Unrest in Afghanistan is promoting unrest in Pakistan, China and Central Asia. Let’s hope that a sense prevails in Washington, New Delhi and Kabul for a peace in Afghanistan.
DR MUHAMMAD KHAN– THERE was nothing new in the President Donald Trump’s South Asia policy, announced on August 21, 2017. Much conjectured and trumpeted as, US new Afghan policy, it was same old blame game on Pakistan, while emphasizing an enhanced role for India in that country and deployment of additional troops (3000-5000) in Afghanistan. Rather taking the ownership and responsibilities for bringing peace in Afghanistan, he particularly said that, “it is up to the people of Afghanistan to take ownership of their future, to govern their society, and to achieve an ever-lasting peace. We are a partner and a friend, but we will not dictate to the Afghan people how to live or how to govern their own complex society.” For the US, President Trump assigned the task of killing terrorists, rather the nation building in Afghanistan.
Rejecting the US South Asian policy, Pakistan emphasized Washington to take a realistic stocktaking of the post 9/11 scenario and the role of Pakistan towards regional and global peace. A calculated Pakistani response did make change in the attitudes of US hierarchy and its perception about Pakistan. This was clearly visible during meeting between Prime Minister Abbasi and US Vice President Mike Pence on the side-lines of 72nd session of UNGA. Then, there have been visits of Pakistani and US officials, which break the silence with optimism in the bilateral relationship of two countries. Later, upon recovery of US and Canadian hostages from the captivity of Taliban by Pak Army, President Trump sent a message of good will to Pakistan. The recovery was an example of timely intelligence sharing by US authorities. Vice President Mike Pence also spoke to Pakistani Premier, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on October 18, 2018 and thanked the Government and people of Pakistan.
Whereas, at the bilateralism, there have not been much divergences between Washington and Islamabad, however, on the global and regional security issues, there have been less convergences in the perception of both countries. Since security emanates from the national interests of respective states, therefore, each had a different approach to an issue. Then, Pakistan had been a traditional cold war ally of Pakistan, once compared with India in the South Asian perspective. It wanted continuation of the cold war alliance system, rather US new alignment in South Asia. In the war on terror, Pakistan had unmatched record of sacrifices and contributions towards international community.
In the case of Afghanistan, Pakistan wants a peaceful settlement and reconciliation between Taliban and Afghan Government. But US policy guidelines and actions on ground have been very different. Just before the conclusion of Muscat round negotiations from the platform QCG, US attacked in Ghuzdari area of Paktia province of Afghanistan and killed 31 Taliban in three drone attacks. In retaliation, the Taliban attacked and killed 71 people and injuring another 160 in Paktia and Ghazni provinces. Zabiullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman, claimed the responsibility of these attacks and said, “the special police unit was the primary target; up to 450 police officers were living in the headquarters at the time of the attack.”
A realistic analysis of US actions on grounds in Afghanistan and its policies about Pakistan give an impression that, the sole super power is not interested in bringing peace and stability in Afghanistan and broader region; South and Central Asia. India very rigidly follows the US policy guidelines. Such an approach has created a distrust among the regional stakeholders, having geographical proximity with Afghanistan and the extra-regional powers. Whereas, these regional countries would like a peaceful and stable Afghanistan, the vested interests of extra-regional countries are contrary.
Pakistan would like the US and Afghanistan to encourage the Taliban for a peace talks and integration into the main stream. Targeting them at this critical juncture would mean continuation of instability and unrest. Unrest in Afghanistan is promoting unrest in Pakistan, China and Central Asia. Let’s hope that a sense prevails in Washington, New Delhi and Kabul for a peace in Afghanistan. The Kabul regime has to play the central role if it is really serious for peace in Afghanistan and the economic prosperity of its masses. Pakistan has assured the regime for its full support both by the government and military leadership.
(The writer is Professor of Politics and International Relations based in Islamabad.