There is Crossroads and there is the Silk Road


Dr. G. Rauf Roashan

Abstract: Policy wise the US finds itself at an important crossroads when its conflict in Iraq comes to a definitive end and its desire to pull out of Afghanistan has prompted preparations to that end. At this juncture, the visit by the US Secretary of State to Central and South Asia could be considered a milestone. In this visit she has pointed to Afghanistan

which was a crossroads of extremism and terrorism, during the time that Al-Qaeda had a safe haven there and another crossroads she has called new Silk Road for economic development in the region.

US Secretary of State on her Central and South Asian visit that included Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan searched for a consensus to the idea that Afghanistan was important for peace and prosperity of the region. She pressed Pakistan for taking decisive action in days and weeks in order to help the peace process in Afghanistan and to put pressure on extremists to realize that goal. Xinhua news agency in a report by Muhammad Tahir quoting Secretary Clinton on this issue stated: "So we had a very in-depth conversation with specifics, and we are looking forward to taking that conversation and operationalizing it over the next days and weeks not months and years, but days and weeks because we have a lot of work to do to realize our shared goals," Clinton told reporters in Islamabad on Friday after her talks with Pakistani leaders. She, however, agreed with Pakistan's quest to give a chance to peace. '

On the issue of the continued threat of terrorism the report quoted her as saying:

"Now we have to turn our attention to the Pakistani Taliban, the Afghan Taliban, Haqqani, and other terrorist groups, and try to get them into a peace process, but if that fails, prevent them from committing more violence and murdering more innocent people,' Clinton said when she spoke to reporters along with Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar.

In Tajikistan, the US Secretary of State emphasized the importance of placing Afghanistan once again on the Silk Road. Associated Press reported that 'before arriving in Uzbekistan, Clinton told an audience in Tajikistan that Afghanistan's reintegration into the regional economy would be critical to its recovery from war, as well as for better conditions in surrounding countries.

Afghanistan has been at 'the crossroads for terrorism and insurgency and so much pain and suffering over 30 years,' she said. 'We want Afghanistan to be at the crossroads of economic opportunities going north and south and east and west, which is why it's so critical to more fully integrate the autonomies (economies) of the countries in this region in South and Central Asia.'

At this juncture that President Obama has determined to bring all US troops back from Iraq, and when arrangements for a drastic cut back of troops in Afghanistan are underway by the United States and its allies and when the president of Afghanistan has decided that talks need to be conducted with Pakistan as the supporter of Taliban rather than directly with the Taliban, the trip by the United States Secretary of State is considered extremely important. It seems that the US has come to the recognition of the fact that in order to bring peace to Afghanistan, Pakistan must be pressured to deny safe haven to extremists who have throughout crossed over from Pakistan for committing acts of violence and have returned to their safe havens in Pakistan. The warning by the US to Pakistan should serve as a good starting point. However, while the US and the world are fully aware of the recent rocket attacks from Pakistan into Afghanistan and destruction of villages that has forced masses of countryside dwellers to leave their villages and homes and become refugees, neither the government of Afghanistan and nor the United States has made any attempt to let the Pakistani military know that there would be consequences if these acts continue and if reparations are not made to the affected Afghan populations. It is strange that this Saturday Mr. Karzai's interview with a Pakistani media has appeared where he has stated that Afghanistan would side with Pakistan if there were any attacks on it by the United States. It seems very un-statesmanlike on the part of any politician who instead of siding with its own public who have suffered in the hands of an aggressive neighbor would grant an interview to the neighbors media talking of his country's support to them in the face of an IMAGINARY military conflict between the US and the said neighbor and in this case, Pakistan.

Finally it is very true that a new Silk Road through Afghanistan, because of its strategic location would provide the whole region whichever direction you look at, with economic opportunities that would result in peace and prosperity of all the nations in the region. The US policy in this regard as pronounced by its Secretary of State shows indeed a true desire on the part of this country that realizes the importance of peaceful progress over armed conflict.


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