Thought provoking: Pakistan’s continuing challenge: Afghan Gordian knot ! | By Gen Tariq Khan

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Thought provoking: Pakistan’s continuing challenge: Afghan Gordian knot !


US and India may attempt disrupting CPEC: CPEC’s implication is connectivity between 2/3rds of the world through the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) from Africa to Europe.

China has already cobbled together a consortium of nations in a Trans-Pacific Partnership (RECP) with total value of 29% of the global GDP.

In the meanwhile, the United States having been ousted from Afghanistan and is no longer relevant in the region and is trying hard to find a way to reestablish its presence.

India is now United States’ new strategic partner. Both countries had a stake in Afghanistan, the United States could challenge Chinese regional dominance and India could prosecute war from Afghan soil against Pakistani Baluchistan.

Strategic objectives for both countries coincided by containing China by disrupting CPEC through destabilizing Pakistan.

Thus with one global super-power upset and another regional aspirant disappointed in the outcome of the Afghan civil war, both are likely to resort to other disruptive activities which would focus on CPEC’s weakest link i.e. Pakistan.

Pakistan has now been put into a highly vulnerable position and could be subjected to, amongst many other things, violence through militancy and terrorism, global isolation, structural breakdown, social polarization, political destabilization and financial blackmailing into compliance. Pakistan thus needs to take preventive measures and take appropriate safeguards.

US expected Pakistani bases: Looking ahead, the US on the eve of its departure requested for bases from countries within the region, so they can continue to operate against the Taliban if and when they, the Taliban, get out of hand.

Pakistan was a natural choice for such bases but apparently, to the United States’ surprise and disappointment, Pakistan refused to consider extending any such facility.

Furthermore, The United States, offended by the Taliban military advances threatened to slow down their withdrawal but did not state the purpose of such a slowdown: implying that they might contain the Taliban progress in the wake of an ANA rout.

The implied sense of any slowdown in the US withdrawal envisaged, does not seem to be based on reason or logic.

After all, no one asked the US to withdraw in the first place it was their decision to do so having concluded that this was a never-ending war that was not winnable.

In their haste to withdraw they abandoned their allies: the sitting government of Afghanistan as well as let down their strategic partners, the Indians.

In their eagerness to negotiate some sort of settlement with the Taliban that a safe passage be arranged for them to exit Afghanistan, even untrustworthy Pakistan was pressed into service to convince the Taliban to talk to the US.

Finally, having secured a ceasefire between themselves and the Taliban but pointedly not the Afghan Government and the Taliban, the United States decided to withdraw – leaving Afghanistan to its own devices.

To now believe that they may slow down the withdrawal when their remaining forces amount to only 2500 personnel makes little sense with the limited capacity that they project, just as the recent threat to not recognize the Taliban Government if they entered Kabul forcibly sounds so hollow.

It’s a weak response, a laughable and childish one at that too, where one’s response is reduced to telling one’s enemy that one will not recognise the ground they had won, even though the enemy had taken it by use of force and was now in occupation of it !!!

US may not recognise Taliban Govt: Not recognising the Taliban Government by the US is not a new act and was a policy in vogue even during the Taliban’s last stint in power.

That of course did not stop Madeline Albright making an official State visit to the Afghans during the Taliban rule or for UNOCAL to fly Taliban leaders to Texas in 1997 in an attempt in setting up oil pipeline deals.

Ronald Reagan invited the Afghan Militants to the Whitehouse in 1983 and compared them to the founders of America – so the threat in not recognizing the Afghan Government may be taken with a pinch of salt.

The Taliban Government, for some time to come, will have very little needs and will remain in a position to provide the basic necessities to sustain life; then there is the poppy crop, anything plus of $70 Billion spread over an international market with powerful stakeholders.

Afghan minerals and Rare Earth reserves surveyed to be 60 million tons of copper, 2.2 billion tons of iron ore and 1.4 million tons of rare earth elements, remain a potential for which there is likely to be an international scramble – recognition or no recognition.

China has already signed a $3 billion mining right agreement with the Taliban as early as in 2016 and is now poised to do more. Anyone who wilfully wishes to stay away from this potential will be a loser.

However, at this time, Afghanistan, for a while, would more likely look inwards rather than towards the globe; in search of peace and stability and may focus on establishing some sort of governance means and methods.

Pakistan needs to conduct itself cautiously: Having taken stock of the situation as it stands today, Pakistan has to be very careful how it conducts itself.

It’s very well to play to the galleries and announce how the United States was humiliated by a strong refusal by Pakistan to extend any base facilities, and though the decision was not at fault in any way but the way Pakistan handled it was not only in bad taste but lacked grace. It showed us as a childish, unsophisticated nation hooting in the wind.

The refusal could have been proffered in a dignified manner as well. Furthermore, to compare such a refusal with Pervez Musharaf’s cooperation with the international coalition was uncalled for and based on ignorance.

The obtaining environment at the time were totally different and the decision was an outcome of the UN Resolution 1377 which was signed unanimously and became a National Law by virtue of international practices.

The alternative was to fight against the Coalition on behalf of the Taliban. The fact that the Pakistan Army was the only Army in the world, participating in this conflict, that did not have a single man under US Command and that it operated in its own area speaks volumes for the administration then.

They managed to preserve Pakistan’s independent stand on not venturing into Afghanistan or Iraq or functioning under US Command.

The war in FATA which is now being criticized by so many, was an outcome of a proposal that Pakistan Government had made to all foreign fighters (residue of the Afghan-Soviet War) to disarm and register for citizenship or then be prepared to return to their own countries. They refused and said they wished to exercise the right to conduct Jihad from Pakistan.

This obviously led to a conflict in which the Government’s only objective was to establish its writ.— To be continued.

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