Dr. Muhammad Ali Ehsan |
I have never been a great admirer of Hussain Haqqani (Pakistan’s former Ambassador to the United States), but two observations that he made on the Pakistan specific changes in US policy on Afghanistan reflect the consensus opinion of many observers in this country. He said in an interview that “[the new Afghan policy] is holding out the prospect of treating Pakistan as an enemy” and that the policy is “scaring Pakistan with the prospect of more Indian involvement in Afghanistan”.
The real test of the sustenance of this Pakistan offensive policy and Pakistan’s commitment to its sovereignty would take place if the United States goes beyond the threats of military and economic aid cutting and tough talking to actually make that difficult decision of targeting Taliban leadership (Quetta and Peshawar Shura) in mainland Pakistan.
So would destabilize Pakistan through any coercive means by an unpopular Trump Administration be the steroid that would lift Afghanistan from the status of a failing state?
When the former Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansoor was killed in May 2016 in District Chagai of Baluchistan by a US drone strike the ‘incentive for Pakistan to change’ was not accompanied at that time with a threatening US policy.
The whole affair was digested like many others (Salala check post attack and the raid on Osama Bin Laden hideout) by Pakistan to accommodate the continuity of a more important US-Pakistan strategic partnership. Even India at that time had not drawn the American favorite tag and was not compelled by the US for its deep strategic involvement (economic and infrastructural) in Afghanistan.
Changing Political & Security Situation in Region
Political and security situation has been changed in the region. The USA and India are seeking “mutual return on investment” in an Afghan policy that has an unfavorable tilt against Pakistan. Such a policy is only meant to evoke a ‘two-front war’ scenario for an uneasy Pakistani military in case of a potential future conflict with India. Employing coercive methods of inducing a change in Pakistan’s behavior will not work.
This will do nothing to mitigate the Afghan Taliban threat that continues to exist unchecked within the borders of Afghanistan. In reality, however, US-India partnership actually disturbs an ideological fault line within the region of which the Taliban are the celebrated flag bearers.
Employing coercive methods of inducing a change in Pakistan’s behavior will not work. This will do nothing to mitigate the Afghan Taliban threat that continues to exist unchecked within the borders of Afghanistan.
What if the new Afghan policy is a consequence of the US-India partnership makes Pakistan a victim? Will this not result in further destabilization of Afghanistan with the Taliban’s raising an anti- US and India battle cry of ‘Jihad against the apostate’? Taliban’s guns will then not only turn against the American presence and their interests there as they usually do; but also will also target the products of Indian economic and infrastructural engagements in Afghanistan. Afghanistan shares a heritage, a common culture, language and religion with Pakistan that binds them in a graceful relationship of eternal brotherhood.
Read more: The illegality of Trump’s ‘Afghanistan war’
Indian Incentives in Afghanistan
What India brings to Afghanistan are only its business interests. The large share in Afghanistan rebuilding process pose a great opportunity for the Indian industry and its markets – not only economic but military industry as well that seeks to supply the Afghans with the much-needed military equipment and hardware for its weak and struggling defense force that needs a sustained military supply.
Afghanistan for India is the gateway to its future energy security. Only a stable Afghanistan will ensure the prospects of uninterrupted energy commitments with the Central Asian States like Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan all of which were visited by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India in July 2015.
The writ of Afghan government does not extend to the areas controlled by Afghan Taliban’s. Both Pakistan and China complain about inaction and inability of the Afghan government to address terrorism emanating out of its borders.
Should we call this strategic partnership as a way to elevate the sufferings of the poor people of Afghanistan or a business opportunity that Prime Minister of India seeks across the Durand Line? Considering India’s investment in the US dictated, guided and controlled strategic partnership in Afghanistan what kind of Taliban will suit New Delhi’s interests? A Taliban inclined and willing to become part of a political process or a trigger-happy Taliban bent upon ruining the ongoing Indian economic activity and work in that country?
The Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Mr. Khawaja Asif, has been very open and candid in expressing the joint civil-military view of Pakistan while briefing the Senate on US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson’s, recent trip to Pakistan. His whole focus was to highlight that the new strategy for Afghanistan was showcasing India, US, and Afghanistan as partners with Pakistan being left out and subjected only to take the pressure.
The ‘failed war’ in Afghanistan does not need a ‘Pakistan exclusive policy’ as a remedy to its success. The complete omission of Pakistan from the process of future political settlement of Afghanistan is a mistake. The clarification by Pakistan’s Foreign Minister that it needs no American economic or military aid reflects the great reliance of Pakistan on the benefits of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and the graduated conversion of Pakistan into more and more Chinese client state.
The ‘failed war’ in Afghanistan does not need a ‘Pakistan exclusive policy’ as a remedy to its success. The complete omission of Pakistan from the process of future political settlement of Afghanistan is a mistake.
Accepting India’s dominance and presuming that the US will eventually seek an exit from the country at some point in future will only bring short-term rewards and benefits for Afghanistan in the long run it is only the Afghan diplomatic and strategic engagement with Pakistan which is likely to be more fruitful given what the One Belt, One Road initiative (of which China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is an essential part) can mean for Afghanistan. Recent reports also suggest that China’s People’s Liberation Army has been showing concern on the Uighur separatist groups that are based on Afghan soil.
The real question is – which side of the Durand Line actually demands the focus of future US anti-terrorist operations? The writ of Afghan government does not extend to the areas (more than 45% of Afghan territory) controlled by Afghan Taliban’s. Both Pakistan and China complain about inaction and inability of the Afghan government to address terrorism emanating out of its borders. Furthermore, Pakistan has carried out extensive military operations in its tribal areas pushing the runaway terrorists into the Afghan territory.
Only a stable Afghanistan will ensure the prospects of uninterrupted energy commitments with the Central Asian States like Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan all of which were visited by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India in July 2015.
The trouble is in Afghanistan. The war that the USA has lost is in Afghanistan. The proxy war that India executes in Pakistan emanates from Afghanistan. So would destabilize Pakistan through any coercive means by an unpopular Trump Administration be the steroid that would lift Afghanistan from the status of a failing state? Hardly so – it may, in fact, become a reason for an extended, unpleasant and unwanted US-stay in Afghanistan – something which the US wants to avoid.
Dr. Muhammad Ali Ehsan did his doctorate in International Relations from Karachi Univ; where he also teaches. His Ph.D. work is on ‘Civil-Military Relations in Pakistan’. He served for 25 years in Pakistan Army and remained an Instructor in Pakistan Military Academy. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.