Question of Pak-Afghan Stability

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     By Sajjad Shaukat Pak VT

Pakistan shares common geographical, historical, religious and cultural bonds with Afghanistan. There is a co-relationship of stability in both the countries.

After the end of the Cold War, America left both Pakistan and Afghanistan to face the fallout of the Afghan war 1.

As a consequence, civil war and instability in Afghanistan had implications on Pakistan which faced numerous problems such as Afghan refugees, drug traders, supply of weapons, drone attacks, terrorists’ attacks, sectarianism, Kalashnikov culture etc.

Taking cognizance of these negative factors, Islamabad is making strenuous efforts for peace and stability in Afghanistan.

In this regard, during his recent visit to Kabul, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan had in-depth discussions with Afghan leadership, especially President Ashraf Ghani.

Premier Imran Khan focused on deepening of bilateral ties and intra-Afghan peace process. He assured the Afghan government of Pakistan’s unflinching cooperation to end violence in Afghanistan, leading to a ceasefire. He elaborated that Pakistan was most concerned about the situation due to the fallout in its own tribal areas by adding that peace and connectivity was the best way to ensure prosperity of both the countries including the entire region.

Both PM Khan and President Ghani agreed to accelerate their joint efforts to reduce recent spate of terrorist incidents in Afghanistan through close coordination.

Pakistan’s contribution to conflict prevention in the region and support for Afghan peace process has been appreciated by the US Charge d’ Affaires to Pakistan, Ms Angela Aggeler during her call on Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

Since the US Special Representative for Afghan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad started his efforts to convince the Taliban to have direct talks with the US, he admitted that Pakistan has been playing a major role, as Islamabad succeeded in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating Table. He also acknowledged Pakistan’s key role which resulted into the US and the Taliban agreement in Doha-the capital of Qatar on February 29, this year.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had, particularly, thanked Pakistan for efforts in helping reach the historical agreement.

In the agreement, it is committed that within the first 135 days, the US will reduce its forces in Afghanistan to 8,600 from the current 13,000, working with its other NATO allies to proportionally reduce the number of coalition forces over that period, while America would withdraw all forces from Afghanistan in 14 months.

But, on a tweet, the US President Donald Trump surprisingly announced on October 7 that all US troops in Afghanistan could be home by Christmas.

American analysts warned that President Trump’s plan would weaken Kabul’s position in the intra-Afghan talks and would further strengthen the Taliban.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg reiterated on November 17 by stating: “The price for leaving too soon could be very high…Afghanistan risks becoming once again a platform for international terrorists…We went into Afghanistan together…when the time is right, we should leave together in a coordinated way.”

However, dialogue had started between Afghan government and the Taliban on September 12, this year in Doha, but faltered over disagreements about the agenda-the basic framework of discussions.

Meanwhile, Zalmay Khalilzad had remarked that the Taliban would not accept a permanent truce until a political deal was reached with the Afghan government.

Notably, several sources told AFP on November 20 that the Afghan government and the Taliban have resolved key sticking points which had stalled peace negotiations. And they are close to an announcement and initiation of formal talks.

While, outgoing President Trump was in favour of complete withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, but, now the Pentagon has announced it would keep some troops in that country. There is re-thinking in Washington on the issue of total withdrawal as per commitments, made at Doha, which could lead to widening of the trust deficit.

Americans have elected Joe Biden as the new President. Definitely, it is before time to say what will be the President-elect Biden’s strategy. But, considering rapidly increase in the cost of the US prolonged war in Afghanistan and in consultation with other NATO countries, US could withdrawal troops from that country. Despite it, NATO could adjust the presence of small contingency of forces there.

It is notable that Afghanistan’s former Chief Executive and Chairperson of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation Dr. Abdullah Abdullah visited Pakistan on September 28, 2020. In the joint conference, with Foreign Minister Qureshi, Abdullah Abdullah said that Afghanistan would never “allow its soil to be used by extremist forces, posing a threat to any other nation” and favoured the start of intra-Afghan talks.

Nevertheless, this statement was Abdullah’s double game. For example, ignoring the fact that India is destabilising Afghanistan and Pakistan, during his trip to New Delhi, he stated on October 10 that in the meeting with PM Modi, he discussed Kabul’s talks with Taliban and emphasised India’s role in the process.

Similarly, on Indian secret direction, in the recent past, President Ghani accused Pakistan for terror attacks in Afghanistan.

In fact, New Delhi and Afghan rulers are creating obstacles in the Afghan reconciliation plan by manipulating America’s dual policy against Pakistan, China, Russia and Iran.

In this context, the then NATO commander, Gen. McChrystal had pointed out: “Indian political and economic influence is increasing in Afghanistan…is likely to exacerbate regional tensions.”

Besides, the US-Taliban peace deal is likely to render Indian proxy support against Pakistan ineffective. It will suit Indian designs, if Afghanistan does not move towards peace and keeps simmering.

Reliable sources as mentioned in Pakistan’s media on August 18, 2020 disclosed that Afghanistan-based Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has merged with its splinter groups Jamat-ul-Ahrar and Hizb-ul-Ahrar in Afghanistan. Their sole objective is to restart terrorist activity in Pakistan, while simultaneously sabotaging efforts to restore peace and stability in Afghanistan.

According to the UN report of July 26, 2020, “The banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and its splinter group Jamaat-ul-Ahrar continue to target Pakistan from their bases in Afghanistan”.

Addressing a recent press conference with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Director General of Inter-Services Public Relations Major-Gen. Babar Iftikhar unveiled a dossier containing “irrefutable evidence” of India’s sponsorship of terrorism in Pakistan.

Noting the drastic circumstances, Prime Minister Khan and Foreign minister Quereshi have repeatedly stated that regional spoilers could use instability in the worn-torn country for their own vested interests—only Afghan-led reconciliation process, which recognises Afghanistan’s political realities and diversity, could produce a lasting peace.

Nonetheless, Pakistan cannot afford instability in Afghanistan, because Pak-Afghan stability is interrelated.

Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations

Email: [email protected]

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