As President Obama announced a troop surge in the Af-Pak war, former leader of Pakistan General Musharraff weighed in with specifics a solution would require.
In the Wall Street Journal this week, he explained “quitting is not an option”, and “time limits” should not drive our exit strategy. Rather, in tandem with additional troops, a “political” surge is key. With firsthand military and political experience in the Af-Pak region and War on Terror, Musharraf gives us substance with which to understand the situation. He explains that when the United States “liberated Afghanistan from the tyranny of Al Qaeda and Taliban, they had unequivocal support of the majority of Afghans.” What we didn’t do though, is establish a “truly representative national government” giving proportional representation to Pashtun’s who are the ethnic majority. He says:
The political instability and ethnic imbalance in Afghanistan after 9/11 marginalized the majority Pashtuns and pushed them into the Taliban fold, even though they were not ideological supporters of the Taliban.
As a result, despite Pakistani efforts during Musharraf’s tenure where “600 Al Qaeda and Afghan Taliban leaders, some of them of very high value” were captured in tandem with the establishment of “1000 border check posts”, the Afghan government never gained legitimacy, and ultimately, sufficient authority. He further attributes insufficient NATO forces and the distraction of invading Iraq as leading causes to the Taliban’s capacity to gain ground, and reassert its center of gravity toward northern Pakistan.
With a grand strategy to destabilize the whole region, the Taliban and al Qaeda established links with extremists in Pakistani society on the one hand and with Muslim fundamentalists in India on the other.
It’s a complex situation, but Musharraff’s recommendations are rooted in a wealth of experience and offer details on a practical solution.