WASHINGTON (TIP): A retired American General has expressed the view that the United States is “diplomatically paralyzed” in dealing effectively with Pakistan on the issue of Afghanistan’s future since Islamabad remains paranoid about closer Afghan-India relations. Further, Pakistan has always hedged its bet with the Taliban as it reckons that it may have to deal with them again in the future, General John M Keane told a Congressional hearing on the “Transition in Afghanistan: View of outside experts”.
Stating that American interests in Afghanistan conflict with those of Pakistan, Gen Keane said: “That’s why they (Pakistan) have always hedged their bet with the Taliban, so to speak, because they believe they may have in fact to deal with them again.” He also pointed out that the Pakistan is very concerned about the Karzai Government and what it perceives to be its “closer relationship” with India. That, in fact, is the “paranoia that the Pakistanis have always suffered from”, he added.
As the US is rapidly moving towards its critical milestone of withdrawal of its troops by the end of 2014, Gen Keane, who has conducted several military assessments in Afghanistan, said much of the future is dependent on the success of 2014. “After almost twelve years of war in Afghanistan the central issue for me is how do we best manage the risk? How do we avoid squandering the gains that we have made in Afghanistan?” said Keane, who also voiced disappointment that US force levels in 2014 will be so low that they will have negligible impact on the security of the next Afghan elections.
He advocated priority targeting of the Taliban and Haqqani leaders in their sanctuaries in Pakistan, noting: “Once systematic targeting commences, the sanctuary will cease to exist as we currently know it; a place where strategy, training, operational oversight, intelligence and logistics is executed, routinely, in safe haven. These functions will suffer significantly which will positively impact operations in the East. Additionally, it will be a huge morale boost for the ANSF (Afghanistan National Security Forces).”