A Road Map to Peace in Afghanistan

Co-authored with Ved Pratap Vaidik and Abdul Ghaffar Mogul

The late ambassador Richard Holbrooke, President Obama's envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, had identified the connection of the Afghanistan's war with Pakistan and referred to the issue Afghan-Pak issue. However, he realized that the connection is rooted in India and wanted to extend his authority and responsibility to weave diplomacy to Afghan-Pak-India. Indeed, that is the key to ending the war in Afghanistan and withdrawing 100,000 U.S. troops that are stationed there. Vice President Biden's recent disconcerting comment in Kabul that U.S. forces will stay in Afghanistan as long as they are wanted demonstrated the confusion of the American diplomacy and caused chagrin to thousands of American families.

Pakistan is apprehensive about India's hegemonic behavior in Afghanistan and unless it is corrected it will continue to provide safe haven in its territory to Al Qaeda, and insurgent groups such as Haqqani, Hekmatyar, and Mullah Omar who have inflicted major damages to U.S. forces in Afghanistan and whose presence in Pakistan is viewed as strategic asset by Pakistan.

Pakistan's concerns emanate from India's political advances as evidenced by the fact that India has spent about $1.3 billion during the last nine years in Afghanistan, mostly on long-term projects, such as roads and dams. There are about 4,000 Indian citizens working in Afghanistan. In addition to an embassy in Kabul, India has four consulates in major cities of Afghanistan -- Kandahar, Mazar, Herat, and Jelalabad. In retaliation Pakistani-controlled insurgents have blown up the Indian embassy in Kabul, have caused death to several Indian project staff in Kabul and continues to send suicide bombers and roadside bombs inside Afghanistan.

The key to end the war in Afghanistan is to strike rapprochement between the three countries (Afghan-Paki-India) without intruding on their sovereignty. Realistically, Afghanistan has to be cognizant of Pakistan's sensitivity in this regard and do whatever to alley Pakistanis apprehension about India. The two countries have gone to war three times and their feud over Kashmir is continuing. Afghanistan would have to weigh the benefit of stopping suicide bombers and roadside bombing emanating from Pakistan in exchange for maintaining a balanced policy towards India and Pakistan. After all more than 50% of the population of Afghanistan resided in Pakistan for nearly a decade (1979-89) during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. The U.S. could play a constructive diplomatic role to mend relations of the tiresome.

Moreover, Afghanistan is caught in a vicious circle: Pakistan sends suicide bombers and roadside bombs against U.S. forces, and has been intransigent. The U.S. retaliates by bombing Pashtun villages causing human and property losses while the vicious circle continues. A way must be found to break this vicious circle and respond to the higher interest of peace in the region and ending this senseless war. Rapprochement of the three countries under U.S. guidance may produce peace and may serve to make military aid to Pakistan superfluous.

Nake M. Kamrany, an Afghan-American economist, is professor of economics at USC, Abdul Ghaffar Mughal, a Pakistani-American economist, is serving in Iraq under a USAID project. Ved Pratap Vaidik is an Indian political columnist residing in New Delhi.