According to Fareed Zakaria, the editor of Newsweek International, when the United States invaded Afghanistan, it did not defeat al-Qaeda and its supporters among the Taliban. They simply fled to Pakistan, their original home.
For Islamabad to genuinely renounce these groups, therefore, it would require a fundamental strategic rethinking within the Pakistani military.
The civilian government in Pakistan, although weak and ineffective, is allied with the international community on these issues. It, too, wants a Pakistani military that knows its boundaries, does not run militant groups and conceives of the country's national interests in less confrontational terms.
He says that of all the tasks facing General David Petraeus, the chief of the U.S. Central Command, and newly appointed U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke, the above issue will be the hardest. Zakaria is of the view that if Pakistan cannot solve this problem; the war in Afghanistan cannot be won.
Admitting that the offensive in Afghanistan is not going well, he says that while the U.S. Army is being asked to do enough in Afghanistan, staying focused on a core mission and ensuring its success would require the stakeholders to go through four steps, each more complicated than the last.
The first step would be to carry out counter-insurgency operations in a right manner. He is of the view that so far the American troops in Afghanistan have largely relied on more old-fashioned tactics -- raids, search-and-destroy missions and air attacks. He says that General David McKiernan, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan needs to use the addition of two to four U.S. brigades and aamp up of the Afghan army, to execute a modified version of the new counter-insurgency strategy.
Secondly, Zarkaria says efforts should be made to make the Afghan government credible.
"The central government is widely seen as weak, dysfunctional and utterly corrupt. Unfortunately, many of its most corrupt elements are allies of the West and have thus gained a kind of immunity. The most immediate way to enhance the legitimacy of the Afghan government would be to ensure that presidential and local elections take place this year without disruption," he says.
"Elections are only one form of political legitimacy. There should be a much broader effort to reach out to tribal leaders, hold local councils and build a more diverse base of support. The goal should not be a strong central government -- Afghanistan is by nature decentralized -- but a legitimate government with credibility and allies throughout the country," he adds.
Third, he says, there should be an effort to talk to the Taliban, in spite of differences with it on many issues.
"Were elements of the Taliban to abandon al-Qaeda, we would not have a pressing national security interest in waging war against them. In fact, there is a powerful military advantage to moving in this direction. Al-Qaeda is a stateless organization that controls no territory of its own; it can survive and thrive only with a host community. Our objective should be to cut off al-Qaeda from its allies in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Deprived of local support, al-Qaeda would be a much diminished threat," Zakaria claims in his article for Newsweek.
And finally, those involved in the conflict in Afghanistan must realize that the roots of the problem are in Pakistan, and therefore, the leadership there must be convinced to do whatever is needed to neutralize insurgents and terrorists. (ANI)