow a proposal from the Afghan President Mohammad Najibullah to help protect the southern city of Kandahar from Mujahideen blockade in the late 1988, Anatoly Sergeevich Chernyaev, leading foreign policy adviser during the final days of the Soviet Union, was livid in his response, “Has he gone off his head? Doesn’t he see Najibullah is laying a trap to ensure we don’t leave, and to embroil us with the Americans and the whole of the rest of the world? Or hasn’t he got the guts to produce the counter-arguments?” An argument ensued:

Shevardnadze: You’ve not been there. You’ve no idea all the things we have done there in the past ten years.

Chernyaev: But why should we compound our crimes! What’s the logic in that? We’re not going to be able to save Najibullah anyway…

Shevardnadze: But he says that if he can hold out for a year after we leave, he will be able to survive indefinitely…

Chernyaev: And you believe that? And for that you’re ready to sacrifice our boys and break the engagement we gave in Geneva?

The cold war dynamics were in full swing. Dr Mohammad Najibullah’s fate was sealed. Later, he would naively expect to remain unaffected thinking of the Pashtun makeup of Taliban. Najibullah himself belonged to the Ahmadzai sub-tribe of the Ghilzai Pashtun tribe.

Asimov Arifov is a political scientist/researcher with The École des hautes études en sciences sociales, (EHESS) Paris, France. He is about to publish a book on the geopolitics of the Hindukash. He can be followed on twitter @asimovarifov for his latest updates.

 


Elections in Pakistan – A Trajectory for Gen Kayani

There is one central question, having international consequences, in the month of May: Who will govern Pakistan after the May elections? The question is important as it also leads us to explore the keen internal tussle that lies ahead between the politicians and military leadership in Islamabad.

Pakistanis are casting their vote at a time when the regional geopolitics is extremely fluid. Iran would elect its new president in June this year. Present Pakistani and Iranian presidents have agreed to construct a gas pipeline between the two states, which would be partly financed by the Chinese. The Saudis are not hiding their displeasure with the emerging arrangements, and in this context it is less striking how a leading Saudi press organ has permitted its space for using adjectives like cunning, sly and selfish to describe the present Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari.

Partition of the subcontinent in 1947 severed the Indian link with Central Asia and rarefied its geographical connectivity with the Middle East. Though, Indian elite opinion still remains mute about approaching the Middle East (read Iran) through Pakistan, India would like to reach to the Central Asian markets using the strategic geography of Pakistan. Indian media is casting Nawaz Sharif in favorable terms, and there’s the rub – how do you get to Central Asia through a possible Nawaz Sharif government when his political party is conniving in the elections with militants having links with the Taliban?

With this, and in an anti-clock wise manner, one comes to the Land of Afghans and its impact upon the present Pakistani politics. As the Pakistanis currently think of going to the polls, the Islamabad-Kabul equation is in disarray. For Pakistan, legitimization of its western frontier with Afghanistan is of foremost strategic priority. Primarily for this reason, it has been trying to seek “strategic depth” in Afghanistan over the last four decades.

But, how to deal when Afghan president Hamid Karzai could resist Islamabad’s attempts to project Pakistani power in Afghanistan. Given Karzai’s hailing from the pivotal Afghan tribes of the south, he does have the dangerous capacity to entice the Pashtun political sphere away from Taliban in Afghanistan. It appears that Karzai has a political plan for himself for the next year, and perhaps beyond, which is seemingly not matching with the policymakers in Islamabad. His latest volleys aimed at Islamabad over issues of the Durand Line and Taliban could be interpreted in this complex context. Incidentally  Afghans are also supposed to elect a new President in 2014.

Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the chief of Pakistani armed forces, presumably has a daunting task ahead. Other than regional geopolitical intricacies, he also needs to concentrate on charting a future course for the US-Pakistan interaction. US has not disclosed its intentions for post-2014 Afghanistan. Hamid Karzai, on the other hand, is aiming for a tough bargain with Washington. In this situation, Gen Kayani needs an experienced personality for Islamabad who has a keen understanding of operations in the international diplomatic trenches, and simultaneously who is also adept in navigating the local military & political dimensions.

As Pakistanis go to the polls, a few points of immediate relevance would help: (i) No one political system of governance is natural or ideal. (ii) Political systems are nurtured and shaped to suit local conditions & requirements to achieve and safeguard national interests. (iii) The leading Pakistani political parties, except Imran Khan’s Justice Party, are clan based with stiff hereditary control. (iv) Voters, even with literacy, are susceptible to tribal, feudal, clannish and sectarian influences and considerations. (v) Leading political parties, irrespective of their program or manifesto, look for electable candidates in constituencies, and tend to overlook financial corruption, tax evasion and loan default. (vi) There is not a single political leader of national stature in today’s Pakistan.

In this matrix, it is imperative to understand Gen Kayani’s internal constraints. At this critical juncture, there could be grave risks in entrusting total authority to those who have already been tested and who have questionable democratic credentials. The Pakistani military is combating internal militants, and a consensus is slowly emerging that Imran Khan, the cricket legend, could do the tricky negotiations part with the militants for their peaceful reintegration into their own regions. The cricketer turned politician has stirred the imagination of many, especially the sizable youth segment that is to vote for the first time.

Imran Khan’s injuries that he has sustained from a fall during a rally are expected to generate additional sympathy vote for him. To quote a local journalist from the Guardian’s report about the electoral salience of the incident, “This really resonates because people like the image of a fighter, of a warrior,” and “He took this terrible fall and he’s recovering quickly – that is a powerful image.”

For Pakistan’s internal front, Imran is a reasonable administrative choice. But, Obama administration has recently named a new US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. James F. Dobbins has a tough assignment ahead in Kabul and in Islamabad. Yet, who will be the Pakistani special representative to confront a fraught relationship between Washington and Islamabad, as well as an uncertain American military presence in Afghanistan?

The need for an experienced Pakistani personality for Islamabad that has a keen understanding of operations in the international diplomatic trenches, as well as an ability to navigate the local military & political dimensions could lead Gen Kayani towards the splendid military farm at the outskirts of Rawalpindi where his ex-boss General Pervez Musharraf is presently incarcerated. The May 2013 elections in Pakistan are a multiple-cast political thriller.

Asimov Arifov is a political scientist/researcher with The École des hautes études en sciences sociales, (EHESS) Paris, France. He can be followed on twitter @asimovarifov for all his latest analysis on international questions.


Afghans Talk Politics In France

Chantilly retains an elegant charm of a bygone French aristocratic era town. The place is situated at an hour’s drive from the heart of the French capital, and I have vivid memories of strolling in its cobbled alleys and well kept forest paths with colleagues and friends. Today, the town in French Picardie is in news for hosting the intra-Afghan dialogues, especially for providing the talk-venue between the Afghan administration and the Taliban spokesmen. Chantilly parlays are the result of a flurry of informal contacts between the Afghan government and insurgent representatives that have spanned over the preceding six months. The fact that this Afghan meeting is taking place in less than a week after France brought back the last of its combat troops from Afghanistan underscores tacit yet firm French diplomatic facilitation for the talks.

But why the talks are wrapped in an extraordinary caution? the story by Time magazine provides some plausible explanations, “One of the main reasons that the talks are unfolding so far from Afghanistan in the first place is to shield participants from harsh stares — and violent passions — of militants back on the ground. One impediment to organizing exploratory exchanges between Afghan opponents thus far has been the risk of leaders being seen meeting with enemies by their own partisans — who’d swiftly denounce them as betrayers and sellouts. The remote and obscured conference rooms of Chantilly would presumably prevent any potentially provocative visuals from reaching the rank and file back in Afghanistan, and provide the room and calm for rivals to start sounding one another out about finding potential areas of common interest.” Then there is an another side to the coin as the Time magazine story goes, “By the same public relations formula, Western powers participating in the NATO operation can ill afford to be seen sitting down with the same groups responsible for deadly violence that has killed countless foreign forces and Afghan civilians since 2011 — often through terrorist attacks. Though most government and independent analysts argue that any stable post-NATO Afghan arrangement would require the cooperation and participation of all the nation’s enemy forces, the notion of directly dealing with groups like the Taliban or Hezb-e-Islami still remains politically risky — and possibly explosive.”

In Pakistan, it appears that there was an initial reluctance in letting the Afghans talk among themselves outside Afghanistan-Pakistan. Pakistani foreign minister, who is considered as taking her script from country’s security establishment, was not convinced in the beginning. She was earlier mentioned as clearly saying that the peace talks between the Taliban and Afghan authorities should be held in Kabul and not on foreign soil. However, a rethink in Islamabad is discernible. First, there are measured steps taken towards releasing the key Taliban figures from the Pakistani prisons, ostensibly to facilitate the nascent dialogue. Second, and in a related fashion, Chairman of the Pakistani Senate’s Standing Committee on Defense and Defense Production, Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed has hailed the Chantilly talks between representatives of the Taliban and Afghan government, by terming them as a welcome step, which in the senator’s words “presents psychological and political breakthrough for finding a lasting peace.” Senator Mushahid is considered close to the military establishment of Rawalpindi.

The recent rethink in the Pakistani military over the Afghan question is not negligible. Pakistani army generals would not intend to pitch the Afghan Taliban against any residual bastions of the US military in post-2014 Afghanistan. The contrary and undesirable scenario brings the US & Pakistan on collision course, in a military sense. Pakistani military commanders also estimate that the Afghan Taliban alone could not control and administer the post-2014 Afghanistan. Thus, there  is a need for Afghan Taliban’s reconciliation with not only the US but also with other important political players of Afghanistan. Finally, the Pakistani military has the increasing awareness and need for disentangling the Afghan Taliban with the Pakistani Taliban. How much progress would be made in this direction? Only the coming months would indicate. Still, there is less doubt now that the Pakistani army chief has made Afghan peace his top priority. On the other side, for salvaging the US strategy in Afghanistan, the last few chances, which are closely related to the Pakistani rethink, are devised neatly by the veteran foreign affairs commentator Jonathan Power. His analysis is here.