Obama, Change South Asia Policy
Your lead editorial “After Mumbai” [Dec. 22] offers the right policy prescription for South Asia to President-elect Obama. Given the failure of the “war on terror” in Afghanistan and the spillover into Pakistan and beyond, a military surge could exacerbate the grave situation. The region is a nuclear flashpoint. It has been a hotbed of ethnic and sectarian violence, terrorism, secessionist insurgencies and interstate hostilities for well over half a century. Disputed territories between India and Pakistan, most notably Kashmir, have led to wars and perennial border skirmishes.
In the wake of terror attacks in Mumbai–apparently backed by Lashkar-e-Taiba, a terrorist organization aligned with the Kashmir cause, now in the Al Qaeda network–tensions between India and Pakistan are close to spinning out of control. A broader rethinking of the regional strategy is in order. Alternatives to military intervention are critical. A negotiated solution involving India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Russia and Iran is imperative. Encouraging a dialogue between aggrieved tribal and ethnic groups and ruling authorities would be key to fostering peace and stability in South Asia. This calls for radical policy change. Can Obama do it?
SAIRA YAMIN, analyst
Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution
George Mason University
Obama, Rethink Afghanistan
Falls Church, Va.
Robert Dreyfuss’s otherwise excellent “Obama’s Afghan Dilemma” [Dec. 22] concludes on a troubling note: suggesting that Obama should “offer an end to US occupation of Afghanistan if the Taliban-led movement abandons its ties to Al Qaeda.” This shortcut solution, which purports to realize our minimal goal of pushing Al Qaeda out of Afghanistan, sadly echoes our decision in 1989 to walk away from a chaotic Afghanistan once Soviet forces were driven out. Now as then, a premature departure from an admittedly complex situation would betray a broader purpose and promise to the Afghan people. Now as then, we would be abandoning Afghans to turmoil in which foreign-backed elements, many of them war criminals, would continue to struggle for supremacy.
The alternative course would be much harder: to expend money and blood to rebuild a peaceful, relatively democratic state at peace with its neighbors and free from foreign intervention. This would have been the Afghanistan that Afghans and the world knew before the 1978 coup and 1979 Soviet invasion. While far more difficult and expensive, fulfilling that commitment would at least avoid the calumny of another US/international community betrayal of the long-suffering Afghan people.
EDMUND McWILLIAMS, US Special Envoy to Afghanistan (1988-89)