Post-US Afghanistan; India’s involvement will imperil the entire region….

Map of Afghanistan with flag.

Hussain Saqib

The current US-Pakistan relations are being influenced by the Indo-US desire to completely eliminate Pakistan’s influence in post-US Afghanistan. India is preparing to take over the reins of Kabul’s de facto government from the US. A very well authored script is being played out to discredit Pakistan and its human and material sacrifices in War on Terror. To strengthen anti-Pakistan perception being created by the media, stage-managed events are unfolding which include unfortunate assassination of Professor Rabbani.

But can Pakistan’s role in the post-US Afghanistan be totally eliminated? What would be the consequences of any such ill-conceived plans?

Pakistan is Afghanistan’s immediate neighbor and both the countries share a porous border called Durand Line. The tribes on both sides of the border are not only ethnically related, they have family ties. In some cases, families are divided on both sides. These are ethnic Pashtun tribes which incidentally constitute the ethnic majority of Afghanistan and have always been ruling the country.

Afghanistan has been a favorite playground for the players of the Great Game since 19th century. In those days, the competition between Tsarist and Communist Russia and the British government for Central Asia made Afghanistan a deadly battle ground, and graveyard, for the occupation army of Britain. The USSR, a super power, wrote its complete disintegration in the battlegrounds of Afghanistan in 1980s. America first entered Afghanistan to counter Soviet encroachment.  Ten years ago, the United States launched a military effort in the country to inhibit al Qaeda actions, to end the draconian rule of the Taliban and to help the country establish free democratic institutions.

The evidence suggests that the US has not been able to achieve its objectives through its Afghanistan (mis)adventure. It has now decided to withdraw from Afghanistan. If Afghanistan misadventure was a deadly blunder of Bush regime, the troops’ draw-down at this stage will be a deadliest mistake. If America withdraws from Afghanistan before the country establishes a stable democratic government, it creates the opportunity for radical groups such as al Qaeda and/or the Taliban to return and dominate the government, undercutting US goals.

Pakistan, which shares a long border with Afghanistan, has a vested interest in the stability of Afghanistan.  According to Washington Times, an unfriendly government in Kabul creates difficulties in terms of regional issues, border disputes, border control, easy access to Pakistan by Afghan radicals, trade problems and a host of other issues. Moreover, the growing insurgency in the provinces bordering Pakistan and Afghanistan costs Pakistan in both manpower and financial expenditures. Pakistan and Afghanistan relations are tense, partially because Pakistan believes Afghanistan and India actively work against Islamabad.  Pakistan points to the Afghanistan vote against its accession to the United Nations – the only country not to support its inclusion – as evidence of anti-Pakistan sentiment.

Afghanistan and the United States claim Pakistan has supported the Taliban and fueled the Afghan insurgency because it believes the Taliban represents stability.  Currently,Pakistan provides refuge to more than three million Pashtuns who fled Afghanistan after Russian invasion. If Pakistan continues to see itself outside the process in Afghanistan, it will have to defend its own interests in the region.  This could include political and material support for those groups Pakistan believes are friendly and provide stability.  If Pakistan returns the three million Pashtun refuges to a fragile Afghanistan, for example, it could tip momentum toward the return of a Taliban government, undercutting US objectives in the country. If Pakistan sees a political vacuum in Afghanistan after NATO forces withdraw, it will be forced to fill that void to keep other regional powers from gaining power in Afghanistan and avoid further problems on its borders.

Very simply, an Afghanistan without the participation of Pakistan will remain fragile. Currently,Pakistan is a buffer state between terrorism and the rest of the world. If it does not have a say in the future Kabul dispensation, it will be pushed to wall and will not be able to stop the terror from reaching the shores of Europe, USA and other developed states. If India starts meddling in Afghanistan in the hope to control the future Afghan government, it will have to pay a very heavy price. India is supporting only the Northern Alliance, an ethnic minority in Afghanistan and is hated by the Pashtun majority. Its role, whatsoever, in otherwise distant Afghanistan in the hope to encircle Pakistan and  keep China away from the region, will not be acceptable to the Pashtun majority. Any power brokering by India will keep Afghanistan, and the entire region, destabilized and will leave the world at the mercy of extremists and terrorists.

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