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The British nearly gave up war in Afghanistan recently and instead wanted dialogue with Al Qaeda [Images]. Washington termed it defeatist and subsequently London [Images] rescinded the suggestion. The stalemate in the war on terrorism continued.
The breed of Inherently Helpless Indians tells me repeatedly that "even the West led by America could not smash the terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq -- how can a country like India win?"
Untrue. With the right strategy this war can be won decisively.
Frankly, Al Qaeda and the Taliban [Images] combine cannot win the war. They don't have the means. The jihad groups have no naval or air forces. No missile force either. They do have a slackly held guerrilla army that boasts of weapons with limited range and some quantities of explosives. Their satellite phones and other modest wireless systems are susceptible to interception, consequently a big constraint. These outfits do not boast of surveillance and intelligence gathering capabilities through satellites or UAVs.
In practical terms they have no reach. Al Qaeda, the Taliban or similar groups can only cause damage or destruction to contact targets and its immediate periphery which is woefully inadequate to topple a regime -- a prerequisite for victory. Kabul remains with Karzai, though at a cost, while Washington, Paris, and London continue to conduct international business unaffected.
Yet, Al Qaeda and the Taliban for years have managed to create a deadlock against the best equipped and trained forces of the first world on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Why?
On multiple counts the war waged by the Bush administration was borne out of unsound principles. First, fighting on two fronts simultaneously created division of resources between Iraq and Afghanistan. It resulted in shortage of the necessary numbers of boots on ground, so vital while fighting a guerrilla force in the Afghan-Pakistan region.
Second, if the alliances that forge preponderance in the international affairs are broken, victory will elude. The Western alliance, which is the statement of the American might, was rebuffed in Iraq. Washington in its unilateral stubbornness opened the second front, throwing to winds the sane strategic advice of its partners. The invasion of Iraq, if ever necessary, should have taken place after consolidation of the Afghanistan-Pakistan front. The victory in the Afghanistan-Pakistan area in any case would be sufficient to put other players in the region on notice.
Washington disregarded its Western alliance partners in invading Iraq, considered an unjust war by rest of the world. It in effect united the various jihad outfits in different parts of the world. Most of these groups that lacked potency till then, appeared formidable by coming together. Thus, in the last eight years, the sum of parts of the radical Islam lent an appearance of more than the total.
Third, the extraordinary rise in the oil prices not only boosted the old adversary but also added new rivals soaked in the wealth of petro-dollars. Also billions of dollars wasted in the Iraq war is significantly responsible for the current economic misery.
Last, the biggest folly was to trust Islamabad [Images]. At the time of invasion of Iraq, I cautioned the former American ambassador in a gathering at New Delhi [Images] that the "United States and its allies cannot win in Afghanistan since they have the lock (Afghanistan) but cannot unlock it as they do not have the key (Pakistan) under their control."
Even today many with the Cold War mindset in the international media wrongly advocate that Kashmir should be resolved -- implying India should resolve it in favour of Pakistan. I would say it is a misplaced approach with counter-productive ramifications. With Asia becoming more and more authoritarian, with Communist China rapidly expanding its influence, with Islamic fundamentalists all over and rearing their heads in Malaysia, with Maoists in control of Kathmandu, and with military dictatorship emerging in Bangladesh, the only option is to expand the influence of the democracies.
Instead of trying to sap New Delhi's will by such proposals, the other democracies should stand by to support spread of democratic set up in Pakistan occupied Kashmir. Handing over Kashmir on the platter to Pakistan will definitely result in another Talibanised and brutal adversary in the neighborhood. Such a step is neither in the interest of multi-cultural India or other democracies.
It is time for Washington to shift gears to win the war!
A few years ago, a Democrat when told in a private conversation that "America cannot win on both fronts," wanted to know the way out. I said: "Since the objective is to decisively defeat radical Islam and not Islamic nations or populations, the Iraq front should be wound up rapidly despite the likely disintegration. Quickly redeploy and concentrate these su