US ANXIETY

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 27 Oct 2018 10:08:10

THE manner in which Pakistan released a Taliban terrorist after eight years in prison following American initiation of negotiations with terror outfits operating especially in Afghanistan, hints at what kind of anxiety the United States is experiencing as regards its stay in that part of the world for several years. US President Mr. Donald Trump and his band of close associates have found themselves in an almost no-win situation particularly in Afghanistan. Apprehensive that such a condition would bring to the US a world-wide criticism for having failed in Afghanistan and having reached the stage of a sly withdrawal from the area, the Americans are contemplating various alternative scenarios for an honourable exit. The effort to pressure Pakistan to release a Taliban leader after eight years in prison indicates that the Americans are very eager to thrash out a purported solution that could look like negotiated peace. This development, small though it may look, has multiple interpretations all of which are credible, thanks to the terrible turmoil that is going on in the White House where top policy-makers are constantly engaged in a tussle of attrition on most issues related to the US presence in various parts of the world.

Most of these issues are stemming from the restlessness of Mr. Donald Trump about the reasons for which the US has maintained massive and expensive presence in various theatres of the world for decades. Afghanistan is one such issue. Mr. Trump feels that his predecessors have engaged the nation in Afghanistan without any substantial reason and now it is getting more and more difficult to get out of the place without hurting the American dignity. In fact, Mr. Trump is taking a similar approach to the US presence in South Korea where he wants to disengage at the earliest so as to save American money which, he believes, has been invested without any gain.

Restricting the discourse only to Afghanistan at the moment, let us not miss the anxiety of the American President. General Nicholson, the chief of American military operations in Afghanistan was told at the start of his assignment that 60 per cent of Afghanistan was under American influence and near-control. He made a tall claim that he would hike the US influence to 80 per cent of the Afghan land-mass. His tall claims apart, the White House policy-makers are aware fully that the General is only talking through the hat without having realised the actual story on the ground. They also realise, of course on prodding by Mr. Donald Trump, that the US presence in Afghanistan is becoming increasingly expensive and difficult. Yet, they are opposed to a US pull-out from Afghanistan since they believe, contrary to the President’s personal conviction otherwise, that they must maintain a reasonable and honourable presence there. This internal clash is leading to a confused American response to almost all foreign policy issues.

One of the scenarios worked out by the US policy-makers was that their stepped up pressure may lead the Taliban to come to negotiation table, by the end of which the US can declare its victory and withdraw from Afghanistan. That seems nearly impossible because the Taliban that has been active for the past sixteen years may not yield so easily. But for the Americans, that seems to be the most reasonable way out of the quagmire. Hence their pressure on Pakistan to release at least one Taliban leader after eight years in prison, in the hope of creating an impression that the release has taken place as part of a peace process.
The biggest problem in the American foreign policy issues is the President himself, as experts believe. For, it is he who raises the issue of wastage of American money without commensurate gains. He does not seem to realise that foreign policy management is a long-haul affair and cannot be goaded by monetary issues alone. The conflict in the White House, thus, is about the differing comprehensions of the President and his advisors. Perhaps, the US was never as confused as it is now.