One major question that boggles many minds is why, despite the material and political sacrifice and socio-political suffering, does Pakistani role in Afghanistan continue to draw negative publicity? Why do our relations with Kabul fail to normalise? This perhaps, makes a peep back into history imperative. The Communists from the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December of 1979. They were invited by Hafizullah Amin, the then prime minister of Afghanistan, for the purpose of helping their common-ideology friends who were witnessing a civil war at that time. Although Amin was shot dead and replaced by Soviet-supported Babrak Karmal, the then Afghan ambassador to Moscow, the reality of this war is still obscured by distorted facts on the evolution of this conflict.
Many people may not know and what still remains a murder of history is the fact that the ’79 war was surprisingly initiated by the US government through an initial secret aid fund signed by Jimmy Carter on July 3, 1979. This fact was accepted by Zbigniew Brzezinski, the then US National Security Advisor, in an interview saying, “We didn’t push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would (by funding the anti-Soviet forces). The day the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter: We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam War… “ Unfortunately, Pakistan sided against the USSR and, thus, the seeds for a never ending spiral of violence were sown that are still haunting the Af-Pak region. Furthermore, the anti-Pakistan sentiment started to develop on the other side of the border. This is where the relationship started to wither and things started getting out of hands.
The Afghan endgame is visible within striking distance. The situation is resting upon a proper roadmap from all the stakeholders. It seems like the coalition forces want to leave with their heads high, but the greater interest of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation(SCO) bloc in the region would make it hard to carry on the proceedings as planned. Pakistan and Afghanistan need to realise the fact that further reliance on the US would prove nothing but detrimental for both the neighbours. With all the development activities coming to a halt soon after the NATO exit, it will all be left upon Afghanistan and its neighbouring friends, most importantly Pakistan, to play their part in this process. Further, succumbing to US pressure will not only worsen the Af-Pak relationship, it will also prevent the resolving of impeding issues haunting both sides of the border and faced by none other than the common man.
The policy makers in Kabul need to realise that allies and friends can change, neighbours cannot. Whatever happens, Pakistan will remain a neighbour; one that hosts more than three million of your nationals and deserves special consideration in the policies being made. Such a neighbour should not be defamed in the world media on wishes of the allies to hide explicit failures. Kabul also has to make sure that its neighbour’s territorial integrity is not violated through uncalled for attacks from its side by the NATO forces as such surgical strikes have never helped in the past and have lead to severing of ties between both the states. —The author is content editor at Center for Research & Security Studies, Islamabad.