Comment by: Jalil Afridi
Seeing newly appointed US advisor to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad in Kabul and Islamabad made me realize that US does not plan to leave Afghanistan anytime soon. Those who live in Washington DC know very well that Zalmay Khalilzad is a staunch opponent of Pakistan and that it has been his dream to become the President of Afghanistan one day.
In his book titled “The Envoy” Zalmay Khalilzad has mentioned Pakistan on thirty two different pages and in those pages not once has he written a single good thing about Pakistan. He has accused Pakistan in his book for being liar, benefiting from giving shelter to the Afghan refugees, playing double game, giving refuge to Taliban, supporting the Haqqani network and he has called Pakistan a failed state in his book.
Zalmay Khalilzad appointment by President Trump’s administration as advisor not only surprised people in Afghanistan and Pakistan but it also surprised many American scholars and former US State Deparmtment officials based in Washington DC. They wondered how can individual who should be held responsible for the failed US policy in Afghanistan since 2003 is now again given the task of bringing peace in Afghanistan. A former US diplomat asked me that “ Zalmay first destroyed Afghanistan and then Iraq as US ambassador designate. So how can he now bring peace in Afghanistan?.”
In Washington DC, Zalmay Khalilzad is also accused of having very good relations with former Afghan President, Hamid Karzai and that these relations are stretched a little more than just diplomatic relations. In his book, Zalmay writes that former US President George Bush told him that “I want you to turn Hamid Karzai into a great politician.”
While replying to my question about Zalmay Khalilzad’s negative impression of Pakistan, during his recent visit to Washington DC, the Pakistani Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that “people change and time changes.” So in other words he believes that either Zalmay Khalilzad has changed or US foreign policy towards Afghanistan or Pakistan has changed. I do not agree with Mr Shah. I believe neither Zalmay has changed nor has the US policy on Afghanistan.
I believe that the current US administration has no plans to leave Afghanistan anyone soon and that is why I had asked Shah Mahnood Qureshi that when Pakistan uses the word “scapegoat” it gives an impression that US is using Pakistan as scapegoat for its Afghan foreign policy and that it wants to leave Afghanistan soon.
A reliable source in Washington DC recently told me that the US government has installed state of the art technology along Pakistan border where it has the capability to listen to all the wireless communications all the way from Chitral to Chaman border. He said that “all communication along the border between police mobile squads is saved, typed and translated.”
Another source also recently mentioned that a contract has been awarded to a satellite company worth more than one hundred million dollars to keep an eye on desired locations. Beside these sources, many more contractors are continuously involved in construction and other development works in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan’s situation since last one year has gone from worse to hell. Thousands of innocent civilians and the Afghan army soldiers have been killed in different attacks and bomb blasts in last couple of months. The Russians are the new emerging power again and they are using every mean to have strong footing.
There is no doubt that Pakistan is a key player in bringing peace in Afghanistan but to say that Pakistan is the only country that can bring peace in Afghanistan is absolutely incorrect. Iran, China and India are also now the keys players in foreign policy of Afghansitan and each of these countries is using its leverage of importance.
Zalmay Khalilzad, is as foreign to Afghanistan as President Ashraf Ghani. They are both US citizens with a past connected to Afghanistan. But that past is just too old and it does not connect with Afghanistan anymore. Maybe that is also one of the reason why President Ghani and President Trump are not on good terms at the moment. According to gossip, President Trump had no time for President Ghani at the recently held UN Conference in New York. But President Trump did meet CEO of Afghanistan, Abdullah Abdullah, who had come to New York instead of President Ghani. The reality that since 2001 the US administration has continued to ignore the Pakhtuns in Afghanistan still persists. Pakhtuns in Afghanistan still feel that they are not given equal opportunities as Hazaras and Tajiks. And many believe that this could be one of the reasons why termoil is still continued in Afghanistan.
Interestingly, Zalmay Khalilzad does not get along with Gulbadin Hikmatyar as well, the head of Hazbe Islami in Afghanistan and one of the prominent Pakhtun leader in Afghanistan. How will this effect the relations in Afghanistan is for time to tell.
Though it is too early to predict what good will Zalmay Khalilzad bring to Afghanistan but for Pakistan it is certain that he carries no soft corner. Can he be a simple of peace in Afghanistan, we will find out soon.