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David Ignatius: Looking beyond the Afhan dead end

BY DAVID IGNATIUS Published: October 4, 2012

Haq's road map also addresses the core demands of other parties: for Afghanistan's Tajik and Hazara communities, he would stress reconstruction and economic assistance, as well as a broad process of national reconciliation — for which the Omar's Eid statement also indicated support. To calm the region, Haq proposed a kind of Afghan neutrality, with no foreign interference. And to address Pakistan's anxieties, he proposed that Afghanistan take back its millions of refugees who fled the war, and the two countries jointly establish a border that, in his words, is “hardened, regulated and stabilized.”

Operating in a vacuum

Marc Grossman, the U.S. special representative on Afghanistan and Pakistan, has continued his quiet shuttle diplomacy trying to coax the Afghan parties toward the kind of dialogue that could avert a civil war when the U.S. begins to pull out its main combat force next year. One positive factor was agreement in May on a “strategic partnership” document that pledges the U.S. will continue to support Afghan security forces for 10 years after NATO troops leave in 2014. In Grossman's view, this will reassure Afghans that the U.S. isn't abandoning them — and warn the Taliban that it can't expect a cakewalk into Kabul when most Americans leave in 2014.

The frustration of the Afghan War has been dramatized by the sharp increase recently in “green on blue” killings of NATO forces by the Afghan security forces they're supposedly trying to help.

Given the dead end in Afghanistan, you might think that the war there — and strategies for ending it — would be a big topic in the U.S. presidential campaign. But sadly, soldiers and diplomats continue to operate in a political vacuum, and the candidates act as if the brutal Afghanistan conflict will somehow solve itself.



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