The Afghanistan War, 2001 – 2011
The Pakistan floods of August 2010 were the turning point. Very quietly, South Africa’s Ambassador Abdul S. Minty detached himself from an International Atomic Energy Agency delegation visiting Israel to deliver a letter from Nelson Mandela to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (Appendix XIX; reproduced at the end of this post). The letter urged Netanyahu to lead an effort to bring aid to Pakistan. The stated purpose was to improve Israel’s image in the world and its relations with Turkey in particular, but Mandela’s intention also was to distract Netanyahu and Israel more generally from its fixation on Iran’s nuclear program.
Pakistan, as a central player in the Afghan war, was focused largely on its perceived enemy, India, in the same way that Israel was focused on Iran. India focused on China and Pakistan, and Iran on Israel. At the time of the floods, India and Iran were developing an allliance relative to Afghanistan which would have made Pakistan feel boxed in.
It might have been expected that Afghanistan’s immediate neighbors, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, China, and Pakistan would have led the way to a settlement. But these two-party grudge matches, state weakness, and rivalries of the various parties with the United States made it difficult to forge the multilateral relations that would prove necessary for peace. The Mandela letter changed that.
Netanyahu began talks immediately with Turkey and Russia to provide aid to Pakistan. Within a week, the first shipments and military helicopters began to arrive. Meanwhile, the United States was diverting some of its military equipment from Afghanistan to Pakistan. Netanyahu then took a risk and sent Tzipi Livni as a special envoy to China and India. China was already providing aid to Pakistan, but Livni’s purpose was to prepare China’s leaders for India’s entry into the aid program. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States volunteered their help. India brought Iran into the relief effort.
Pakistan’s government, preoccupied with the floods, severed relations with the Taliban. After the emergency had been dealt with and the situation in Pakistan stabilized, the helpers realized that their former enemies could be worked with. The United States and Russia immediately called a conference of the neighbors, plus Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, which resulted in the Treaty of Isfahan in late 2011, ending the hostilities in Afghanistan and assigning Iran, Pakistan, and India major roles in stabilizing the country. Continuing talks resulted in a settlement between Pakistan and India on Jammu and Kashmir.
The Treaty of Ashkabat, which makes southwestern Asia into a nuclear-weapons-free zone, is expected to come into force in 2054. Israel is already converting its complex at Dimona to an IAEA fuel production center. Iran has sent its fissionable materials to the IAEA’s Angarsk nuclear fuel production complex. Both internationally-run complexes will convert the materials to fuel for reactors in the region. Negotiations are beginning on a Southwest Asia free-trade zone; Dubai is leading the first round.
from Southwest Asia’s Remarkable Century, 1940-2050; Svetlana M. Alekseeva, Lev D. Cohen, Courtney R. Manning, and Bashir R. Asad, Chapter 26.