Sir: The Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989. Was this willingly or was it forced? Now, once again, the US is repeating the act. Is this willingly or is it being forced? In both cases, indomitable resistance forced the withdrawals. Who fought both the Soviets and the US? Was it Kabul or the guerillas led by Mullah Umer? The answer is all too obvious. The real adversaries, not the mercenaries or fence sitters, should be at the negotiating table. This was the case in Korea, Vietnam and, earlier, in China and Indonesia. The US, true to its character, is trying not to look the loser and is trying to negotiate as equals. Pulling down the flag and the door sign in Qatar does not indicate that the US is dictating. They are leaving Afghanistan, negotiations or no negotiations. Having devastated Afghanistan to the point that it is now back in the Stone Age and having embittered the Afghan masses, do they really believe that Kabul, India or Pakistan will serve as their effective surrogate? The writing is on the wall.
First, just as they bent over backwards in the case of China, they must start from the premise that the real ‘power on the ground’ is the band of guerilla leaders who are forcing them out. This is the only lasting basis on which they can keep their presence in Afghanistan — not as disruptors but as those accepted/allowed by the victors. The US’s hobnobbing with India or any other country to act as its surrogate may satisfy its convoluted thinking but may not cut any ice with the Afghans, who cannot be expected to take advice or dictation from anyone after their glorious victory over all foreign intervention. Pakistan should never appear to Afghans as the surrogate or advisor but as a brotherly neighbour willing to cooperate and help according to what the Afghans may desire. These Afghan fighters are not sitting in Kabul, in any case. The real and lasting role of Pakistan will start after peace and de facto power are established in Pakistan. The role should not consist of lofty sermons or pressure but material and humanitarian assistance as/when required by the power in place. Above all, the main aim of Pakistan now must be lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan.