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The ‘Najibullah Exit Strategy’ from Afghanistan

The ‘Najibullah Exit Strategy’ from Afghanistan

The Soviets left Afghanistan in the hands of one Najibullah. The US wants to leave Afghanistan in the hands of Hamid Karzai.

There are grim parallels between the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989 and the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2011, however there are many differences. The Soviet withdrawal was orderly and quick. The Afghan National Resistance (then the Mujahideen) had given safe passage to the Soviets.

Pakistan has tried to broker a deal between President Hamid Karzai and the new The Afghan National Resistance (aka Taliban). However the ingrate US media and the US administrations loose lips are sinking ships. The Afghan National Resistance is tasting victory and do not want to make any concessions to the puppet administration in Kabul. Mr. Karzai has put all his eggs in the Pakistani basket, and is busy talking to the Afghan National Resistance in some sort of a power-sharing agreement. The Pakistanis are facilitating this process. The most likely scenario is that the Afghan National Resistance which already has control over 90% of the Afghan territory will be recognized as the de jure ruler of many if not all of the provinces of Afghanistan. Local control is already in the hands the Afghan National Resistance. Kabul and ISAF acts as if it rules Afghanistan–in actual fact the Afghan National Resistance rules Afghanistan.

There is a huge fallacy in Western thinking–of course seeded by Delhi, that Afghanistan will return to the 1992-1996 situation after the US leaves Afghanistan. Giving up on ruling all of Afghanistan, Delhi is now proposing that it be given sway over the Non-Pakhtun lands–in a so called de facto partition of Afghanistan. The Ex-US Ambassador to Dalhi Mr. Robert Blackwill now acts on behalf of India Inc in Washington. He is attempting to sell the “partition along ethnic lines” swamp to the Americans. He has a tough sell.

The 1992-1996 Afghan Civil war had many ingredients which are similar to 2011, however there are many factors which have brought about a paradigm shift in the situation on the ground.

Firstly neither Russia nor Iran is interested in prolonging the war in Afghanistan. Teheran in fact is no longer the Bharati (aka Indian) ally its used to be in 2002. Dlehi’s backstabbing Tehran at the IAEA, the Indian support for Anti-Iranian terrorists like Rigi brothers, the arming of Jundullah by Bharat, the Indian launch of Iran-specific satellites for Israel, and general downturn of Delhi-Tehran relations makes it impossible for Iran to support Bharat’s expansionist hegemonic designs in Afghanistan. Additionally Iran has supported the Pan-Afghan solution, and agreed to talking to the Afghan National Resistance (aka Taliban) in the Tehran Conference on Afghanistan (Iran-Afghanistan-Pakistan), at the Istanbul Conference on Afghanistan (All neighbor of Afghanistan and Turkey, at the London Conference on Afghanistan (62 countries of the world including the US, the UK, China and Russia), and at the Kabul Conference on Afghanistan (72 countries of the world including all major powers).

The American withdrawal from Afghanistan is supposedly going to take three years. However, we predict that once the withdrawal starts, there will be an uncontrollable momentum which will be impossible to slow down or stop. Once the first fifty thousand or so solders leave, the assaults on Kabul will leave any further presence untenable.

  • President Barack Obama’s announcement that the United States will begin pulling its troops out Afghanistan in 2011 provides a good opportunity to look back and study history.
  • This will, after all, be the second time Afghans have bid farewell to a superpower
  • When the Soviets pulled out in 1989… the man the Soviets left in charge was Mohammad Najibullah, who clung to power for three more years, then sheltered for another four years in the U.N. compound in Kabul, before finally ending up strung up by the Taliban from a Kabul traffic lamp in 1996
  • Najibullah’s grisly end means his career hardly seems like one that President Hamid Karzai would want to emulate
  • Najibullah actually held on to power far longer than most in the West expected. His government in fact actually outlasted the Soviet Union itself, which collapsed in 1991.
  • The Afghan Civil war ensued 1992-96–with Bharat sponsoring some of the worst violence emanating from the Northern Alliance.
  • Taliban’s rose to power in 1996
  • Perhaps Karzai — and Obama — could do a lot worse than to study Najibullah’s career, to see how to keep Afghanistan together when the superpower exits.

Nikolas Gvosdev, a former Soviet diplomat has written several articles on Afghanistan. He is vitriolic against Pakistan and probably blames Islamabad for the destruction of the USSR. Gvosdev’s timeline thorugh chronologically accurate does not give the full picture.

The 2014 Afghan security plan unveiled by President Hamid Karzai this week at the international conference in Kabul raises once again the question of whether the U.S. and NATO are moving towards a 21st century variant of the “Najibullah strategy” as they seek to determine their end game in Afghanistan.

The reference is to the regime of Mohamed Najibullah, the Afghan leader at the time the Soviet Union withdrew its combat forces from Afghanistan in 1989. The Afghan government that the Soviets left behind controlled the major population centers as well as some of the rural regions of the country, primarily in the non-Pashtun north and west, and had a tenuous hold over the major lines of communication. The Najibullah regime had inherited a generous amount of military equipment, including aircraft and even SCUD missiles. The government in Kabul was also heavily subsidized by Moscow, subsidies that helped it secure the support of local powerbrokers and purchase the allegiance of insurgent commanders.

Soviet training had produced an Afghan army that, contrary to all predictions and expectations, was able to halt and throw back a major mujihadeen assault that had been expected to quickly take Kabul and drive out the Soviet-backed government. That victory at Jalalabad boosted morale for government forces, leading them to reassess Najibullah’s prospects for survival.

We have some of these same preconditions in place today, especially in terms of the balance of forces in Afghanistan and the territory that is under the effective control of the Kabul government. But for those preconditions to solidify, Western strategic planners must not forget, as Derek Reveron put it, that this is “the Afghans’ war and not the Afghan War”. The emphasis of the now-deploying troop surge should not be for U.S. and NATO forces to win territory for the Kabul government, but rather to stabilize the current lines of control and concentrate on the training and equipping of the Afghan security forces, with an eye to implementing Karzai’s 2014 security plan. Keep in mind that the Soviets installed Najibullah in 1987 and thereafter began building up his capabilities with an eye towards the eventual 1989 pullout.

As with the Najibullah government, the Karzai administration will need a major military victory won not by Western forces, but by the Afghan army, if it is to gain the allegiance of “fence-sitting” locals currently hedging their bets between Kabul and the Taliban insurgency in many parts of Afghanistan.

The good news is that one of the major reasons for the ultimate downfall of the Najibullah government in 1992 — the continued and unrelenting opposition of the Pakistani government — might be much less of a factor today. Karzai is pursuing a strategic partnership with Islamabad that is changing the tone and dynamic of the relationship. Should the recently initialed draft of a proposed “transit deal” — which would guarantee that Afghan exports reach Indian markets through Pakistan — be implemented in practice, it would further reinforce trust between the two capitals.

At the same time, judging from the recent shakeup in the Afghan cabinet, Karzai is looking to reduce Kabul’s traditional “tilt” toward India in favor of a more balanced approach that would concede to Pakistan a greater degree of influence in the southern part of the country. The U.S. is also appearing to sweeten the pot by announcing a new set of aid measures for Pakistan, leverage the Soviet Union didn’t have 20 years ago.

There are, of course, a number of downsides as well. Najibullah’s early successes were achieved, in part, by outright dealmaking with local warlords who subsequently betrayed him when they got better offers from the mujahideen. Attempting to replicate the Najibullah strategy today would mean, in essence, cutting deals with Afghanistan’s current crop of powerbrokers, undermining reform efforts designed to encourage good governance. Whether the U.S. wants to arm Afghans with the type of destructive weaponry the Soviets gave to Najibullah — and countenance a very heavy handed use of that equipment — also remains to be seen, as does Washington’s willingness to underwrite the expenses of the Afghan government.

Despite the promises of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that any political settlement cannot come at the cost of Afghan women’s rights, a “Najibullah strategy” would effectively end such reform efforts, at least in broad sections of the Pashtun areas of Afghanistan — for the same reason that Najibullah also dumped many of the communist social engineering efforts in Afghanistan initiated by his predecessor, Babrak Karmal.

Finally, Karzai might succeed at securing Pakistani support by essentially conceding large sections of the south and east to Pakistan-backed Taliban elements in return for retaining a more limited central government. But that will leave him in a weaker position when it comes to balancing the strategic interests of Iran, India, Russia and the Central Asian states. In such a case, perhaps having a more clear delineation of spheres of influence in Afghanistan might be useful, so that major powers move away from seeing the country in zero-sum terms.

There are, however, no guarantees. Najibullah ended up falling from power — and was ultimately executed by the Taliban. In Chechnya, where the Russians used a variant of this strategy to withdraw federal forces from the war-torn republic, the regime of President Ramzan Kadyrov maintains order, but at a high financial cost for the Kremlin and with unrest by no means contained. Indeed, it is now spilling out into other parts of the North Caucasus.

But if the Obama administration, like Mikhail Gorbachev, has its eye on a definitive date for withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan, then we are likely to see further moves along this path.

Nikolas K. Gvosdev is the former editor of the National Interest, and a frequent foreign policy commentator in both the print and broadcast media. He is currently on the faculty of the U.S. Naval War College. The views expressed are his own and do not reflect those of the Navy or the U.S. government. His weekly WPR column, The Realist Prism, appears every Friday.

Photo: Soviet troops withdrawing from Afghanistan, 1988 (Photo by Mikhail Evstafiev, licensed under the Creative Commons ShareAlike 2.5 Generic Agreement). The Realist Prism: The Najibullah Exit Strategy in Afghanistan. Nikolas Gvosdev | Bio | 23 Jul 2010, World Politics Review

Bharat is upset at President Hamid Karzai, and has been supporting his rival Mr. Abdullah Abdullah. Will Bharat upset the American plans by assassinating Mr. Hamid Karzai and hoping for a more complaint Afghan rule?

Bharat is working to partition Afghanistan, so that it can create “Pakktunistan” within Afghanistan. It wants to egg on the Abdullah Abdullah clan in forming their own Non-Pakhtun region independent from Kabul. It wants to get the support of Iran to do this. That help is not available this time around. Bharat wants to use the Afghan “Pakhtunistan” to put pressure on the Pakistani Pakhtuns and use the progeny of the Frontier Gandhi to put pressure on Pakistan and to destabilize it from the Western front. Fully realizing the that Nuclear bombs seal Pakistan’s Eastern flank, it wants to continue to use terror as a means to pursue its irredentist and revanchist dreams.

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