Afghan Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid has sent a 1,600-word open letter to U.S. President Donald Trump with the “friendly” advice that he should continue with his resolve to change America’s Afghan policy and withdraw troops from Afghanistan. The letter reminded him that his troop strength is down to nearly half of its 2011 peak of 100,000, which is a wise trend; and it would be foolhardy to send a paltry 5,000 more into a losing war. The American troops have already lost control over half of 407 Afghan districts and appear disheartened by Washington’s declining interest in the war.
America has lost its longest war away from home and it will rankle, giving rise to strategic readjustments in a region where states have a bad record of getting along. Politicians like Imran Khan now openly say that Pakistan under General Musharraf fought “America’s war,” and set an entire population of Pashtuns against Pakistan. Musharraf’s successor, General Ashfaq Kayani, wedded to the doctrine of “strategic depth,” was probably of the same mind because under him Islamabad and Washington clashed openly. Now Washington is thinking of radically changing policy, hinting at a new slant on how Pakistan has to play its role as Afghanistan’s neighbor.
Pakistan has realized that it has been the strategic depth of terrorism in the region and has become a hotbed of covert warriors lavishly supplied with weapons by the world’s arms manufacturers. Kabul suffered attacks from across the Pakistan border; it is now doing the same to Pakistan while American drones repeatedly target territory outside the Tribal Areas, killing terrorists belonging to the Haqqani Network that Pakistan unconvincingly denies sheltering. Yet Pakistan has lost its internal writ to “friendly” Taliban and their madrassa subsidiaries, who help manipulate its elections by targeting electoral campaigns of out-of-favor parties.
An American defeat in Afghanistan will not be Pakistan’s victory. But while America will recover, as it did after Vietnam, Pakistan will not.