So that the general can combat the terrorists and the lady play democracy. This, they hope, can keep the crumbling edifice of military rule going for a few more years or at least until Osama bin Laden is winkled out of his home in the tribal regions of North and South Waziristan.But he goes on:
That is where the whole plan falls apart because in a country like Pakistan, a failing state hovering over the abyss, there are too many loose ends to tie up.What are these loose ends? None other than every principle of legitimacy of the state in Pakistan. Sharif is (hypocritically) challenging whatever shred of democratic legitimacy the General may concoct with Washington's support by sabotaging the plan for a negotiated transition ignoring his party. Musharraf was forced into this confrontation when a mass mobilization of the legal profession in support of the chief justice exposed the vacuum of legality on which the military regime stood; only a 2 am telephone call from Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice stopped Musharraf from destroying the pretense of legality by declaring martial law.
Pakistani generals thought they were prepared for this: after destroying any other source of legitimacy, they have always argued that only the army kept Pakistan together. It used "the mullahs" against the "politicians," and it had both under firm control. But now, writes Rashid:
So the Pakistani state is one by one shedding its legal-constitutional, Islamic, democratic, and national legitimacy.
There is the crumbling morale in the army. Two weeks ago US and Nato forces in Afghanistan were shocked to discover that 300 Pakistani soldiers - their erstwhile partners in the war on terrorism - had surrendered to the Taliban in Waziristan without firing a shot.
Soldiers in the badlands controlled by the Taliban and al-Qa'eda are deserting or refusing to open fire. The White House is panic-stricken. That is because Gen Musharraf in his hubris has utterly failed to convince Pakistanis or the army that Pakistan has to fight not America's war, but its own war against ever-expanding extremism.
And this happened in the state where (1) Usama bin Laden is currently living, having reconstituted the core structures of al-Qaida; (2) the military has nuclear weapons and recently tested a missile delivery system; and (3) President Bush removed Ambassador Ryan Crocker in November to send him to Iraq, the "central front in the War on Terror," leaving the US ambassadorship vacant during most of this crisis.
The violence continues in Afghanistan, of course, despite the same type of statistically induced optimism as in Iraq on the part of US military commanders. The new British government, however, having conducted its review of Iraq and Afghanistan policy, decided to pull out of Basra and reportedly has told Washington that in Afghanistan, we are "winning the battles but losing the war.” Apparently the glass is half empty and getting emptier.
But a small item deserves to be watched: according to AFP a "senior Taliban spokesman" told their correspondent, "For the sake of national interests ... we are fully ready for talks with the government." This follows by one day yet another public offer of negotiations from President Hamid Karzai.
This could be another soon-to-be-denied random report. But it occurs in a context where Karzai has repeatedly offered such negotiations with no apparent hindrance from Washington.
At the August Afghan-Pakistan Peace Jirga in Kabul, the participants decided to constitute a smaller jirga of 50 (25 from each country) to "engage in "dialogue for peace and reconciliation with opposition." This jirga took place in part thanks to
Fazlur Rahman has outlined what a settlement would look like. Last November in
That is the first and principal (though not sole) obstacle to negotiations: are the Taliban the organization that harbored the terrorists of 9/11, who therefore must, in President Bush's words, "share their destiny?" Or are they an Afghan armed opposition group that has not yet joined the peace process that started with the Bonn Agreement? Will returning Taliban be reintegrated or sent to
If quoted correctly, the Taliban spokesman offered an interesting hint: he spoke of "national interests." This is not a term commonly employed by Bin Laden and Zawahari. There have been many signs, especially since the invasion of
The status of those Taliban leaders branded by the U.S. as harborers of al-Qaida and listed by the UN Security Council as terrorists subject to sanctions could pose an obstacle, as well as the question of foreign troops. But the internal ethnic cleavage and the regional situation will also complicate matters. Domestically, the former Northern Alliance leaders by and large have opposed any hint of dialogue with the Taliban. Significant sectors of the northern population retains memories of conquest and massacre by the Taliban. But their former political leader, former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, reportedly stated last week at a seminar in Peshawar that "Taliban should be given representation in the sub-jirga formed in line with the declaration of the joint Afghanistan-Pakistan Peace Jirga last month."
Regional resistance may be harder to overcome. Russia refuses to countenance the removal from the sanctions list even of the current Governor of Uruzgan Province, a former Taliban commander who has collaborated well with a Dutch NATO contingent and made the province more secure. Even as the U.S. has escalated claims that Iran is aiding the Taliban, Iranian diplomats privately warn the U.S. against making a political deal with the Taliban.
Such a deal could constitute a rough Afghan equivalent of U.S. policy in Anbar Province, Iraq. In 2001-2002, the U.S. cooperated with Iran to use the Northern Alliance to occupy the ground vacated by the Taliban and to bolster the authority of the new Afghan administration. While the Northern Alliance's ties to Iran are weaker and more purely pragmatic than those of Iraq's Shi'a leaders, Iran and the U.S. both see them as potential (though unreliable) Iranian assets in Afghanistan. Whether or not the U.S. has in view such a strategic shift toward "moderate" Taliban (I have no direct evidence of it), Iran will surely suspect that it does and react accordingly. In the context of rising tensions with the U.S. over Iraq and Tehran's nuclear program, such political changes could link the two wars even more closely, mostly (as usual) to the detriment of the aspirations of Afghans for a semblance of a normal life after decades of war.
It is worth exploring indications that those currently fighting the Afghan government, NATO, and US in Afghanistan are willing to adopt a national political agenda that could, in principle, be a subject of negotiation. But if Bin Laden's support base among Taliban in the tribal territories of Pakistan continues to grow, and if the Pakistani state continues to disintegrate, the incentives for maximalist positions will grow as well. If tensions between the U.S. and Iran escalate, the result may be reconfigured war rather than peace. And if the U.S. presses on with aggressive opium poppy eradication in southern Afghanistan, efforts at consolidating government authority in the vulnerable areas bordering what Rashid calls Pakistan's "badlands" may collapse.