American withdrawal: Its geopolitical implications
AFTER a long and bloody innings in the war on terror and the American intervention in Afghanistan the US exit strategy has finally entered the final stage.
Joe Biden’s commitment to withdraw completely from Afghanistan by September 2021 looks like becoming a reality.
The great question being asked and debated today is regarding the aftermath of the US withdrawal and the geopolitical consequences on the region in general and on Pakistan in particular.
There are no two opinions about the fact that Pakistan will be affected in more than one way.
The USA will leave behind quite a political vacuum upon which some regional and international powers have set their eyes.
India, Iran, China and Russia will definitely have an interest and political ambitions in the post US Afghanistan and this situation will produce more confusion, instability and chaos.
American exit from Afghanistan will pose some serious and drastic security political and strategic problems for Pakistan.
American forces will withdraw from Afghanistan but the USA will not leave the region and it is very likely that once again the region will be embroiled in a bloody conflict in which the main combatants will be the US, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Al-Qaeda, Afghan Taliban and the TTP not forgetting the looming threat of the Islamic State or Daesh.
The USA set boots on the ground in Afghanistan in the hope of achieving their military objectives in the shortest possible time.
Today ironically two decades later American military and political objectives in Afghanistan are still far from being fulfilled and many governments.
Of the only super power in the world see their defeat in shame and dismay, bringing back bitter memories of the Vietnam War and America is now desperate to find a respectable way out of the Afghan quagmire.
Pakistan has been an important and integral part of the Afghan peace process and India is now on the losing end as in spite of her best efforts she has not been a stake holder in the peace process and the Afghan peace phenomenon will have some negative implications for Pakistan because of the inherent hostility between India and Pakistan.
If the USA withdraws from Afghanistan after managing a peaceful political settlement between the Afghan government and the Taliban, chances of which are rather remote, there is a possibility that peace might prevail in Afghanistan and in the region.
If the US walks away without succeeding in a rapprochement between the Taliban and the Afghan government the entire country will be engulfed by a deadly civil war and Pakistan will have to bear the brunt of this deadly scenario.
Afghan society will once again splinter into many groups and the age of the war lords will be the order of the day.
Afghan Taliban and other fanatics and criminal elements will join hands with Daesh and the TTP and once again pose some serious threats for Pakistan.
If the Afghan Taliban are able to capture power in Kabul which is very likely, it could be the beginning of another civil strife endangering the existence of Afghanistan and will naturally pose serious security threats and dangers for Pakistan.
Since the start of the conflict in Afghanistan Pakistan has been blamed for supporting the Taliban and has been portrayed as the sponsor of terrorism in the region because of support and backing for some Islamic organizations.
As the USA now faces humiliation in Afghanistan it will try to find a scapegoat to shift the blame for its own failure in Afghanistan.
Pakistan is the nearest neighbour of Afghanistan and has been involved in the Afghan war since 1979 it will be a suitable scapegoat to be held responsible for the disaster in Afghanistan especially after Pakistan’s refusal to provide bases for the American forces.
The Western countries led by the US could possibly impose diplomatic and economic sanctions on Pakistan which will definitely damage the country’s crumbling economy and tarnish its already bruised image in the world community.
Post US withdrawal Afghanistan is fraught with some serious threats and dangers for the region and for Pakistan.
Afghanistan under a radical Islamist group like the Taliban will be a cause for great concern and discomfort to all its neighbours.
Iran will not feel uncomfortable with an avowedly sectarian group with declared anti-Shia attitude. Russia will have worries about its soft underbelly in Central Asia.
China too will not be happy as it wants peace and stability for its belt and road initiative and the CPEC projects in Pakistan.
Pakistan already engaged in a low intensity conflict with a range of extremist and fundamentalist Islamic groups will be in a very precarious position.
Different Islamic extremist groups in Pakistan, Central Asia, Turkey and splinter groups of the Taliban will find a secure environment in Afghanistan created by the Taliban regime in power.
These rabidly fanatic groups have a long history of cooperation and hospitality of the Afghan Taliban. Such a scenario in the Pak-Afghan region will spell doom and gloom for Pakistan.
—The writer is Professor of History, based in Islamabad.