Another flood of refugees coming toward Pakistan in case of U.S withdrawal from Afghanistan?

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News Analysis |

Following recent developments vis-à-vis the Afghan peace process, there have been speculations among neighboring countries to Afghanistan that the withdrawal of U.S troops could trigger another mass migration of the Afghan citizens. “At this point, there is no clarity about the withdrawal, but we have to keep a clear action plan ready,” said a senior Asian diplomat based in Kabul.

“The situation can turn from bad to worse very quickly.” Speculations regarding a complete pull out of the entire U.S force inside Afghanistan were brushed away by White House but no comments were made about the reports stating that half of the entire U.S strength, up to 7000 soldiers, are being recalled.

Rule of Afghanistan under the Taliban has widely been infamous for the crude and barbaric practices. If the groups manage to hold reins of power in Kabul, Afghans may choose to not live under the horrific tales of their last tenure.

Due to the recent swift withdrawal of troops from Syria, which took the aides of President Trump by surprise and resulted in the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, the South Asian neighbors of Afghanistan are not sure about anything. As per the reports, the countries are already looking for contingency plans which include strict scrutiny and even sealing the border if the situation demands.

While there is a slight chance of the complete withdrawal of the troops since it has been widely believed in Iran, Pakistan, and Russia that the United States is not interested to vacate the Afghanistan and sophisticated bases it has built over the years entirely.

But the U.S special representative Zalmay Khalilzad when met with Taliban discussed possible withdrawal of troops which the insurgent group has been saying for long as the prerequisite for the peace process. So far there has been no clear direction of what the future of Afghanistan might look like even after the issue is settled.

Read more: Afghan Refugees in Pakistan: A Continuing Challenge

The country has a history of civil war outbreaks even after the terms have been negotiated. Rule of Afghanistan under the Taliban has widely been infamous for the crude and barbaric practices. If the groups manage to hold reins of power in Kabul, Afghans may choose to not live under the horrific tales of their last tenure.

Secondly, for a country like Afghanistan which is resource scarce for Agriculture, industries and due to lack of quality education, services sector as well, keeping the economy going and people employed would be another challenge. So far the major chunk of the budget has been coming from the pockets of the U.S and its allies, but once they are gone it would be hard to generate the income out of nowhere.

It might simply not be easy to close the borders with Afghanistan and stop the refugees from coming in due to strong cultural bonds which tribal Pakistanis share with the Afghans.

Economic and security chaos leads to disruption in the pattern of normality in the lives of people which results in mass migration toward regions where there is relative stability. Out of all the neighbors Afghanistan has, Pakistan is the favorite destination of Afghan citizens due to close historic and cultural ties.

Pakistan has been proactive on the western front since, in the last two decades, this frontier has been the major security risk, unlike the historic eastern one. The audacious step of fencing the rugged, mountainous terrain was taken and is close to its climax. It was followed by a 50,000 strong paramilitary forces specifically deployed to restrict the infiltration of hostile elements.

But it seems that Pakistan is aware that its duty of taking Afghan refugees, even after millions in numbers and scores of years, is far from over. “Camps will be set up near the border to manage a fresh wave of Afghan refugees and illegal migrants and Afghans will not be allowed to set up illegal homes in Pakistan,” said an official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Read more: Death in Afghanistan or bitter life in Pakistan: refugees’ choice

It might simply not be easy to close the borders with Afghanistan and stop the refugees from coming in due to strong cultural bonds which tribal Pakistanis share with the Afghans. But it remains important that the movement of the refugees is restricted to the camps, for it is now widely evident what it caused the country when they were allowed to roam freely last time.


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