There are fresh reports of heightened violence and insecurity in Afghanistan. Kabul regime supported by NATO is unable to exercise power and control its territory. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is making the second tour to Afghanistan within two months. Imran Khan, the newly elected PM of Pakistan, primarily worried about fixing governance at home is distracted over the situation in Afghanistan. On 30 August 2018, the PM spent eight hours, with Pak Army and ISI chief in GHQ Rawalpindi discussing how to handle difficult neighbourhood of Pakistan.
Afghanistan’s location at the crossroads of the Middle East, Central Asia, and South Asia for centuries has made a friendly neighbourhood elusive. Although religious, ethnic, economic, and cultural ties between Afghanistan and Pakistan run deep and wide, the two countries have frequently been at odds with one another. During the Cold War, Afghanistan became a battleground in the global conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States, with Pakistan as a key ally to the U.S.
It is true that Pakistan fears an Afghan government patronized by India, potentially helping encircle Pakistan, and an unstable Afghanistan that becomes—as has already happened—a safe haven for anti-Pakistan militant groups and a dangerous playground for outside powers. Whether the recent warming of relations between the two countries, following a change in government in Pakistan in August 2018 when Imran Khan becomes prime minister, translates into lasting and substantial changes in Afghanistan’s policy remains is yet to be seen.
If Afghanistan continues to harbours‘ groups’ that infiltrate Pakistan on behest of India, then even the newly elected most confident PM of Pakistan would be struck up in internal security and not be able to extend help to the US or even to Afghanistan.
A section of people in Afghanistan blames Pakistan for Afghan misfortunes. However, most people do understand that Pakistan cannot undermine own security by endangering next door neighbour Afghanistan. Pakistan has been making efforts to facilitate a dialogue based solution for complex Afghan problem. Pakistan on the other hand keeps expressing its sincerity and one way of this expression is facilitating dialogues between various factions, tribes and countries to resolve Afghan issue. However, there are limits to Pakistani influence over the Afghan Taliban and their splinter groups.
Pakistan has itself suffered enormously because of recent Afghan quagmire. With over 60,000 losses to life and of over 118$ Billion to the economy, the country stands behind only Afghanistan in sufferings. Pakistan has always offered and executed its sincere offer of help to Afghanistan on multiple fronts in an unparalleled way. However, the insurgency in Afghanistan is forceful and real and not in control of any neighbouring country.
The blame game of involving each other ’s internal affairs is on the turf again. Afghanistan is accusing unobstructed flow of militants infiltrating from the Pakistani side of the border to Afghanistan. Afghanistan has no regard of Pakistan ’s troops deployment along the border to prevent any infiltration across and its successful operations in Swat, South Waziristan and elsewhere. Without giving recognition to Pakistan’s substantive effort against the militants, Afghanistan’s rhetoric ‘to do more’ is spoiling the trust and confidence. Afghanistan has also failed to satisfy Pakistan on its counter accusations that many Indian consulates in Afghanistan appear to be indulging in undesirable activities against Pakistan. Compared to Pakistani efforts, the Afghan efforts including NATO troops are not only negligible but extremely limited.
The most important aspect is to avoid blame game and look to the positives. Pak Afghan relations have witnessed numerous ups and downs. Recently Pakistanis as well as the Afghan analysts have declared the political developments in Pakistan as positive. Let us hope, the charismatic PM of Pakistan, Imran Khan is able to bring peace in the region. However, Mike Pompeo should also realize the limits of Pakistan influence over the Afghan Taliban and should not ask for the moon. Neither Taliban nor the US can win Afghanistan militarily; the earlier it is realized the better.
*Atta Rasool Malik hails from semi-tribal areas of Pakistan. He is a veteran and holds an M Phil degree in international relations’ from National Defence University in Islamabad. His interests include politics of South Asia, the Middle East and Islamic & Jewish theology.