Does Pakistan have an Afghanistan strategy?

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  • Will pressurising Pakistan work?

According to a local newspaper report “A senior US general has assured Islamabad that the United States is not planning to conduct military operations inside Pakistan.” (Feb3, 2018) This followed soon after Trump gave authority to his commanders allowing them to take action against terrorists both in Pakistan and Afghanistan. (Feb1, 2018)

US has developed a policy that it wants Pakistan to follow at the expense of Pakistan’s peril. Laurel Miller writes in a brilliant piece titled The US and Pakistan: Best Frenemies Forever? “The United States is once again ratcheting up the pressure on Pakistan to fall in line with US policy in Afghanistan by ending the Afghan Taliban’s enjoyment of safe haven. Unsurprisingly, Pakistan is once again pushing back. Amid the mistrust, mutual recrimination, and stale narratives that have increasingly characterised the US-Pakistan relationship in recent years, there is one Pakistani talking point I have heard routinely from officials that should be taken at face value: Pakistan does not intend to fight the Afghan war on Pakistani soil. Although the reality of the situation is dissatisfying, the United States needs a strategy in Afghanistan and policy toward Pakistan based on the best Pakistani behaviour it can have, not the Pakistani behaviour it wants to have.” (January 15, 2018)

Truer words were never spoken. Pressurising Pakistan to fight US war on her soil, leading to a weakened Taliban and strengthening US and NATO forces is a hope that will not be materialised.

Focusing less on an inclusive dialogue with stakeholders to resolve the conflict and totally on Pakistan bashing to the exclusion of everything else is a no-win situation for everyone

Pakistan is fighting Taliban and other terror outfits inside its territory. However it becomes an unsustainable position to open every front with every outfit simultaneously. This will only lead to more bloodshed and more terrorism. One positive step Pakistan has taken to ensure spillover of terrorist outfit members on either side is wiring the porous border between Pakistan and Afghanistan that is to be manned and mined. If supported by both sides it will be a greater success than if done by Pakistan alone. It is steps like these that will lead to a solution to terrorism on both soils.

The excuse Afghanistan takes to oppose this is on grounds it will create an issue for families on both sides. Afghanistan needs to correct her priorities. Curtailing terrorism must be Priority Number One. Is the ground taken by Afghanistan the actual reason or now; as Afghanistan is used as strategic depth by India, the new ally of US; Afghanistan is opposing the step?

One cannot but be reminded here of the article by Praveen Swami in Frontline magazine titled India’s Secret War in which the writer states, “Early in January, Jadhav appeared on Pakistani television, insisting he was still “a commissioned officer of the Indian navy” — a statement that contradicts the government of India’s statements and directly implicates it in his activities. Precisely who Jadhav was and why he ended up where he did remain profoundly opaque. Basic questions remain unanswered; official documents are sealed. But interviews with over 10 diplomats and intelligence and naval officials from three countries make it clear that the governments of both India and Pakistan have been economical with the truth. The implications of these questions go far beyond Jadhav’s fate, for behind the case lies a secret war that may claim hundreds, even thousands, of lives.” (Feb 2, 2018) The article since it came out has gone viral being discussed by every political analyst.

The objectives of US, Afghanistan and various stakeholders in Afghanistan are different and often in conflict. Bulldosing by US will not deliver. In an interesting piece by Paolo Cotta Ramusino (contents of which were presented at Herat Security Dialogue-VI (13-14 October 2017). He writes, “While the government of Afghanistan wants, in principle, to talk with the Taliban, still the message transmitted has been basically an invitation to “surrender”. The High Peace Council is, in reality, not doing much in terms of promoting dialogue with the Taliban. The Taliban, on their side, were removed from power by the US, and basically want a reassurance from the US that this will not happen again. So, what the Taliban really want is to talk with the US, as well as receive guarantees about the removal of foreign troops. This incidentally raises another issue that can be summarised as follows: the Taliban were removed from power 16 years ago and want to come back, even if in a power-sharing mode. But is it logical to expect that 20-year-old militants who are fighting on the ground want to bring back to power people who were removed 16 years ago? If this is the case, then ideological-political-religious cohesiveness must play a special role, one that would somehow overshadow the aforementioned economic benefits. The whole issue certainly needs to be further understood.”

It is also a fact that there are divisions and differences between groups within Taliban and other militant outfits. These make meaningful progress towards peace difficult. The stronger hold of Taliban in Afghanistan places them in a stronger position to negotiate with Kabul. Kabul unfortunately, being economically dependent on US, is not independent to make her own decisions.

Focusing less on an inclusive dialogue with stakeholders to resolve the conflict and totally on Pakistan bashing to the exclusion of everything else is a no-win situation for everyone. Intelligence sharing by both Afghanistan and Pakistan, making the wired boundary a success thereby restricting movement across border, is mandatory for starters.

Laurel Miller is spot on when the writer states, “The United States insists that Pakistani cooperation is essential; if that’s true, then the policy imperative must be to elicit more, not less, cooperation. But the more punitive the American approach to Pakistan, and the more humiliating (from a Pakistani perspective) the rhetoric of demands, the less cooperation is likely. Pakistan would undoubtedly prefer to maintain already dwindling US civilian and security assistance, but it isn’t dependent upon it, and Pakistan’s so-called “all-weather friendship” with China could help it ride out a storm blowing from Washington.”

The question is: does Pakistan have a clear cut strategy for Afghanistan?

2 COMMENTS

  1. First, US & Pakistan are not allies because is a terrible allie who has sympathy for all enemies of Pakistan in fact is has an alliance with them. Pakistan should stay out of Afghan conflict. Deport their refugees because we have already sheltered them for 32 years and received nothing but terror, blames & deceit. Secure the border & take down TTP in Afghanistan unilaterally. Last step can be taking down the US drone.

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