ISSN 2330-717X

Afghanistan To Replace Pakistan In US Foreign Policy – OpEd


Pakistan–United States relations refers to the bilateral relationship between Pakistan and the United States. On 20 October 1947, two months and six days after Pakistan’s independence, the United States established relations with Pakistan, making it amongst the first nations to establish relations with the new state. Pakistan allied itself with the U.S. during the Cold war era against the Soviet Union, and was an integral player in the CENTO and SEATO organizations. Relations quickly improved and deepened during Operation Cyclone in the 1980s, which was directed against Soviet expansion in Central Asia and South Asia, by funding more than $28 billion and other military equipment and assistance including 40 F-16 aircraft to Pakistan during 1983–87 to Pakistan.

Pakistan once again assumed an important role in American geopolitical interests in the region following the attacks of September 11th, 2001, and the subsequent War on Terror. Relations were strengthened as the United States named Pakistan a major non-NATO ally in 2002—which allowed for the release of over $33 billion of aid to Pakistan. American recovery efforts following the 2005 Kashmir earthquake were widely appreciated by the Pakistani public.

In the waning years of the Obama administration, the U.S. found that Pakistan was providing a safe haven to the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network, Al-Qaeda and harboring members of the Afghan Taliban and Quetta Shura, and as a result withheld aid.

On 14 September 2009, former President of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, admitted that American foreign aid to Pakistan had been diverted from its original purpose of fighting the Taliban to preparing for war against neighboring India. The United States government has responded by stating that it will take these allegations seriously. However Pervez Musharraf also said, ‘”Wherever there is a threat to Pakistan, we will use it [the equipment] there. If the threat comes from al-Qaeda or Taliban, it will be used there. If the threat comes from India, we will most surely use it there”. That means, Pakistan had been openly deceived the international community in particular the U.S by getting their money and equipment and using it against them and their allies and sponsoring terrorism, since they believe and have admitted that it’s in Pakistan’s best interest. Although, the United States was the second-largest supplier of military equipment to Pakistan after China, and was one of Pakistan’s largest donors of foreign assistance.

Finally, U.S. President Donald Trump started the new-year by hitting out against Pakistan and their support of terror. In his first tweet of 2018, Trump wrote:

“The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!”

And then ended with the following statement just before 2019 starts:

“And we give Pakistan USD 1.3 billion a year. … (Laden] lived in Pakistan, we’re supporting Pakistan, we’re giving them USD 1.3 billion a year — which we don’t give them anymore, by the way, I ended it because they don’t do anything for us, they don’t do a damn thing for us”.

On the other hand, after the US strategy for Afghanistan and south Asia, US high officials’ visits to Afghanistan in particular John J. Sullivan Deputy Secretary of State early 2018 made Afghanistan to be considered as a country that could soon be the major US ally in South and Central Asia. The US government and NATO countries are now satisfied with the series of reform benchmarks established by the Afghans – to implement reforms in the areas of security, governance, rule of law, economic development, and peace and reconciliation. In addition to shifting to a conditions-based approach instead of one predicated on arbitrary timelines, the South Asia strategy has marked a change from the status quo in U.S.-Pakistan relations.

The US held Pakistan accountable for its failure to deny sanctuary to militant proxies. Meanwhile, the Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process, as well as Zalmay Khalilzad’s appointment as the special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan has reaffirmed the US commitment to the necessary fight against terrorism to bring lasting peace, security, stability, and prosperity to Afghanistan.

After the reconciliation between Hezb-e-Islami of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and the Afghan government in 2017, and now the ongoing negotiation and reconciliation with the Afghan Taliban will indeed shape the future Afghan political structure that shall best fits in the US foreign policy for South and Central Asia. Looking at the US interest in the region the future Afghan political structure may be divided into two formations: Hekmatyar, Taliban and some other Mujahideen who already are in the government will form the Pakistani Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam F&J, Jamaat-e-Islami, Tehreek e Islami and Tehreek e Labbaik alike religious groups and/or parties, and the other and important one will be of the Afghan intelligentsias.

Many believe that U.S will not replace its first and major regional ally as old as 72 years. But after a year of being restrained to some extent by advisers who championed that global order, Mr. Trump has replaced many of aliened countries with more like-minded aides and is finally acting on his “America First” impulses in ways that has sent shock waves to countries like Pakistan.

Furthermore, Pakistan was the longtime ally of the US in a situation when the U.S did not have any strong physical presence in the region. While, now they have got the major political and militarily presence in Afghanistan. Secondly, Pakistan has never been loyal to the US and the rest of the world, so the U.S of course will spend the yearly billions of dollars and other military assistance and equipment in Afghanistan instead of giving it to a state that sponsors terrorism. Meanwhile, the Afghan government especially the current administration has proven that the U.S and world’s interest is in Afghanistan’s interest, and Afghanistan now has the capability to protect such interest.

The developing Moscow-Islamabad bonhomie isn’t uplifting news for Washington’s current Afghan strategy, as it obviously means changing Russian observations and priorities in South Asia. Pakistan and Russia are currently adjusting their way to deal with help Afghan Taliban. Pakistan indeed has begun to wind up an energy corridor between Iraq, Iran and countries of Middle East that give oil to China. It’s that where a pipeline could go, it can begin in Iraq go to Iran and after that up through Pakistan, cross the Himalayas above Kashmir and go to China, and Chines monetary impact coming into middle east and basically cutting out the Americans.

Furthermore, the tyrannies, violations of human rights, tortures and crimes against peace and humanity offended by the Pakistani establishment in Pashtun, Balochis, Sindhi’s and Kashmiri’s areas have paved the road towards a broken Pakistan; and the existing civil war exported to Afghanistan massively be exported back to Pakistan now. At the meantime, the Pashtun population on the other side of the Durand line have risen up in an independent movement, and the same thing with the people of Balochistan, with that Afghanistan is shaped and Pakistan is broken into three or two pieces, and that all will not take longer than five to seven years. Pakistan would not break up from external pressure, but more likely from internal tensions and that happens when its entire institutional apparatus splits along regional lines.

Although, many believe that the strength of the Pakistani military is such that no internal rebellion is likely to succeed. But, if the U.S cuts aids to Pakistan, its army will not even have half of the strength it has now, and will not be able to restrain the internal rebellion. Pakistan after in the Grey list is already in the black now.

Moreover, Afghanistan was the biggest market for Pakistani trade and products with $2.7 to $3 billion a year, which has slumped to only few millions now that has made the 50% of Pakistani factories to close their doors. Secondly, Afghanistan has over 1400 mineral fields, containing barite, chromite, coal, copper, gold, iron ore, lead, natural gas, petroleum, precious and semi-precious stones, salt, sulfur, talc, and zinc, among many other minerals. Gemstones include high-quality emerald, lapis lazuli, red garnet and ruby. According to a joint study by The Pentagon and the United States Geological Survey, Afghanistan has an estimated US$3 trillion of only untapped minerals.

Furthermore, Afghanistan has been at the heart of networks: a roundabout, a place of meetings, civilizations, religions, cultures and, of course, armies and traders and pilgrims. Centuries on, Afghanistan enjoys the same status as the principal connector of the North and South and the East and West.

One Western poet from the 19th century, James Elroy Flecker, summed up this view by describing the way eastwards as “The Golden Road.”
In addition to that, once again, the West have such an opinion of Afghanistan at this present time, for hundreds, indeed thousands of years until quite recently, the stereotypical Western idea that the East – and Afghanistan – was a land of great wealth was in fact perfectly true.

For centuries, Europe was in world terms, a neediness stricken and unimportant territory, whereas the East was the place that is known for wealth, high-esteem global exchange and scholarly accomplishment; and in these territories, Afghanistan can profess to have been and will be a leader of the East.

Thus, Afghanistan can thank its geographical position for its wealth. It sits at the heart of Central Asia, at the meeting point of ancient trade routes – known together as “The Silk Road” – that go out to all parts of Asia. Some lead east to China; some north to the great cities of Bokhara, Samarkand and Khiva, and then to the nomadic steppe; some south-east into India; and others east into Iran, which then lead to the Mediterranean Sea and Europe.

Goods wanting to pass between any of these places had to go through Afghanistan, and thus Afghan cities, strategically placed on these trade routes, are able to benefit massively as places of mercantile exchange. And now, Lapis Lazuli transit route is set to emerge as an economic corridor for an inclusive development by which Afghanistan could connect to Europe via Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey. The first track of Lapis Lazuli project was inaugurated by President of Afghanistan, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani in Herat, Afghanistan on December 13, 2018.

Last but not least, what is maybe less noticed is the strategic potential of Afghanistan’s water assets. Five noteworthy river basins – Kabul, Helmand and western flowing reivers, Hari Rod and Murghab, northern flowing rivers, and Amu Darya (Oxus river) – make up the surface water assets of Afghanistan, all of which it imparts to neighboring countries. Afghanistan is the upstream riparian to these river basins which flow into Pakistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Together, these river basins contribute a total of 57 BCM (billion cubic meters) of water, which will make Afghanistan to experience the leading economic role in the region.

*Najibullah Azad is an advocate, writer, columnist, critic, researcher, analyst and a former spokesman to the President of Afghanistan E-mail: [email protected], Facebook: Najibullah Azad – نجیب الله ازاد

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