A Century-old but Still Fledgling Ties between Afghanistan- US
Amanullah Khan became the king of Afghanistan in 1919. He traveled to many European countries and intended to embed his global learning in shuttered Afghanistan upon his return. Noticeably, before his visit to Europe in 1927, he had already commenced his tie with America in 1921. When Noor Mohammad Khan Darwazi, the King’s envoy came to Tashkent of Uzbekistan in late 1921 to participate in peace international conference, he phoned US president Harding and conveyed King Amanullah Khan’s best wishes.
Noor Mohammad Khan kept the relations alive and thus personally traveled to US in 1922. The envoy exchanged diplomatic letters between the two countries and put promise to keep on the new trend. From onward, the official relation has been started but some historians claim that the relation was pre-date of 1921. It is quoted that when Josiah Harlan, an American adventurer who wanted to become the king of Afghanistan, traveled to Kabul in 1893 but because of the rocky inroad of British and intrusive nature of Soviet empire in the great game, Josiah could not attain his goal.
Consequently, in 1930, a business delegation entitled M-JOFO came to Afghanistan but because of Brits’ reluctance, British India did not let American trade passed though Karachi port of Pakistan. At the same year, while the US Congress was mulling-over the diplomatic relation with Afghanistan, the chairman of the US Foreign Committee with near-east such hawkish assertions: He added that Afghanistan is a lawless, recalcitrant and arbitrary country with brutish principals. If any US diplomat intentionally or unintentionally bypasses any minor religious and cultural role, his head will be immediately chopped –off of his body.
Though the numbers of efforts were underway but still no progress envisioned so for. One decade later, an American councilor stationed in Karachi, city of Pakistan traveled to Afghanistan and met with King Nader Khan along with the members of Upper-house. Five years later, American diplomats under the leadership of Hany Brook deployed to Iran came to Kabul to re-assess the political situation and conduct exploratory-talks. Following the US delegation visit to Kabul, the first ever prime minister of Afghan Monarchy, Abdul Hussain Aziz off to Washington in 1943 and met with Franklin Roosevelt to expedite diplomatic-interplay. The 1930-1940 decade assumed as jump-start on the relation building. As follow up, in 1946, US initiated the efforts and in 1948, they established the embassy in Kabul. The current building, except additional refurbishing and gradual renewal, is the same building remained on the same location from 1948 onward.
The embassy established and some envoys deployed but to make sure both countries are at the same page, Afghan prime minister Shah Mahmood Khan traveled to Washington in 1947 and 1951 but as Pakistan was closer to US than any other country at the time; the visit has gone for naught and remained without a hitch.
When British Empire divided India into two countries named India and Pakistan after ruling India from 1858-1947 (89 years), Pakistan emerged. It was historic ordeal era for Pakistan where the governor-general of Pakistan Mohammad Ali Jinnah needed global support to prop-up his nation more than any other country in the world. At the same, the United States of America came out as the sole and only economic and military power from the dwindling World War II (1939-1945). Pakistan needed support and US needed a good partner in Central Asia. It was very good coincidence for both countries. The United States, after World War II, rebuilt minimum 16 European countries during its five-year support development plan where Pakistan hooked and absorb the support. As British Empire remained whacked in 1950s and could not resume its influence on Central Asia, America quickly swapped them and embraced Pakistan as first and close partner in the region.
Noticeably, President Truman wanted to hedge his influence on the crippled Europe after World War II, therefore he assigned his secretary of states, George Marshal to devise development plan which cost 12 billion dollars. The plan implemented during 1948-1951 but Pakistani leadership understood that still there is room for Pakistan’s development to be extended if requested. Pakistan played pretty smart and agile role and moved forward with buddy-buddy relation with the US.
This mutual relation overshadowed Afghanistan. When US Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles enlisted Pakistan in the Bagdad Pact or CENTO Agreement which established between Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Pakistan and London in 1954, Pakistan started to gain abundant concessions which further cornered Afghanistan. It is said that the US was not part of the pact but it was told that the pact was safeguarding the territorial advantages of Israel at-large.
It is note-worthy that during the second-half of 21 century, all emerging powers were siding issues those benefiting them and it was not too much stunning that US was remained partial underpinning Pakistan comparing to Afghanistan.
Following Shah Muhammad Khan, Prime Minister Sardar Mohammad Dawod Khan also traveled to Washington D.C in 1958. He has given head-of-state welcome being standoffish for 5 years, intercourse with vice-president Richard Nixon, met with president Dwight Eisenhower, and was the first Afghan official to address US Congress. The visit went-on cordial but later on, John Dulles irresponsibly submitted the list of weapons requested by Sardar Dawod Khan to Mohammad Ali, the Pakistan Ambassador in Washington. Dawod Khan was too much wounded and felt it as affront of US toward Afghanistan’s relation.
While Richard Nixon was serving the US government as vice-president, he traveled to Afghanistan in 1954 but his trip was thoroughly embellished with overtone promises which brought-about nothing but so-called construction of bridge over the river of Helmand province in southern Afghanistan.
Though the mutual commune was not envisioned fruitful until the date but Afghan government did not give-up. Five years later, Afghan Monarch Mohammad Zahir Shah and his spouse Malika Humaira went to Washington D.C. and were hosted by US president John F. Kennedy in 1963. It was 12 days long visit where Monarch Zahir Shah tried to graft the fledgling ties but historians says that the visit again remained solely as touristic trip.
It was obvious that Pakistan meant a lot to the US government at the moment but it was also cleared to US that there will not be any possible Gas/oil pipeline extension between central Asian countries or there will not be any Lapis Lazuli Corridor that passes Afghan land to reach Europe via Turkmenistan-Azerbaijan-Georgia and Turkey unless, until US achieve Afghans’ heart and help them solidify minimums security in their country.
Considering this fact, the 1950-1960 decade assumed as foundation stone for the future buddy-buddy relation when Soviet-backed People Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) overturned Sardar Dawod Khan’s regime in 1973; the security situation deteriorated as much as the US ambassador, Adolph Dubs to Kabul has been kidnapped on 14 Feb 1979 by people dressed in Afghan-police uniform and then immolated in hours. After this blood-curdling incident, US did not deploy his replacement but fully withdrew from Afghanistan simultaneously when Soviet defeated and started to bow-out in 1978. Unluckily, the Soviet’s fiasco and the US’s disinclined approached amid that Mujahidin engulfed among themselves and resulted 70,000 civilian casualties from 1990-194. It was not the proper and reasonable approach for the US policy makers to draw the exit time and leave Afghanistan in solo status which could easily pervaded by outsiders who were lurking-around.
Afterward, Taliban took-over Kabul in Sep 1996, on Dec 25, Mr. Hamid Karzai become the head of state and then addressed US Congress on 2004. He ran Afghan government with uncontested sole power for 13 years and now his successor, President Dr. Ashraf Ghani off to Washington DC on 24 Mar 2015. He met with President Barak Obama, hosted by Secretary Kerry and escorted by Secretary Ashton Carter to Department of Defense (DOD). President Ghani also addressed the US congress, delivered pep-talk, translated the hearts of American representatives as he honored 41 times with the chorus and applauses of congressman and senators.
Now I reached to the main point of the discussion. The questions are, why after a century period still US-Afghan relations sputters? Why the US stances and Afghans minds change every hour toward each other? Will these chilly ties be heated? What the US governments want in Afghanistan or from Afghanistan- Democracy, self-reliant Afghanistan, women’s right, education, or something else that folded in dozen layers?
As I am big fan of numbers and dates, let’s have a quick glance to the past. 9/11 changed the basic contour of world and Afghanistan. On 5th Sep 2001, under the vigilant observation of United Nations, 85 countries plus 15 international organizations started pondering on new agenda for Afghanistan and consequently president Karzai named as the helm of power of 6 months.
As former secretary of states, Hillary Clinton once told to Congress that today’s diplomacy is changed. We ruin, we build, we push for peace and at the same time, we fight. Similar thing happened in Afghanistan. Taliban are defeated, splattered, and weakened where too many of them were inclined in 2001 to return to peace but sadly, until early 2009, the only method used against them was the nail and hammer.
Based on the reports of express tribune on 28 Mar 2015, 220,000 Afghans has been killed so for since 2001 where only 21,000 are official confirmed. The US Commander, General Campbell said that about 7,000-9,000 ANSF has been killed only in 2013. On the other hand, 2,335 US soldiers killed, 17,000 injured, 50,000 are recovered from trauma and 2,2 trillion dollars has been spent in the war. It is illogical that someone will claim that Afghanistan of 2001 and 2015 is alike but the current US force status-quo in Afghanistan and demurred stance over a long term support for Afghanistan is questionable.
We Afghans have to understand where the US-Afghan relation reaches. What is the ultimate intention of such blurred defined strategic relations?
Afghans enjoy tangible changes in all corner of Afghanistan and such multi-faceted developments are admirable. Exemplarily, in 2001, only 800,000 male students were going to schools where such figures reached 1 million with 37% female students. Afghans are happy having educated future generation but will never be happy to lose their loved one at the daily basis if peace is not ensured.
Now the question is why still foundational rehab has not taken place which is political stability and psychological solace? Why terrorism is still mis-defined and ill-defined? Why every second US challenge Afghanistan for abrupt leave and some Afghan officials prepare to give a send-off anytime US plan to leave?
We believe that US will leave Afghanistan at some point time in the future but such break-neck-speech’s exit will leave botched-ending behind as time-bomb.
President Ghani heartily admired the diplomatic support of US and the tax-payers. He used reasonable, nicely repetitive, and cordial euphemisms. It was good that the President said what was expected which rivet broken ties. Reciprocally, President Obama also reversed his decision and extended the length of US forces’ stay until 2016 and beyond. The US government will provide 4,1billion for ANSF support and 800 million for Afghan systems’ reforms. He also assured that US will not leave Afghanistan alone but let’s see how much these and others promises comes to practice in the future. The Deja-vu of past decades put deterrent effect on the Afghan minds and scares them that Afghanistan will be swapped by scrap again.
The main points focused in the Afghan-US Bi-lateral Security Agreement (BSA) are the maintaining of long-term strategic partnership between the two countries and due support for each other. Last months, the US ambassador for Pakistan, Mr. Richard Olson said that the remnant of US weapons will be sold-out or given freely to Pakistan. Other startling reports said that US is determined to transmit 3,100 armored tanks from Afghanistan to Kuwait and Crimea imminently.
Such reports can further undermine the Afghan morale. So for peace talk still sputters, ISIS hold their black flags in the south of the country, NATO has already withdrawn and US, as said, will leave only 250 personnel behind in 2017.
Regardless of numerous achievement both Afghan and US government has had in the last 13 years, the current president is inherited with dwindling-economy, precarious corruption, 100% drug business, mafia networks, regional interventions and unending war. If US withdrew in such turbulence; how Afghans can expect of eternal relationship between the two countries? The United States of America can, as President Bush and President Obama asserted, help Afghanistan stand on its own feet and do not let it sank into chaos and quagmire again. Afghans do not expects to be forgotten again by world as happened in 1990-1994.
Personally, I will never believe that Afghanistan and US has unwavering relation until the above bungling things are not properly fixed before US decamp. Let’s see what destiny brings to Afghans’ future.
President Ghani and CEO, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah displayed all political maneuvers they could. They re-assured Int. community on the nature of unity government and left a promise to pass-around on all relevant issues with US. Both sides seemingly remained content but the current renewal of US-Afghan relation will produce result when real, logical and practical peace talk kicked-off with Taliban. They should be given chance to be part of the political clout. This way, Afghans will live in haven of peace, corruption will be rooted out, ANSF will be strengthened and finally Afghans will not be dying a painful death for decades.
President Obama said in a joint press conference with President Ghani in Washington DC that, we therefore help Afghan government to stand on their own feet that we never be obliged again to go back to Afghanistan and ward-off terrorism. To make sure President Obama’s promise is practical, following are the three basis:
- Before Taliban comes to the table, regional countries should be coaxed and urged for honest support
- ANSF training should be fulfilled.
- Pre and Post peace deal, observe regional consensus to maintain peace efforts.
World is going toward globalization. The cutting-edge technology got world closer to each other as next-door neighbors. It is impossible that the conflagration of neighbor’s house will not harm his attached neighbor unless timely steps have been taken to drenched the fire. It is out-and-out illogical that someone may believe to raise snake in his backyard to bite the kids of his hostile neighbor and his own kids will be immune.
Noticeably, Kabul got closer to world and the US via 9/11 but now barrage number of joint ventures has laid ahead for both nations. The United States has its own global agenda and Afghanistan need stability. Both of them are the two sides of one coin, and until hearts, minds, and stakes of both sides are not mingled, it is not possible that both sides will easily reach its objectives. Almost a century passed and another century will be passed, except pragmatic joint approach, double-mind and double-tongue attitude will always generate double-sided challenges.
Robert Grenier, who authored “88 days to Kandahar”, said that when I talked with senior Taliban commander Mullah Akhtar Usmani, apart from other issues, I confessed that US made a mistake to leave Afghanistan after the Russians’ defeat. He further says that the same mistakes might be repeated again in 2017 which could be worrying signal. Such vex and mix messages baffled many Afghans.
By personal view, if US try the old mistakes, it will shake the tricky pitfalls that will trap all stake-holders in Afghanistan and will afire Afghan hopes for the future. I hope that such shaky century-old fledgling ties between Afghanistan and the United States will change to a more robust, lasting and honest mutual interactions which will help both sides access their short and long term legit objectives.
Author: Intizar Khadim, Peace Ambassador of Afghanistan’s Federation of Civil Society Organizations (FACs) to the United States of America, and fellow in the Arizona State University.
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