The good news surrounding recent discovery of a trillion dollar mine in Afghanistan provides another blow to Taliban’s supporter. The Pakistani Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) and its accomplices must process this information with serious gravitas.
While at the same time a few high-risk investors are sufficiently intrigued by Afghanistan’s potential to take an early look, the ISI sees a bigger stake in the market value of this mine. The ISI had been well-known for their prolific and ambiguous practices and their double standard policy in Afghanistan. The Inter-Service Intelligence which was created in1948, in order to strengthen the performance of Pakistan’s Military intelligence during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947, it was formerly in the Intelligence Bureau, which handled intelligence sharing between the different branches of the military as well as external intelligence gathering, but with a puny civilian government in Islamabad, ISI has emerged as the executive branch of Pakistan’s government.
Since its inception, ISI has appended numerous colorful acts to its resume. From beating up a French ambassador to Pakistan in 1979, to lionizing and protecting A.Q. Khan, the founding father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, who has covertly passed on sensitive nuclear material to North Korea and, of course, in the 1980s, the ISI had substantial financial benefit in supporting seven Afghan Freedom-fighter groups in their resistance against the Soviets, and was the principal conduit of covert US funding. At the same time, ISI played one faction against other for the survival of their strategy which led to the creation of the Taliban regime.
In a recent discussion paper Matt Waldman of Crisis States Research Center wrote: “Pakistan’s apparent involvement in a double-game of this scale could have major geopolitical implications and could even provoke US counter-measures. However, the powerful role of the ISI, and parts of the Pakistani military, suggests that progress against the Afghan insurgency, or towards political engagement, requires their support.”
While there is no doubt that ISI subsidizes the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Afghan leadership must seize this opportunity of new found riches to deter Pakistan with a strong Afghan National Army (ANA) and to “Afghanize” the Afghan war.
According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), the U.S. has provided more than $10 billion to develop the Afghan National Army between 2002 and 2008, and 46 NATO and non-NATO nations have provided $822 million in equipment to the Afghan National Security Forces, this considerable investment has a slow pace of achieving the desirable goal. While the debate in Washington D.C and Kabul is more about sustaining an army that will eventually cost 3.3 billion per annum, its outlook certainly worries the ISI leadership.
Mr. Karzai, whose file was first introduced by ISI in the historic Bonn Conference on Afghanistan in 2001, should not commit the horrendous mistake of former Afghan President Mohammad Daoud (1973-1978) who looked towards the Soviet Union for military aid-after Pakistan joined the U.S.-led Cold War alliances- in the process Mohammad Daoud lost insight and ceded the way for the Soviets to became the principal donor of military aid, with the balance of external influence converging decisively toward the Soviet Union. The Afghan army and air force subsequently came under strong Soviet influence, leaving a lasting imprint on Afghanistan’s defense posture. Intrinsically, Mohammed Daoud’s poor judgment escalated Afghanistan into three decades of chaos.
Mr. Karzai who insisted last year to remain in power by all means, even at the extent of rigging the election with massive fraud, must prove to Afghans that he has the interest of Afghanistan and his fellow Afghans first. He must, for his own good, depart from his tantrum fit of whether he wants to be a Talib or someone that history will judge as a dynamic leader. If at this juncture, with July 2011 approaching around the corner, Karzai wants to come out of the closet as a Talib and gain the blessing of his ISI friends then, surely, the Afghan people will distinguish his pursuit of power and wealth that has already bankrupted his credibility, with his sense of responsibility and patriotism.
The United States must also play its part with Pakistan productively. Only last December President Obama affirmed that ‘we are committed to a partnership that is built on a foundation of mutual interest, mutual respect and mutual trust.’ This mutual respect and trust were rebutted by then the US national Intelligence director Dennis C. Blair, on his ‘Annual Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community’, testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence: “Indeed, we have elliptically acknowledged that Pakistan, maintains historic support to the Taliban.”
Since 2001 America has provided Pakistan with $11.6 billion in security-related assistance and $6 billion in economic aid. It is due to provide at least $7.5 billion dollars of aid over the next five years. Nevertheless, Pakistan appears to be playing a double-game of appalling scale. The conflict has led to the deaths of over 1,000 American and 700 other foreign military personnel; thousands of Afghan soldiers, police, officials and civilians.
As the US ponders an exit strategy out of Afghanistan, it should assist Afghanistan to develop its natural resources as a legitimate source of income. Military commanders have recognized that the war in Afghanistan cannot be won militarily and that economic development is crucial to sustainable peace. This approach will alleviate US’s financial obligation of footing the bill for Afghanistan in the long run. However, it must be done in a way that is not misperceived as having been America’s end game in Afghanistan, i.e. that natural resources were the cause of the U.S. presence in the country.
That misperception, which would only serve to strengthen the insurgency, can be handled by working through multilateral institutions such as the World Bank and Asian Development Bank to provide the technical assistance to the Government of Afghanistan so that it can set a transparent regulatory process for the mining sector. A good law already exists, but monitoring and oversight are needed to make sure that it is not ignored. This model did work with the telecommunications sector through the help of the World Bank and today, there are six major mobile carriers in Afghanistan who paid for their licenses through a bidding process.
Afghanistan’s leadership must come from within, but given the lack of systems and structures to maintain checks and balances of power, international oversight is crucial to creating an even playing field. The recent elections should remind donor countries in putting money into a process that is then controlled by those who seek to benefit from it. The Afghan people need the international community on its side as the country can become a successful development story such as South Korea or Singapore or if the status quo of putting money into programs and projects with little oversight or monitoring, it is likely that Afghanistan’s mineral resources will follow the African “blood diamond” path.
That would only provide another source of revenue for Warlords and terrorists and fuel new conflicts. If the U.S. wants to begin to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan in the near future, it must invest its dollars wisely through development and rule of law programs. By using its smart power, the U.S. and other donors can guide the process in a way that helps address poverty and injustice in Afghanistan, the ingredients for the fuel in the current conflict. History has provided us with models that show it can be done, with the right leadership and will.
Wahid Monawar is former Chief of Staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan, Governor of Afghanistan to the IAEA, and the founder of the Neo-Conservative Party of Afghanistan. He is currently an associate of Zurich Partners.
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