US can’t afford Afghan war expenditures for long: Swedish diplomat
By Ijaz Kakakhel
ISLAMABAD: The United States (US) forces alone cost $12 million per hour in Afghanistan and it is very difficult for the US to continue these expenses for longtime, said Swedish diplomat and scholar Ann Wilkens on Wednesday.
She was speaking at an international conference on “Transition in Afghanistan: Post-Exit Scenarios” which opened on Wednesday at a local hotel.
She claimed that restoration of peace in Afghanistan through bullets was very difficult rather impossible and stressed for negotiations with all ethnic groups in Afghanistan including Pashtun. Wilkens described the post-exit phenomenon as a dead end as the government is weakening and the insurgency is getting stronger.
Speaking from the Western point of view she said the scenario in Afghanistan was moving from positive to negative commitment that was based on ‘what happens after the withdrawal’?
She said the US coalition made three mistakes in the beginning: They made the warlords as consultants, they lacked internal coordination and there was no regional perspective, which only now is being talked about.
She said the main worry bothering the West could there be an honourable exit and what happens if the Taliban return to power: what will happen to women, society and the region? She said the answer to all these questions would come from the villages and the interior of Afghanistan where nobody understood English, and not Kabul with which the West has been engaging. The Swedish expert was very skeptical about any solution in the near future. There is no quick fix, she said, and the US is running out of patience.
Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar inaugurated the conference. Since she could not attend it a senior officer of the Foreign Ministry presided over the conference jointly organized by Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI) and Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF).
Dr Lubna Abid Ali from Quaid-i-Azam University spoke on the security issue and pointed to the growing role of India in Afghanistan’s strategic development projects. Dr Zafar Moeen Nasir of PIDE dwelt on the economic problems of Afghanistan after the foreign forces leave. He said it would take a major effort and cooperation of regional countries on a long-term basis to make Afghanistan stand on its feet. He said 50 percent Afghan population was on or below poverty line. Those who waged war in Afghanistan and were responsible for its destruction could not leave her in the pitch.
Concluding the first session, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) former chief secretary Khalid Aziz warned that it was wrong of Pakistan to think of Afghanistan as its extension. He asked Pakistanis to look at the external world positively and follow China in this matter. “No one wants to destroy Pakistan and we alone are our worst enemies,” he opined.
Dr Sarfraz of Peshawar University said ethnic diversity in Afghanistan was unique in the sense that the various ethnicities were part of majorities in neighbouring countries. Yet he said Afghanistan was a single nation and in spite of inter-ethnic frictions there has never been a demand for division of the country. They have never considered the prospects of a breakup of the country. Whether Pashtun or Tajik or Uzbek the Afghans were one nation, he maintained. Dr Gulden Aymen from Turkey said the reconciliation process with the Taliban suffered from ambiguity on both sides. The US has not forced the Taliban to declare their terms for peace and the Taliban on their part have not been able to present a united stand, he said.