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Increasing Difficulties for U.S. In Afghan War

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Complexities start multiplying for the United States ahead of withdrawal from Afghanistan, as on one side the situation is far from favorable for Washington in Kabul while on the other relatively safe NATO supply routes from Pakistan may face a closure.

After failure in talks aimed an inking an agreement with the Taliban -- that could really help secure a safe exit for the U.S. and NATO troops as well as military equipment from the war-torn country, besides serving as a face-saving after over a decade of war -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai has also shirkedresponsibility for signing bilateral security pact between Afghanistan and the United States. Addressing the Loya Jirga -- an assembly of politicians, tribal leaders, clerics, and other influential Afghans -- the Afghan president wished his successor to put pen to paper. Without such an agreement, it would be difficult for the United States to keep thousands of its troops in Afghanistan for another decade after the scheduled troops' withdrawal in 2014. Karzai, whose rule is about to come to end, does not want to take this burden on his shoulders alone. Karzai seems to want Loya Jirga to pass this agreement, which will enable Kabul to get handsome aid as well as 10,000 to 15,000 foreign troops. Though the U.S.-Afghanistan security pact hangs in limbo, many are hopeful of resolution of this issue keeping the current Afghan situation and political interests of many Afghan politicians in mind, as the Taliban are opposed to inclusive Afghan government and have insisted that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the Taliban's shadow government, be returned to power.

In a post-NATO withdrawal situation, the Taliban's re-emergence is not out of question and they still rule the roost in many provinces while Afghan security forces are not yet capable enough to take on them. The Taliban have rejected the U.S.-Afghanistan security agreement and demanded the withdrawal of all foreign troops from the country. Any delay in this agreement will land the United States in hot water, as the Taliban may shed water in coming years on all what the U.S. has achieved in long Afghan war.

Out of Afghan borders, the situation is also not comfortable for the U.S. and NATO in Pakistan, as Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (Pakistan Movement for Justice), the ruling party in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa -- the northwestern province of Pakistan bordering restive federally administered tribal area (FATA) -- held a protest demonstration on November 23 (Saturday) in the provincial capital of Peshawar against the U.S. drone attacks. The latest attack that was conducted in Hangu district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province has added fuel to fire, as it was the second attack outside FATA during the last five years. Imran Khan, chairman Pakistan Movement for Justice, has long been opposing the Pakistan-United States cooperation in war against militancy. Earlier, Mr. Khan demanded Islamabad convince the United States to bring drone attacks to a halt or otherwise the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government will not allow passage of NATO containers from its jurisdiction. Earlier, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assembly unanimously passed a resolution asking Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to take practical steps to ensure halt to drone strikes and bring forward suggestions for blocking the NATO supplies; otherwise, it would be justified in taking its own line of action.

If Khan succeeds in taking public sentiment against NATO supplies to its peak, the passage left for NATO supplies will be through Baluchistan, another restive province of Pakistan. This route crosses the border at Chaman area of Pakistan and ends at Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban where a stubborn insurgency still flourishes. Although withdrawal of military equipment from Afghanistan has been underway since February last and some media reports estimate that around 100,000 containers will be transported to complete this process, yet possible closure of route via Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province may increase security risk many times for these containers.

Baluchistan home ministry some three months ago said that a total of 141 NATO containers have been torched or looted so far; however independent sources claim that this number is much higher and some 62 containers have been torched only during the current year.

Moreover, security cover to these containers by Pakistani law enforcement agencies will be an uphill task in Baluchistan and the situation will not be different for Afghan National Army and foreign troops on other side of the border.