Afghan quagmire: Options for Pakistan

afghan

Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal |

Afghanistan’s instability is perilous for Pakistan. The weak authority of President Ashraf Ghani led Unity-Government in the country is advantageous for the terrorist syndicate. The transnational terrorist groups are not only maintaining their sanctuaries in the Southern-Eastern Afghanistan but also sponsoring and conducting terrorist acts inside Pakistan.

The United States led North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) 13000 troops seem incapable to destroy the safe hideouts of terrorist groups located in Afghanistan. On August 21, 2017, while announcing the new strategy for Afghanistan, President Trump promised to send more troops to Afghanistan. Subsequently, Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis announced in September 2017 that the US would send more than 3,000 troops to Afghanistan.

The instability in Afghanistan is providing the opportunity to both India and Tehreek-i-Taliban to conduct terrorist activities in Pakistan. Thus, Islamabad ought to strengthen border management to prevent the cross-border attacks.

The Americans primary objective is to win the ongoing war in Afghanistan. Whereas; the neighboring states of Afghanistan desire restoration of peace in the country through the dialogue process. The continuity of asymmetrical warfare in Afghanistan is neither in the interest of Afghanistan nor its neighbors. It has been causing serious security challenges for the neighboring states.

The terrorist groups have been attacking the border forces of the neighboring states. On November 13, 2017, two Pakistani soldiers were martyred and ‘four others injured in a suspected militant attack on a check post near the Pak-Afghan border in Bajaur Agency.’ These militants have safe heavens in Afghanistan. Admittedly, the Afghan government is not supporting these militants.

Read more: Is Pakistan ready to fight a Hybrid war?

Nevertheless, the absence of Afghan government writ within the state facilitates terrorists to attack Pakistani border posts. Many analysts concluded that after the defeat of Daesh in Iraq and Syria, the Chechen, Ugur, Uzbek etc. radicalized militants are returning to Afghanistan. Indeed, the increasing number of the radicalized militants in the neighborhood is alarming for the neighboring states of Afghanistan including both Russian Federation and China.

General Bajwa’s visit resulted in a change in tone and attitude of Afghan President and his officials. Notwithstanding, the Americans are expressing their reservation over Pakistan’s Afghanistan policy.

Despite the worsening situation in Afghanistan, the neighboring states are not willing to depute their armed forces to clear the safe heavens of terrorists in Afghanistan. They are convinced that dialogue among the Afghan factions is the only solution to the current instability in Afghanistan. Conversely, the Afghan government and Americans are reluctant to engage sincerely Afghan Taliban in the dialogue process.

The trends in the regional and international politics indicate that Great Powers are least interested in restoring the peace in Afghanistan. They are more concern about the transformation and realignment in the global politics and pursuit of their international strategic agendas. Neither Chinese nor Russians are willing to ignore the Americans continue the presence in their backyard. Similarly, Americans cannot ignore the significance of Afghanistan in their global strategic policy.

The American strategic enclave viewed Afghanistan as a heartland of Eurasia. Perhaps, primacy in the heartland secures the United States strategic objectives in the region.

Read more: New rules of engagement between US & Pakistan

Washington has been encouraging and facilitating New Delhi to check the increasing influence of Beijing in the affairs of Afghanistan. It’s a debatable fact that whether Indians are able to balance the Chinese clout in Afghanistan.

Washington has been encouraging and facilitating New Delhi to check the increasing influence of Beijing in the affairs of Afghanistan. It’s a debatable fact that whether Indians are able to balance the Chinese clout in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, one thing is obvious that the Indians increasing presence in Afghanistan is detrimental for Pakistan. They are already using their Consulates in Afghanistan for hatching and sponsoring terrorists’ activities in Pakistan.

On November 14, 2017, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, General Zubair Mehmood Hayat claimed that India’s premier intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) has established a special cell at a cost of $500 million to sabotage the China Pakistan Economic Corridor. Bharat Karnad, professor for national security studies at the Centre for Policy Research at New Delhi and author of “Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)” also pointed out that New Delhi has been using Tehreek-e-Taliban for bleeding innocent Pakistanis. (Hindustan Times, September 21, 2017)

Islamabad sincerely supports the Afghan-led Afghan own peace process in the country. On October 1, 2017, Pakistani Army Chief General Bajwa visited Kabul. He expressed Pakistani armed forces sincere support to President Ghani government. General Bajwa’s visit resulted in a change in tone and attitude of Afghan President and his officials. Notwithstanding, the Americans are expressing their reservation over Pakistan’s Afghanistan policy.

Read more: Why the world should take India’s surgical strike hysteria seriously?

Neither Chinese nor Russians are willing to ignore the Americans continue the presence in their backyard. Similarly, Americans cannot ignore the significance of Afghanistan in their global strategic policy.

They claimed that Pakistan is not only providing material support to the Haqqani network in Afghanistan but also harboring the group on its territory. Islamabad negates Washington’s accusation. Pakistanis opined that 45 percent of Afghanistan is not under Unity Government control, ‘which is why the Haqqani network and other terror groups do not need a safe haven in Pakistan.’ Haqqanis are not residing in Pakistan, but operating from the inside of Afghanistan.

Hence, Washington needs to accept the reality and chalk out its strategy accordingly, instead of blaming Islamabad. To conclude, the instability in Afghanistan is providing the opportunity to both India and Tehreek-i-Taliban to conduct terrorist activities in Pakistan. Thus, Islamabad ought to strengthen border management to prevent the cross-border attacks.

Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal is Associate Professor, School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. He is also an advisor on Non-Proliferation to SASSI, London and a course coordinator at Foreign Services Academy for the Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Email: jaspal_99@hotmail.com. This piece was first published in Pakistan Observer. It has been reprinted with permission. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.

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