By Asad Ali
With the withdrawal of US and NATO forces from Afghanistan in 2021, the security situation in Afghanistan has become even more uncertain. Pakistan, like other neighboring countries, has concerns about the potential for instability and the spillover of violence into its territory. It has sought to engage with the new Afghan leadership under Taliban regime to protect its interests and promote stability.
Pakistan-Afghanistan ties after 9/11 have been marked by a complex interplay of cooperation and suspicion. While Pakistan initially cooperated with US in the war on terror, accusations of supporting militant groups and concerns over cross-border activities have strained relations. Pakistan continues to seek a stable and friendly Afghanistan for its own security interests and has been involved in peace efforts, but the evolving situation on the ground makes the future of these ties uncertain.
The withdrawal of US and NATO forces from Afghanistan in August 2021 did create a security vacuum in the country. This withdrawal marked the end of nearly two decades of military involvement in Afghanistan, following US-led invasion in response to the 9/11 attacks in 2001.
Following the withdrawal, the Taliban quickly seized control of large parts of the country. Their advances were facilitated by the absence of US air support and the demoralization of Afghan security forces. The Afghan government, which had been heavily dependent on US military and financial support, struggled to maintain control without these resources. It ultimately collapsed, with President Ashraf Ghani fleeing the country. The withdrawal created uncertainty and instability in Afghanistan, leading to a humanitarian crisis and displacement of thousands of people. It also raised concerns about the country becoming a safe haven for terrorist groups.
Likewise, the withdrawal had broader regional implications, with neighboring countries like Pakistan, Iran, and Russia closely monitoring the situation. If not tackled properly, the situation in Afghanistan could potentially lead to increased regional competition and involvement. The aftermath of US withdrawal also created various challenges for entire regional security situation. Pakistan is one of the countries, facing serious security challenges. Pakistan faced a range of security concerns in the aftermath of US withdrawal from Afghanistan. These concerns were primarily related to the evolving security dynamics in Afghanistan and the potential spillover effects on Pakistan. Pakistan shares a long and porous border with Afghanistan, which has historically been difficult to manage. The withdrawal of US and NATO forces from Afghanistan increased the risk of instability spilling over into Pakistan. This included concerns about cross-border attacks, the movement of militants, and the flow of refugees.
Pakistan has faced its own challenges with militant groups operating within its borders. The withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan raised concerns that militant groups, including the Taliban and other extremist organizations, could find safe havens in Afghanistan and use it as a base for launching attacks in Pakistan. The deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan led to a significant influx of Afghan refugees into Pakistan. Managing this refugee population placed a burden on Pakistan’s resources and infrastructure, and there were concerns about the potential for radicalization among refugee populations.
Pakistan has longstanding historical ties with Afghanistan and has been involved in Afghan affairs for many years. The evolving situation in Afghanistan also had geopolitical implications for Pakistan’s relationships with other countries, including US, China and Russia.
To address these concerns, Pakistan has taken various measures, including enhancing border security, engaging diplomatically with the Afghan government and Taliban, and working with regional and international partners to promote stability in Afghanistan. Pakistan has a vested interest in a stable Afghanistan because instability there can have direct repercussions on Pakistan’s security and economic well-being. The security situation in the region remains complex and subject to change, and Pakistan continues to navigate these challenges while balancing its interests and relationships with various stakeholders.
Pakistan itself has expressed its commitment to a peaceful and stable Afghanistan and has been engaged in efforts to support a political settlement to the Afghan conflict. However, the situation remains complex, and the dynamics in Afghanistan are influenced by multiple factors, including the actions and policies of various regional and international actors.