Afghanistan in limbo

Gulshan Rafiq
WHILE summing up the ‘Principles of Political Realism’ in ‘Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace’, Hans J. Morgenthau believes that politics, like society in general, is governed by objective laws that have their roots in human nature. It gives a good narration of how states think rationally, act rationally and pursue their national interests and attempt to maximize their power. One can infer that Realism plays a very dominant role in formulating states’ foreign policies as every state tries not only to ensure its security and national interests but at the same time enhances it at the cost of other states. In this context, not only the US, but other states such as India, Iran, and Russia have also competed for carving out their respective spheres of influence in Afghanistan.
Unfortunately, the competition among major stakeholder of international politics in Afghanistan resulted in lingering chaos and instability. Not only Afghanistan is affected but also the states, having direct bearing in Afghanistan’s security quagmire, are in security limbo now. For instance, Pakistan as a frontline ally of the US against Global War on Terror (GWOT) is one of those states. From a geo-political standpoint, Afghanistan’s location at the crossroads of the South and Central Asia has always been critical. Since its creation in 1947, Pakistan has inherited a unique and difficult security situation. Its hostile relationship with India, much more powerful, when combined with an unfriendly Afghanistan, increases Pakistani insecurity as India is in advantageous position in the prevalent regional strategic environment.
Moreover, the Afghanistan crisis is not based on ethnic lines only. It is rather shaped and determined by ideological and trans-national factors. The regions of South and Central Asia will not see stability unless there is a new global compact among the leading players. Furthermore, the President Trump administration is mulling over troops surge, ranging from 4, 000 soldiers to break the stalemate in Afghanistan. President Trump called this approach “principled realism” and portrayed it as in keeping with the “America First” approach of his administration. But what the US is trying to achieve in Afghanistan and why is it important that it stays longer, after 16 years already? The answers to the questions are not obvious as the fight against terrorism does not seem a satisfying answer now. According to the Foreign Policy magazine, one of the reasons that draw Trump into this land-locked country is ‘abundant natural resources’.
Nevertheless, For Pakistan, American options for South Asia are never satisfying. There is no good news for Pakistan in America’s new Afghan policy too. While referring to the most anticipated ‘New South Asia Policy’ under Trump administration, Trump in a Tweet said that he spent an important day at Camp David with his very talented Generals and military leaders, and many decisions were made, including on Afghanistan. This is obviously another wrong turn because this time America’s failure in Afghanistan is going to be worse than Vietnam. What should be done is the need to rebuild a regional consensus for a stable Afghanistan by revitalising an international contact group to align all relevant outside powers. China, Russia, Iran and Pakistan should be considered as solution to the stalemated Afghan imbroglio rather than regional strategic revellers. The US, the European Union, NATO, the UN and other major regional powers to help this region resolve its problems, which range from settling Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan to funding massive development programmes in Afghanistan and Pakistan, particularly border areas.
Pakistan also needs to review its long-term strategic policy; it must take into account the dynamic changes in the global and regional environment. Pakistan should also develop a link between its Afghan policy and the prevalent situation against the regional and global level. Given the course of analysis and the likely political disposition in Afghanistan, as well as its potential effects on Pakistan, the formulation of any Pakistan-Afghanistan policy should arise out of the strategies of bilateral cooperation and reassurances. A policy of constructive bilateral engagement is recommended. Though solution is a difficult objective, especially for a part of the world that suffers almost forty years of war and systematic devastation, but the people should understand that unless their nations move toward greater democracy, the current chaos and violence will overwhelm them. This chaos will be not contained in the borders of Afghanistan.
—The writer is a Researcher at Islamabad Policy Research Institute, a think tank based in Islamabad.
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