Pakistan between Afghanistan & US: Who wins what ?
TWENTY years back, the world’s politics and “politics of interest” constructed the diverse world views — relations, for a while, between the West and East — strengthened and ties between foes and friends revisited by the international strong actors.
Conflict of interests, despite cooperation, continued; the gulf of misperceptions widened, particularly between the United States (US) and Pakistan.
It was all because of the war (imposed) on Afghanistan after the tragic incident of 9/11 attacks in 2001.
NATO-ISAF and the US troops were deeply engaged in a landlocked country, though they trained the Afghan soldiers to fight against the Taliban but failed.
Afghanistan is known as the “graveyard of empires”; no empire, in the past, could conquer the Afghan soil and its people. Even the modern empire, the US, has failed.
The US policy-makers, led by the then Commander in Chief [President Bush Jr] took the decision to castigate the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks- who was living in Afghanistan -President Bush Jr. declared war against Usama Bin Laden (UBL), Al-Qaeda leader (who fought against the Soviet Union in 1980s) and the Taliban regime that protected UBL. The US, technologically advanced state, effectively eliminated the Taliban regime.
Nevertheless, the Taliban rule was ended by force but the Taliban’s’ core leadership survived and designed the future policy to fight with the foreign troops in Afghanistan- Taliban did not have the modern technology but knew the guerrilla tactics and clear objectives to fight against the super power which, according to them, had captured their soil.
Mainly, they had two strong and justified objectives, 1) to remove the foreign forces from Afghanistan, 2) to establish an Islamic state and system.
The world has observed that the Taliban were never exhausted and constantly fought with foreign forces — eventually achieved their goals.
Pakistan is a significant state in the region — for twenty years it played a pivotal role as a responsible state.
A smooth partnership and friendship nurtured between the US and Pakistan until 2011- both states were collaborating in eradicating the menace of terrorism — two incidents, Abbottabad raid, Salala check post attack, created trust deficit between the US and Pakistan leadership.
The US policy makers’ demands were also annoyed Pakistan — “do more” policy was the factor that, in fact, increased the gulf between the two old partners.
Empirically, Pakistan had already done a lot but its services were not acknowledged by the US military and political leadership.
On the other hand, Afghanistan’s soil was being used by the Indian infiltrators and India’s role was appreciated by the US Presidents — India continued its propaganda, against Pakistan and Taliban- and developed its strong strategic nexus with the US.
Both the US and India viewed Pakistan as a ‘spoiler state’ in Afghanistan and strong ally of the Taliban.
Those know the history of Afghanistan and its people they understand that how Afghan people defend their land — it is their tradition to fight with ‘enemy’ no matter who the enemy is.
Thus Taliban, the main stakeholder in Afghanistan, fought against foreign troops. It seems it was not a war against terrorism-but it was a war for terrorism. How many Afghans were killed? We may not know the exact numbers.
However, Pakistan lost 82,000 lives owing to its support to the US against the war in Afghanistan; unfortunately, Pakistan’s role has not been acknowledged by its close partner/s.
Divergence of interests aside, Pakistan has been active in bringing peace in Afghanistan. Permanent war and conflict like environment cannot bring peace, development and prosperity in the region or world.
Pakistan viewed Afghanistan conundrum as a great obstacle in economic development and regional connectivity. Whereas, the US and India have had different perspectives.
A turning point was seen in the US foreign policy vis-a-vis Taliban when President Trump strongly opposed the US presence in Afghanistan.
Trump said, “the US had wasted enormous amount of blood, treasure and lives. The war was nonsense, we should rebuild the USA”.
He took the initiative to talk with the Taliban and Pakistan, indeed, offered its office as a facilitator and the deal was signed between the Taliban and US.
The US’ complete military withdrawal on 31 August paved the way for the Taliban to establish their own government system- the re-emergence of the Taliban is a landmark victory in 21st century because it was a war between superpower and Afghan guerrilla Taliban.
Certainly, credit goes to the US policy-makers — both civil and military leaders — their inaccurate, political and military assessment changed the game in Afghanistan.
Like the Vietnam War, Afghan War also involved four presidents of the US-but unlike Vietnam War, Afghan War was more expensive and imperative, several regional and extra regional forces were investing their resources to secure their security and political purposes.
Both, Afghanistan and the US, have been the most dominant factors of world’s political discourse.
Though, the Taliban regime was toppled by force and the new regime, democratic, was replaced but internal; social, economic and political environments remained unresolved.
Taliban’s leadership, who escaped or survived, always denied the new political model [imposed] in their county and they kept fighting against the political governments — Hamid Karzai and Ashraf Ghani — and the foreign forces those were protecting them — Taliban were of the view that “ foreign forces captured their land” they would fight until they liberate their land from the [US] troops.
Taliban celebrated their victory when the last US soldier, Major General Donahue, left Kabul on 31 August 2021.
The fall of Kabul created chaos in Afghanistan.
Pakistan helped the international community and evacuated their stranded nationals and the US troops as well-hospitality and unconditional help of Pakistan has established Pakistan’s narrative that “Pakistan is a peace-maker country” but the world may not understand.
Last but not the least, Taliban have regained power and establish their rule. Pakistan has won its narrative of peace and humanity first. What has the US won or achieve?
—The writer is Assistant Professor at IIUI, Islamabad.