“While we all hope for peace it shouldn’t be peace at any cost but peace based on principle, on justice” Corazon C. Aquino
Pakistan and Afghanistan never enjoyed friendly relations since the latter didn’t accept the Durand Line as an international border and laid claims over Pashtun inhabited areas in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan. Afghanistan has traditionally remained close to India and hostile towards Pakistan. Relations dipped during the rule of President Daud after he seized power in 1973 from King Zahir Shah. Insurgents in Baluchistan were provided safe havens and the Pakhtunistan movement was fueled.
When Afghanistan was occupied by Soviet forces in December 1979, and 4 million Afghans became refugees in Pakistan, Pakistan under Gen Ziaul Haq condemned the invasion and decided to support the Afghan resistance forces. The US and Saudi Arabia came in support of Pakistan-led covert war in June 1981. The two provided funds and weapons only. The Soviet forces accepted defeat and pulled out by February 1989 but in the ten-year gruesome war, the country was devastated and two million Afghan civilians lost their lives. Pakistan had to face KGB-KHAD-RAW-Al-Zulfiqar sabotage and subversion.
No sooner the US achieved all its objectives, the US not only ditched Pakistan in 1990 and put it under harsh sanctions, but to rub salt on the wounds of Pakistan, it made India its strategic partner which was the camp follower of the USSR. The Mujahideen eulogized as holy warriors were abandoned as a result of which civil war broke out between the warring groups.
The Taliban under Mulla Omar started their Islamic movement from Kandahar in 1994 and after capturing Kabul in 1996, they established Islamic Emirate. Taliban were in control of 93% of territory till 07 Oct 2001, and only 7% in the north was controlled by the Northern Alliance (NA) comprising Uzbeks, Tajiks, and Hazaras. The military wing of NA was trained by the Indian and Iranian military trainers in Iran.
From 1997 onwards, the Taliban regime came into the bad books of Washington because of the cancellation of the oil & gas pipeline project of UNICOL and was put under sanctions. Al-Qaeda under Osama bin Laden that had been created by the CIA to fight the Soviets turned hostile and started hitting American targets in the Gulf of Aden and African countries.
During the 5-year rule of the Taliban, Afghanistan was made free of warlords, crimes, and social vices including rapes and drug business. People could leave their houses and shops unlocked since none dared to commit theft. Justice was cheap and quick. For the first time since 1947, Pakistan enjoyed very cordial relations with Afghanistan and its western border became safe and Indian presence in Afghanistan faded. The closeness promoted the concept of strategic depth. After the forcible removal of the Taliban regime by the US-NATO forces in November 2001, Pak-Afghanistan relations have strained and Indian influence has bounced back in a big way. It was owing to their social and judicial achievements that Talibanization crept into FATA and Malakand Division in Pakistan and later give birth to TTP and TNSM.
Pakistan-US relations 1954-2000
Pakistan-USA relations have all along been transactional in nature and never developed into a deep-rooted strategic relationships based on mutual trust and friendship. The 74 years history has seen many ups and downs; the US behaving like an overbearing mother-in-law and Pakistan put on a roller coaster ride behaving like a submissive daughter-in-law, taking her barbs without a whimper. Such unfair treatment was meted out in spite of Pakistan having put its national security at stake three times and each time suffering a great deal.
The US embraced Pakistan for the accomplishment of its objectives in this region and no sooner than the objectives were achieved, it was unceremoniously dumped. Each time the US ventured into this part of the world, it found Pakistan to be the most suitable and most pliable to serve its ends. Pak-US relations were at their best during the Eisenhower-Dulles era after which the US started wooing India and forced Pakistan to lean on China.
During the Cold War, Pakistan was reluctantly taken on board by the US in 1953/4 to help in containing communism in South Asia after India which was the camp follower of the Soviet Union refused to become part of the US defensive arc. Pakistan joined the western pacts due to its extreme security concerns from India and Afghanistan, both backed by the former Soviet Union.
Although Pakistan earned the title of ‘most allied ally of the US and became totally dependent upon the US arms and technology, but the US disappointed Pakistan when its support was needed the most in the 1965 and 1971 wars with India. Pakistan was denied the crucially needed war munitions from the US as well as diplomatic support during the two wars, while India continued to receive arms from the USSR and kept the resolution of the Kashmir dispute at bay due to Soviet vetoes.
The US ignored India’s nuclear explosion in 1974 but promptly imposed sanctions on Pakistan in 1979 on mere suspicion that it was working on a nuclear program. However, soon after, when Pakistan’s services were needed to fight the occupying Soviet forces in Afghanistan, it once again hugged it in 1981 and doled out monetary and military assistance.
Throughout the 1990s, Pakistan was kept under the leash under the charges of developing an Islamic bomb, nuclear proliferation, and cross-border terrorism in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK). Holy warriors were dubbed as terrorists and hounded. Indo-US relations blossomed into a strategic relationship during Bill Clinton’s rule and thereon it kept flourishing leaps and bounds.
Post 9/11 events
Pakistan was once again taken on board by the US after 9/11 for the achievement of its short-term regional objectives in Afghanistan. From the very outset, the US intoxicated with power ignored the geography, history, culture, sociology and ideology of Afghanistan. It didn’t bother that it had been a graveyard of empires where it was easy to enter but near impossible to exit safely. Not only Alexander the great fell, but the British also failed and the USSR disintegrated.
Blinded by rage to avenge the 9/11 attacks and immersed in the pool of arrogance and egotism, the US and its western allies jumped into the inferno of Afghanistan with full zeal and enthusiasm and vaulted from one plan to another in pursuit of a hollow strategy, which was never changed to correct its course.
Gen Musharraf accepted all 7 demands of the US since he was denied the option of staying neutral. To save Pakistan from destruction, he ditched the Taliban and provided airbases, seaport, land routes and intelligence cooperation to the invaders. The US could not have so easily toppled the Taliban regime and occupied Afghanistan in a month if Pakistan had not provided full support.
Completely isolated and encircled from all directions, and the traditional fallback position of FATA denied, the Taliban could fight the ground forces of NA, but couldn’t have resisted the massive air bombing for long. Hence they wisely undertook a tactical withdrawal to regain strength and start bleeding the occupiers through prolonged insurrectional war. The euphoric George W. Bush sounded the victory bugles too prematurely and took it for granted that the Taliban were down and out.
Mistakes made by Bush administration
Much against Pakistan’s advice, the US-installed NA heavy regime in Kabul which was pro-India and anti-Pakistan. The puppet regime ignored the Afghan Pashtuns and started giving more space to India to make it the preeminent player in Afghanistan as was desired by the US.
Ignoring the heavy majority Pashtuns and relying solely on the minority NA regime was the first mistake made by Bush administration. This blunder was followed by another when it imposed the US tailored constitution upon the tribal based society.
Opening of the second front by USA in Iraq in 2003 without consolidating the gains in Afghanistan was another slip-up, since engagement on two fronts diluted the war effort of the US-NATO and allowed breathing space to the Taliban to regroup in FATA.
Yet another error was raising non-Pashtun heavy Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) which turned into a liability.
CIA and NATO as well as Afghan warlords indulged in drug business which had almost been eliminated by the Taliban. These distractions loosened the grip of ISAF led by weak military commanders over Afghanistan and enabled the Taliban to recover lost space in southern and eastern Afghanistan and also earn money from drug business for their war effort.
Since the two land routes from Pakistan used by NATO containers passed through the Taliban dominated rural belt, the US security contractors and Afghan officials had to pay toll tax to the Taliban for passage of every container which also became a source of income for them.
The US dual standards
Misled by misconceived victory, over confident Bush instead of fulfilling the promises made to the Afghans by promoting democracy, education and development works, he gave preference to covert operations against Pakistan and forced Pakistan to fight the Al-Qaeda in South Waziristan (SW). That way, Pakistan earned the hostility of Al-Qaeda and own tribesmen.
Ironically, while Washington waged war in Iraq and Afghanistan to bring democracy, it stoutly upheld Pakistan’s military dictatorship.
While Pak security forces fought the Pakistani Taliban and Baloch rebel groups in FATA and in Baluchistan that were funded, trained, equipped and guided by RAW-NDS combine to destabilize Pakistan, they didn’t confront the Afghan Taliban whose struggle was entirely confined to Afghanistan and they never fired a bullet against Pak forces.
Pakistan started taking measures to protect its national security in 2008 once it learnt that CIA-FBI had gained complete sway over FATA with the help of TTP formed in Dec 2006. Blackwater was inducted in 2008 to bolster CIA-FBI in urban areas of Pakistan. Nexus of CIA-RAW-NDS-MI-6-Mossad-BND in Kabul supported anti-Pakistan proxies in FATA and Baluchistan.
In order to keep the supply routes to the TTP open so that it could indulge in terrorism in FATA and KP, the US rejected Pakistan’s proposal to fence the western border, or to increase number of border posts on Afghan side to prevent infiltration.
A coordinated Indo-Afghan propaganda campaign backed by the west was launched to defame Pakistan and its premier institutions.
Based on Obama’s Af-Pak strategy of anvil and hammer, managed by Richard Holbrook, ISAF failed to provide the anvil when Pak forces delivered the hammer in SW in 2009, thus letting the TTP militants under Hakimullah Mehsud to flee to Afghanistan. Pak forces managed to retrieve 17 out of 19 administrative units under the influence of TTP and confined its presence to the last bastions of North Waziristan (NW) and Khyber Agency.
But for Pakistan which nabbed over 600 Al-Qaeda senior leaders and operators and handed them over to CIA, the ISAF couldn’t have dismantled and defeated them in Afghanistan as claimed by Obama. Bulk of Al-Qaeda fighters had otherwise shifted to Iraq in 2004 and formed Al-Qaeda Arabian Peninsula after the US-NATO forces occupied Iraq in May 2003.
Two troop surges in 2009 raised the strength of ISAF (an amalgam of 48 military contingents) to near 1,50,000, but it proved futile since it resulted in heavy casualties of the occupiers. Adoption of rearward posture and abandonment of boots on ground strategy by ISAF after suffering setbacks in battles of Helmand and Nuristan and putting ANSF in the forefront, and thereafter putting heavy reliance on airpower, was a wrong decision made by Gen McChrystal. It enabled the Taliban to snatch the initiative and build momentum of offensive, which couldn’t be reversed by the occupying force.
Tensions between the US and Pakistan kept increasing when the US adopted a highly discriminatory policy of blaming Pakistan for the failures of ISAF-ANSF, and instability in Afghanistan; subjecting it to drone war; insulting and penalizing it and constantly pressing it to do more against Haqqani Network (HN) and Quetta Shura, and at the same time covering up the sins of India and Kabul regime and going out of the way to reward them. Extreme pressure was mounted to flush out HN from NW. Discriminatory policy brought in element of distrust.
2011 was the worst year for Pakistan in which Raymond Davis, Abbottabad attack, Memogate and Salala attack took place which forced Pakistan to cut off military cooperation with the US and stop the two NATO supply routes for six months.
The reason behind the discriminatory behavior was that while Indo-US-Afghan-West-Israel are strategic partners and work in collusion to achieve their common objectives, Pakistan doesn’t fit into the US security paradigm or the Indo-Pacific strategy, and as such was accepted as a tactical partner to fight terrorism both inside Pakistan and in Afghanistan.
The points of friction which kept the Pak-US relations dysfunctional are Pakistan’s nuclear program, the CPEC, its closeness with China, hostility against India mainly due to unresolved Kashmir dispute, its refusal to recognize Israel, and its refusal to fight Afghan Taliban.
Initiation of peace talks by Obama in 2011 which led to opening of Taliban’s political office at Doha in mid-June 2013 lacked sincerity since whichever Taliban leader came forward for a peace deal, whether from TTP or the Taliban, was droned. Wali, Baituallah Mehsud, Hakimullah Mehsud, Akhtar Mansour, were all killed by drones. Fight and talk strategy was aimed at dividing Taliban movement.
After withdrawal of bulk of ISAF forces by Dec 2014, the Taliban rapidly captured more territory and gained a military ascendency over occupying forces and the ANSF. Demoralization set in among the occupiers and collaborators; green-over-blue attacks as well as suicide cases increased; rate of desertions in ANSF accelerated.
Installation of a unity regime in Kabul in 2016 by Obama regime was a bad decision. Due to poor governance, corruption and power tussle between Ghani and Abdullah, writ of the government got confined to Kabul.
The Taliban gained dominance over 56% rural territory through which major supply routes pass; its influence stretched to well over 80% area where they installed shadow governments; could strike any part of the country; developed war economy; had sound command, control & communication infrastructure; fair judicial system and dedicated fighters.
The Taliban succeeded in breaking their isolation and were wooed by China, Russia, Turkey, Iran, Qatar, UAE, KSA, and Germany. China signed a $ 3 billion development project with the Taliban. It reduced the clout of Pakistan over them.
Writ of the ANSF backed by the US led Resolute Support Group got restricted to capital cities which are often attacked by the Taliban.
Landmark peace agreement
After maximizing force against the Taliban and pressure against Pakistan, Donald Trump reopened the stalled peace talks in July 2018 and finally inked the historic peace agreement with the Taliban on February 29, 2020, in which the Kabul regime was excluded. The UN, Russia, China and Pakistan endorsed the agreement.
The Taliban agreed not to allow Afghan soil for terrorism against the US/allies, reduce violence, desist from attacking western targets in Afghanistan, sever ties with al-Qaeda, and to open inter-Afghan dialogue for a comprehensive political settlement. The US agreed to pull out all troops by May 1, 2021 and to refrain from attacking the Taliban. 5000 Taliban prisoners and 1000 ANSF prisoners were to be released within 3 months after start of intra-Afghan talks on March 10, 2020, and Taliban leaders removed from the UN blacklist.
Intra-Afghan dialogue got delayed due to Ashraf Ghani’s reservations and foot dragging over prisoner exchange. Firefight between the Taliban and ANSF supported by the US continued in which former had an upper hand.
Trump was keen to end the longest war and make a clean break from Afghanistan and he reduced the US troop level to 2500 only.
Start of Joe Biden’s innings
After the change of guards in Washington, media campaign has been unleashed to compel Joe Biden administration to review the Afghan peace deal and delay the departure of troops from Afghanistan. The Taliban are projected as irreconcilable, treacherous and blood thirsty. A powerful lobby in the West with expansionist aims is not in favor of troop withdrawal from Afghanistan for a variety of reasons.
A study mandated by the US Congress has called for a delay in the pullout, warning it would effectively hand the Taliban a victory. Gen Kenneth McKenzie, head of the US Centcom, declared the Taliban as “clearly” being responsible for violence in Afghanistan, but agreed that no attack came on the US-NATO. Pentagon also accused Taliban of not fulfilling promises that include reducing attacks and cutting ties to insurgent groups such as Al-Qaeda.
The spoilers like India, the unity regime in Kabul, Pentagon and CIA are playing their negative role to block the withdrawal of occupation troops. They are painting a gloomy picture that complete exit would lead to bloody war and ruin the reputation of the sole super power. They blame the Taliban for the violence and bloodshed, and are exerting extreme pressure upon Joe Biden urging him to rescind or modify the Doha agreement.
The accusers fail to mention the role of the ISIS that have carried out gruesome attacks against Afghan forces and targeted assassinations of journalists, politicians, judges and activists, and machinations of RAW-NDS against Pakistan. Orbaki Militias, Khost Protection Force and some other armed groups support ANSF and are guided by CIA. Reported presence of 20,000 Blackwater operatives at Bagram airbase has also been eluded. Moreover, in violation of the terms of agreement, the US airpower has been coming to the rescue of ANSF.
Brutalities of the NA warlords, of over half a dozen anti-Pakistan terrorist groups based in Nuristan, Kunar, Nangarhar, Paktika undertaking terror attacks in Pakistan and playing football with slit heads of Pak soldiers are acceptable as long as they play ball with the occupiers. Good Taliban are also acceptable. Not a word is uttered on infamous torture dens of Bagram and Guantanamo Bay jails, or the ruthless night raids by US Special Forces.
Biden is inclined to review the peace deal and delay the departure and make another effort with the help of Pakistan to force the Taliban to relinquish violence, ceasefire permanently, agree to share power with Kabul regime as a junior partner and accept the US tailored constitution.
The Taliban denied escalating violence and not abiding by the terms of peace agreement. To put weight to their argument they said that spring offensives in 2019 and 2020 were not carried out. The Taliban have urged the US to honor their commitment of withdrawing all troops by May 1, 2021 in exchange for security guarantees and are averse to the idea of residual force.
Sheer ego stops the US from conceding defeat and to hide its embarrassment, it blames Pakistan, or reinforce failure in its bid to salvage some pride.
With an eye on unexplored mineral wealth of Afghanistan worth $ 1-3 trillion of iron ore, lithium, chromium, natural gas, petroleum etc., and also the mineral resources of next door Central Asia stretching up to Caspian Sea, the US would make strenuous efforts to maintain a toehold in country and at least recoup the huge financial losses it incurred in fighting the longest war if it cannot re-claim its soiled repute.
Why the US needs Pakistan?
The reason why Pakistan has not been discarded despite so much of distrust bordering hatred is that the US cannot ignore its key role in Afghan affairs. Pakistan is the only country which has some influence over the Taliban, and will still have an important role to play both in reaching a political settlement, and in its implementation.
Much that Washington might wish to quickly disengage from its troubled relationship with Pakistan, it will be difficult to do so until a comprehensive political settlement to the Afghan conflict has been reached and at least partially implemented.
Pakistan which played a key role in the Doha agreement and in starting the intra-Afghan dialogue, will be needed by the US in further negotiations as well as in helping the US troops to exit with their bag and baggage since northern network is not available.
Washington will need the support of Pakistan for any of its options of continuing talks with the Taliban for a revised political settlement, or renewing counter offensive, or pulling out. It will perforce remain tied to Pakistan till the final political settlement to the Afghan imbroglio has been reached and implemented.
Reasons why the US failed?
Reasons of the US failures were megalomania, relying wholly on massive resources and ignoring intangibles, underestimating the enemy, military commanders failing to introspect and reappraise their weaknesses at strategic, operational and tactical levels, and correcting them by revising plans and tactics how to fight insurrectional war, or making an effort to win the hearts and minds of the Afghans. The invaders used a huge hammer to kill a fly and adopted extremely brutal methods to tame their foes.
The US intervened in Afghanistan militarily on false charges and never had a genuine cause and justification to keep it under its occupation for two decades. Conversely, the Taliban had a superior cause, and were ideologically motivated to fight the invaders and free their country.
More importantly, relying heavily upon morally corrupt India which has failed to quash any of the 37 insurgencies raging in India since very long and the freedom movement in IOK, and its failure in Sri Lanka against the Tamil Tigers; and trying to give india a lead role in Afghanistan with which it doesn’t share border or has any cultural/religious affinity.
The US made Pakistan a frontline state to fight terrorism and a non-NATO ally, but never trusted it despite its outstanding performance. It forgot that Pakistan had played a key role in ousting Soviet forces from Afghanistan in 1989 and paving the way for the US to become the sole super power. It was due to Pakistan’s all out support that the US captured Afghanistan within a month in 2001. But for the NATO supply routes, the NATO couldn’t have fought the longest war.
Reliance on corrupt and inept Afghan regime and upon corruption ridden non-Pashtun ANSF and not holding them accountable were other reasons of its failure.
The Taliban having seized sufficient space, gained moral and military edge, and with plenty of funds in hand earned from toll tax and opium trade to cater for their war expenditure, and with bolstered strength after the release of prisoners, they will never accept the unreasonable demands of the defeated USA and discredited Ghani regime. They have expressed their resolve to recommence their offensive with full vigor in case the deal is broken. For them time, fatalities, injuries, lack of logistics and hardships do not matter. They have nothing more to lose and time is on their side. They won’t accept anything short of restoring their Islamic Emirate.
The US invested over a trillion dollars in Afghanistan, spent 19 years and sacrificed over 3000 soldiers with injuries to 20,000, and large numbers suffer from post-stress-disorders, and many committed suicides. Over half a million Afghan civilians were killed or injured in indiscriminate bombings, drone attacks, suicide bombs/IED attacks, and 60,000 ANSF soldiers died in combat. And yet the US failed to accomplish any of its objectives and in the endgame earned nothing but ignominy and infamy.
The key of the Afghan tangle is with the Taliban and without their concurrence peace will remain a forlorn hope. Occupiers and spoilers can prolong the agony but cannot convert defeat into victory or restore the damaged image.
China, Russia, Iran and Pakistan are important pegs on the chessboard of Afghanistan and should be encouraged to join peace mission and play their role in the final political settlement.
Irrespective of Pakistan’s significance and its wholehearted cooperation, the US will not reward Pakistan at the cost of jeopardizing its own and Indian interests as well as that of its puppet regime in Kabul.
While CPEC and 05 August 2019 Indian act in IOK has welded Pakistan and China into strategic relationship with common security interests, India and the US remain steadfast strategic partners and the duo view China as their chief rival. For Pakistan, India is the arch rival and hostility of the two nuclear neighbors is perpetual. Although the US has helped in defusing tensions between the two antagonists and in averting conflicts, however, Pakistan’s closeness with China irritates both India and the US. Pakistan and China regard India as a threat, whereas the US sees India as a partner and a bulwark against China. There will be no change in these converging and diverging interests in near future.
Indo-China relations have soured in the aftermath of recent scuffles in the Himalayas due to border dispute and are not likely to normalize in near future. Same-way, the US-China relations which dipped to lowest point during Trump’s rule are not likely to normalize due to clashing geo-strategic and geo-economic ambitions.
Much that the US would like to get back Pakistan into its fold, its history of betrayals inhibits Pakistan from getting duped once again and lose the support of trustworthy China. It irks Islamabad to see Washington failing to acknowledge Pakistan’s staggering losses (83000 human fatalities and $ 126 billion financial loss) in fighting war on terror, and refusing to validate its concerns about India abetting terrorism in Pakistan.
There are too many divergences and few convergence of interests between the US and Pakistan. The US is not likely to change its views against China and CPEC, and will continue to give preference to Indian security concerns over Pakistan’s concerns. These constraints will prevent US-Pakistan relationship from transforming into a relationship based on mutual respect and equality.
Irrespective of this hard reality that the US will not be able to wean away Pakistan from China, it will keep Pakistan on board for the accomplishment of its short term self-interests in Afghanistan, and to also play a role in preventing nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan.
Antagonism between the three nuclear powers in one neighborhood when seen in context with antipathy between the US and nuclear North Korea, and intensification of rivalry between the US and China which is aligned with Russia, and Iran-USA military standoff, reported nuclear/missile cooperation between North Korea-Iran, have made the overall security situation in this region highly volatile and may spin out of control anytime.
Pakistan is beset with national security issues and is also plagued by economic security which has become almost an existential threat. Given the massive debt accumulated over a period of time, and floundering economy due to corruption, mismanagement, weak governance, Covid-19 pandemic and the heavy cost paid in fighting the US imposed war on terror, for Pakistan peace and stability in Afghanistan has become a strategic compulsion.
America’s chickens are coming home to roost; terrorism fomented in the Muslim world has now seeped into front yards of the US. Never before the American society was so radicalized and divided as it is today because of Trumpism. Biden is faced with grave internal and external challenges.
To hope for return of golden days of Pakistan-US relations of the 1950s would be like wishing for the moon. As long as Muslim and nuclear Pakistan remain strategically aligned with China, goes ahead with developing CPEC, nuclear & missile power, and considers India as its chief rival, the US will never trust Pakistan and will not upgrade its self-serving tactical relations to strategic relationship. Pakistan should contend with maintaining friendly relations by playing up the overlapping converging interests without nurturing expectations and avoid earning its ire.
Blaming the violence on Taliban is a lame excuse. They have nothing to gain and everything to lose from it. If anyone stands to gain, it is the puppet regime in Kabul, India and some vested interests in the US. As for ISIS, it is hard to understand how the organisation can survive, let aside operate effectively, without extensive operational support, bases, intelligence, logistics, etc. One thing is certain, these are not being provided by Taliban who are their enemy.
Taliban have repeatedly given assurances that they will respect the rights of women and not attack civilians. They have also categorically denied carrying out the recent attacks. We need to find out first who stands to gain before assigning any blame. If we did that, the finger of suspicion may well point in some other direction. With the withdrawal deadline nearing, the Taliban have launched a string of offensives threatening at least two strategic provincial capitals in southern Afghanistan in recent months. Violence will escalate in coming May in case the US breaks its commitment.
If there is one lesson that history teaches us, it is that no outside power can ensure peace inside Afghanistan. In our living memory, we have seen the Soviet Union try and fail ignominiously and so did NATO. Pakistani rulers committed the blunder of facilitating the US to destroy Afghanistan and in the bargain ruined its own economy. To expect Pakistan to do the same all over again makes no sense and for what purpose?
If the quest for peace is based on sincerity of purpose, the US and its allies will have to quit Afghanistan and leave the rest to the Afghans. Those prophesying dooms day after the withdrawal of occupying troops do not realize that the Afghans are living in hell since 1979, so what more catastrophe will befall upon them? The Taliban will never ceasefire and abandon fighting since this their only strength and source of survival. It may look messy to outsiders but the different factions will find the way one way or another.
If Pakistan were to get involved, the Indians and Iranians will also get involved. The same is true for any other power. If at all any help is needed it should be provided by the UN. Why this obvious option is not being discussed raises many questions of its own.
The presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan is not good for the well-being of Pakistan for a whole host of reasons. The sooner it comes to an end the better it will be for Afghanistan, Pakistan and the West itself also. One can only hope that President Biden can stand his ground for what is good for America and does not cave in to vested interests whose only aim is endless war for the sake of war.
Pakistan can neither feel comfortable with a hostile government in Kabul, nor with the heavy presence of India in Afghanistan. Unless Washington start understanding Pakistan’s legitimate security concerns, the US shouldn’t expect Pakistan to conform to its desires.
Notwithstanding what shape the endgame of Afghanistan will take, Biden’s foreign policy will be governed by Indo-Pacific strategy, the foundation of which was laid by Trump regime in which India plays a key role and Pakistan has no role.
Afghanistan is likely to simmer and smolder in 2021. Delaying the withdrawal will be tantamount to prolonging the agony of the Afghans, the occupiers, the collaborators and of Pakistan, which is most affected by the instability in its neighborhood.
Close cooperation with China, fast track development of CPEC and TAPI, stoppage of corrupt practices, austerity measures, better governance and financial management are the benchmarks for garnering economic security.
There are clear indications that the US have no intentions to abandon Afghanistan in the near future and would prolong their stay as much as possible. Although Pakistan suffered a great deal at the hands of proxies launched by RAW-NDS and supported by CIA, it made no effort towards pushing out foreign forces from Afghanistan. Contrarily, it still want the US forces to stay on till restoration of peace and stability in Afghanistan not realizing that the US and its allies blame Pakistan for the instability, and that the illegitimate occupiers and collaborators are the real cause of violence in Af-Pak region. Indo-US-Afghan nexus have tried all possible techniques to derail Pakistan and are still focused on denuclearizing it, but our leaders for inexplicable reasons consider them as friends and well-wishers of Pakistan.
Instead of putting pressure upon them, we have been exerting pressure on Taliban and made them agree to talk with the US and arrive at a political settlement, and again pushed them to talk with Ashraf Ghani regime. Now to ask them to agree to the terms of the US and puppet regime and accept sharing power as a junior partner will be unfair and may impel the Taliban to stop dealing with Pakistan. Enmity with Taliban would prove fatal and could land Pakistan into Syria like situation.
If we are interested in getting rid of proxies like TTP, BLA and ISIS, their safe havens and terror infrastructure in Afghanistan run by RAW-NDS, only the Taliban can do it and none else. Today, the Resolute Support Group, ANSF, Afghan Unity Govt, the US and India stand on a weak wicket, while the Taliban under Haibatullah have gained substantial strength and victory is within their grasping reach. Taliban are likely to further extend their sway and gain control over 90% territory by the close of this year. Our ultimate goals should be to empower Taliban and not the pro-India puppet regime of Ghani-Abdullah.
The writer is a retired Brig Gen, war veteran, defence & security analyst, international columnist, author of five books, 6th book under publication, Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, Director Measac Research Centre, takes part in TV talk shows.