Afghanistan: A way forward | By Dr Muhammad Khan


Afghanistan: A way forward

THE visiting United States Deputy Secretary of State, Wendy Sherman had held in-depth talks with Pakistani leadership. Her visit at this critical stage was aimed to persuade Pakistan to come closer to US.

There is a willingness on both sides to continue cooperating with each other in all bilateral matters between both countries. Nevertheless, Afghanistan remains the key point of discussion during the meeting.

Indeed, U.S desires Pakistan to play a key role towards Afghan peace while protecting US interests. Pakistan is ready to facilitate Taliban led Afghan Government for a broad based setup including all minorities and women.

However, there is reluctance from Taliban for any external interference. Meanwhile, there have been negotiations between US special representative and Taliban administration at Doha, Qatar.

Indeed, there is a contradiction in US foreign policy towards two South Asian countries; India and Pakistan. Whereas, US desire to use Pakistan for protecting its interests in Afghanistan and all around South and Central Asian regions while it is developing long-term strategic relationship with India.

This is clear from the statement of US State Department spokesperson Ned Price, who said, “Deputy Secretary Sherman emphasised the importance of a coordinated approach to Afghanistan and other issues vital to regional stability.”

Even Sherman hinted at Mumbai prior to visiting Islamabad that, United States is not viewing a long-term and “broad-based relationship” with Pakistan. It is only focusing on “specific and narrow purpose”- the Afghanistan.

All US wants Pakistan to stabilize Afghanistan on its terms and conditions while keeping China and Russia away from Afghanistan. Such a dictate may not be acceptable to Pakistan since U.S is responsible for creating a mess in Afghanistan and its fall-out on Pakistan in last two decades.

Now after losing its position, U.S desires to remain relevant in Afghanistan through Pakistan and further create instability in the region.

In a way, the bilateralism between Pakistan and US is linked to Afghanistan; “this particular trip was to really consult deeply on how we see the changing circumstances, given the change that has taken place in Afghanistan.”

In the meeting between US delegation and Taliban leadership, US was told not destabilize the Taliban Government. “We clearly told them that trying to destabilise the government in Afghanistan is good for no one.

There was no worthwhile promise from US team except vaccination offer against Covid-19. This is a US strategy to re-engage with Afghan masses. There are reports that, US also offered Taliban for a support against the Daesh (IS-K).

Both these offers have many covert objectives, since Daesh is brain child of CIA and its transformation from Middle East to Afghanistan was done by US to counter Taliban on one hand and create militancy in all countries surrounding Afghanistan. There have been repeated acts of terrorism in Afghanistan killing over 100 people in last one month.

All these terrorist acts have been claimed by IS-K. This also indicates loopholes in the Taliban control of Afghanistan.

If Daesh can still operate and carryout terrorism in Mosques and public gatherings in Afghanistan then, it is a question mark on Taliban authority.

The re-engagement of United States with Taliban is a direct outcome to three key reasons. One, Taliban has been slow and wanting in the formulation of their Government, after US and NATO pull-out.

Two, the regional states like Russia and China have shown reluctance towards engaging with Taliban Government. Three, Taliban did not fulfil the promise of a broad-based and all inclusive government.

There are also reports that, there is fissure among the various factions of Taliban, which resulted into a chaos towards a united policy at home and abroad.

The emerging situation in Afghanistan, the response of regional states and US efforts for re-engagement with Taliban may have negative security impacts for the broad regions of South Asia and Central Asia.

IS-K is carrying out terrorist attacks at will, thus creating a security situation for the masses as well as the Taliban Government. The non-cooperation from regional states will push the country towards economic disastrous and political chaos.

The TTP attacks on Pakistani security forces are being viewed as they (TTP) have the blessings of Afghan Taliban Government.

There have been repeated attacks on Pakistani military posts in the former FATA areas, killing dozens so far. The way forward is; Taliban should ensure security within Afghanistan and stop usage of Afghan soil by TTP, Daesh or any other terrorist group.

Taliban must cooperate with regional state for their assistance in all respects; security, economy and diplomacy. In order to achieve this level of cooperation, Taliban must include all minorities and women in their Government without any discrimination.

The regional states must extend a helping hand to strengthen the Taliban government in all respects.

In the absence of these arrangements, there is likelihood that, the US and India may access Taliban through indirect strategies, leaving no space for regional states towards stabilisation of Afghanistan.

— The writer is Professor of Politics and IR at International Islamic University, Islamabad.

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