By Fayaz Ali
Afghanistan has been invaded by number of different invaders. It is called the graveyard of the empires because no one was able to rule Afghanistan permanently. The people of Afghanistan are warriors. They came through the generations of fighters. That makes them rigid; unable to break and unable to be ruled by some foreign invaders. Now again the super power which fought a decade long war in Afghanistan has left. The withdrawal of U.S creates a defining moment for Afghanistan’s future. It is accompanied by tremendous uncertainty about the nature of overall disengagement, its repercussions on the ground as well as regional security. The country is at the verge of peace or chaos. The Taliban moving forward and capturing number of districts and making a mark is itself a point of chaos. As Afghanistan remains unstable, the peace in the region too is at question.
Afghan security paradigm is one of the most complex one, where a number of players are playing their game without defined lines and interests. The key problem with US leaving Afghanistan is that whether it would lead a lasting peace or end in a chaos? The worry remains that is USA repeating the historical mistake which it did in 1989 by leaving Afghanistan in a turmoil without making it stable after the USSR withdrawal from Afghanistan. Or it would bear fruit and bring Afghan government, Taliban and other factions to an agreed framework for peaceful Afghanistan. Within all the reconciliation efforts, role of some stake holders in general and especially of US remains unpredictable, however, the overarching fact is that peace in Afghanistan is of significance to all domestic, regional and global stakeholders.
Prolong history of wars in Afghanistan, particularly in the last century has left deep scars on Afghan society. It has always remained as a center stage for a great game between different imperialist and neo imperialist powers, Afghanistan get more significance because of its close proximity to Central Asian Republics, a gateway to energy reservoir. Present wave of war and instability spans over approximately forty years which began with the invasion by USSR in 1979, US led Taliban war against USSR, almost decade long civil war, rise of Taliban, 9/11, decades of violence and bloodshed and looming US-Taliban/ Afghan reconciliation. However, this reconciliation effort is blurred by the intricacies of complexities emanating from external and internal volatile situation which is likely to persist in foreseeable future.
As Afghanistan’s closest neighbor, Pakistan has borne the brunt of the fallouts of Afghan crisis in the past decades. Fiscal and human loss Pakistan suffered is simply incalculable. “The strategic, political, economic, ecological, social and cultural impact of the Afghan crisis on Pakistan would be felt for a long time to come.” Geographic contiguity, mutual trust and shared interests are the primary factors which drive our approach to Afghanistan. Its location at intersection of South and Central Asia further adds value to us. Our relationship with Afghanistan has, however, remained an uneasy one. Post 9/11 geo-strategic realities coupled with overhaul of the Afghan power structure, therefore, makes it imperative for us to review Afghanistan policies by all stake holders to bring it in line with the ground realities and the new dynamics being enacted in the region for peace.
Pakistan is a significant actor and has a vital role in future Afghanistan. Pakistan wants to have tranquility and permanence of peace in Afghanistan because of its own interests. “The geo-strategic location of Pakistan lends it central position in the overall economic and security calculus of the region.” Peace and stability in Afghanistan will facilitate Pakistan’s desire to transport energy from Central Asia and will also lead to improvement in Pakistan’s internal security situation. Off late, Afghanistan’s reconciliation process will also be of special interest to Pakistan which had suffered the most and is still suffering the fallouts of instability in Afghanistan. Therefore, there is a need to study the situation in Afghanistan carefully with the aim of predicting possible scenarios in the wake of US-Taliban peace deal, holistic reconciliation amongst all players and the future shape of Afghanistan as a peaceful and stable country. Pakistan believes that both Pakistan and Afghanistan has a significant prospect to seize the momentum and urge Afghanistan to look beyond the “blame games” that have too often dominated their relationship.
India is using the soft power projection tools to bind Afghanistan on their side. Pakistan has been portrayed as an enemy state. The recent developments and the hash tag of “sanction Pakistan” rose by the Afghans, is serious issue for Pakistan. Pakistan has been the advocate of peace in Afghanistan and has always considered Afghanistan as an Islamic brotherly state. Pakistan has given lot of sacrifices for bringing peace and stability in Afghanistan. Such voices from Afghanistan and such point of views are heartbreaking for Pakistan.
Afghanistan has proven the power to survive. The solution of Afghan problem can only be provided through negotiation amid US, Taliban and Afghan government with the efforts of Pakistan, being the major stakeholder and the victim of instability. Millions of words have been written and spoken on the issue but the fundamental reality is that Pakistan will be an indispensable part of solutions in peace building process and this process inside and outside Afghanistan will only be successful if it is Afghan led, owned and driven, recognizing the ground realities of both War and Peace.
US withdrawal has opened the scenario again. Taliban are rushing to take control of the country and taking control of some major districts as well. Afghan government is trying to counter the Taliban and pursuing for the help and solutions from different perspectives. Pakistan by not allowing US to establish bases in its territory is looking for Afghans to get into stable position. India is trying to act as the policeman of the region. China is looking at the scenario and continuing for its main objectives. All this has been going on in parallel universe. And this is surely the time that Afghanistan is again on the verge of peace or chaos!