The NATO forces would be home by the end of 2014, but the war against Taliban would go on. Never mind the paucity of resources in the air, it is imperative for Afghan forces to keep Taliban at bay.
THE YEAR is 2014 and the place is Kabul, capital of Afghanistan. There are hardly any American soldiers around. They have gone home under orders of President Barrack Obama, Commander-in-Chief of the US Forces deployed anywhere in the world. The British soldiers too are conspicuous by their absence and so are other Europeans who were deployed in Kabul, Kandahar and other provinces of Afghanistan.
Under orders of their respective commanders they had packed up and gone home. It was a long tour of duty for the foreign soldiers in a difficult terrain and in the midst of a hostile population. Many had lost their lives in the sniper fire or a roadside bomb blast or were victims of the IED (Improvised Explosive Device) that was deadly and rarely detectable.As soldiers loyal to their constitution and country they had done their duty. Their folks back home had questioned the sagacity of their political leaders in committing own soldiers to a dirty war in a foreign country where no love was lost between them and the local civilians. They had recalled lines of Lord Tennyson many times and sung in a chorus: “Their’s not to reason why, theirs but to do and die, Rode into the valley of death, rode the six hundred.”They are all gone now, unhonoured, unwept and unsung. They are history now.’ The NATO forces comprising many nations, mostly Americans, came, saw and left but conquered not. Since time immemorial the land of Afghans and its people took pride in their independent way of living. Of course, in the Ramayan era, Raja Dasrath of Ayodhya went all the way to Kaikay Pradesh and brought back the prettiest woman, the world had known till then, Kaikeyi as his beloved queen. The Koshal Naresh before a lot of bloodshed could not subdue indeed the region.In the Mahabharat era, BhishmaPitamah had subdued Gandhar, present day Kandahar, and won their princess Gandhari as a trophy to be married to blind Dhritrashtra. Of course, they were crowned as King and Queen of Hastinapur.It was King Chandragupt Maurya of Patliputra who, under the guidance of Chanakya, the great Statesman and Strategist, defeated Seleucus Nikator, a general of Alexander’s remnant army in central Asia including Afghanistan, and married his daughter, a Greek beauty. Thus the kings of Aryavart, as recorded in history of that period, fought and won many battles against the then rulers of Afghanistan.But what goes up is bound to come down. The supremacy of Kings of the Gangetic plains came to an end and the Afghans gained ascendancy. Their fierce fondness for unbridled freedom and spirit of sacrifice for their cause and country made the mighty Moghuls of Delhi bite the dust in battle. Emperor Akbar’s army under the command of Birbal was dispatched from Agra to suppress the tribal people of the Khyber Pass and areas to the North but they suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Afghan guerrilla warriors. Naratna Birbal was killed in an ambush and Akbar gave up food and water for a couple of days mourning his most humorous courtier.The Iranians too made forays into Afghanistan and conquered Kandahar from the Moghul governor when Shahjehan was on the throne in Agra-Delhi. The Moghuls could never succeed in their counter-attacks and had lost Kandahar forever.The British govt in India had launched three expeditions to gain supremacy in Afghanistan and keep the advancing Imperial Russia at arm’s length. The three Anglo-Afghan wars, as they are called in the history books, were a disaster for the British Empire. They lost a large number of men and material too but could not subdue the fierce fighters of Afghanistan.The Soviet intervention in the domestic policy by ordering the Soviet Army march across the Amu (Oxus) river into Afghanistan eventually met with death and destruction in a decade long Afghan insurgency well supported by USA and Pakistan. The Soviet withdrawal brought chaos and turmoil to Afghanistan but gave Pakistan undeclared supremacy in the area. The Taliban, a front face of Pakistan army, created havoc for the educated middle class, especially the women. The girls’ schools were closed and the clock of academic progress of Afghans was put back.Came 9/11 and destruction of twin towers in New York. The evidence was overwhelming that the Al Qaeda had planned the horror story sitting in the cool climes of Afghanistan then ruled by the Taliban. The US forces launched a massive manhunt and their forces penetrated hills and dales, caves and deserts of Afghanistan and occupied the country in 2001. The Taliban did not give a fight but melted away into the crowd to resurface later as guerrilla warriors and harass the NATO soldiers. Again, the game lasted for a decade. Americans got tired and looked for a way out to withdraw from battle gracefully. The NATO relied on Pakistan to cover its flanks and rear during withdrawal but was sadly disappointed.Pakistan became a master of the game of duplicity. They pocketed the American money to the tune of trillions and yet conspired with the Taliban terrorists to kill the American GIs. The game of running with the hare and hunting with the hound that Pakistan was playing did not last long and the Americans reduced the economic aid, chastised the Army Chief of Pakistan publicly calling him a liar and their sweet relationship faded into oblivion.The NATO forces would go home in 2014 and the Afghan National Army would hold the fort. The scenario being described hereafter is that as is likely to prevail post withdrawal of the NATO forces in 2014.NEW SOLDIERS OLD BARRACKSThe Afghan soldiers trained by the Americans and other NATO troops have taken over the living quarters and also the heavy responsibility of defending their motherland from the onslaught of Taliban. Trained hurriedly but equipped well and carrying latest rifles with a tremendous firepower, the Afghan soldiers had everything needed to reassure them and boost their morale. And yet the swagger in a soldier that comes from an inner strength of military character was conspicuous by its absence.The morale of the Afghan troops is high, so claimed various regional commanders. An impartial observer could not miss noticing that something was amiss somewhere. The post 2014 defenders of the hoary land of Afghans were missing the overbearing presence of the NATO forces, especially the Americans. The Afghan soldiers had got so used to the presence of American soldiers that they now missed them immensely.The generals, corps of officers and plain soldiers of the Afghan National Army lack strategic depth that the American military brass had because of lack of actual battlefield experience. The families of the NATO forces were in residence in Europe and America and so, there was no danger of a Taliban terrorist attack on their school-going children. The NATO officers and soldiers were well assured of the safety of their immediate family and other kith and kin. Sadly enough, that mental reassurance emanating from security of the family will not be available to officers and soldiers of the Afghan National Army. Their families will be vulnerable to terrorist attacks and that would lower the morale of the fighting men.The families of the Afghan National Army living cheek by jowl with the civilian population are open to verbal attack of neighbours. Somehow the Afghan National Army has been branded as stooges of the Americans and, therefore, anti Afghan and anti-Islam. This stigma has to be washed away to win the hearts and minds of the civil population of towns and villages.The image of the govt forces of Afghanistan must be that of Patriots who live for the home country and are prepared to die for their religion and compatriots. The earlier this image makeover takes place the better it would be for the Karzai govt of Kabul. Winning the hearts and minds of an average Afghan citizen is not a cakewalk but it has to be achieved. It is a must to win the war against the Taliban by the native Afghan army.SUPREMACY IN AFGHAN SKYThe American forces in Afghanistan have had air superiority in the Afghan skies and their fighter aircraft few unchallenged both in daytime and at night. The superiority in the sky had a lot to do with the high morale of the NATO forces. How sad but how true, the Afghan National Army will not enjoy that military advantage and it is bound to affect their morale. The US Navy had positioned an aircraft carrier in the high seas from where the latest fighter jets flew military sorties and returned safely after completion of mission. The US Navy is on regard to say that their Naval Aviation Arm flew latest war jets like A-F 18 equipped with the most modern radars and infrared night vision devices. The jet fighter pilots holding the rank of Lieutenant or Lt Commander took off from the carrier anchored in the nearby high sea, survey the targets and ask the ground controller if help was required. If yes, the pilot and controller would coordinate on wireless again to ensure there was no loss of life in the civilian areas. Once assured that the target was a military one and needed destruction to save lives of NATO soldiers, the pilot would see the infrared made picture of the target on the ground then push the button to let go the missile or the bomb depending on requirement. The missile ensured safe destruction of the military target and caused no unnecessary loss of civilian life or damage to non-military property.The cost of one hour’s operation as described heretofore came to US dollar 20,000. The US Navy jet fighter-bomber that flew the sortie cost one million US Dollar per jet fighter. The super economy of America could afford that kind of operation but will the Afghan govt have enough money to order that kind of operation? Obviously not. Therefore, the operational efficiency of the Afghan National Army would take a beating and they have to find a way out of this logistical jam.Hillary Rodham Clinton, in Kabul (6th and 7th July 2012) to address the strategic requirements of 2014 said with a firm voice that even after the NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan in late 2014 Afghanistan would be made an honoured member of the Western Alliance. In that case the Afghan govt could rely on the military and non-military support of the western powers. It is hoped that this new development would sustain the Karzai regime and not let it collapse, as did the Najib govt after the Soviet troops left for home. It is hoped that the governments of the Western nations would tighten their belts, open their treasury to cater to the military requirements of an independent Afghanistan so that the Taliban never gain an upper hand.The present free govt of a free country must ensure that they win over the minds and hearts of people of Afghanistan to enable them to keep the flag flying. Let us say Down with neighbouring countries who wish to swallow Afghanistan and let us shout at the top of our voice: three cheers to the free and democratic government of Afghanistan.