The year 1973 will go down in the history of Afghanistan as one that laid the foundation of a deadly slide into chaos that began with ouster of King Zahir Shah by his cousin Sardar Daud. Thirty eight years on peace remains elusive with no end in sight for Afghan’s plight.
The Saur revolution of 1978 led the Soviets into Afghanistan who in the pursuit of victory against the freedom fighters (Mujahedeen) Killed hundreds of thousands of Afghans, destroyed the country’s infrastructure and forced millions to cross over into Pakistan for refuge. Soviets struggled for eleven years for supremacy in Afghanistan but ultimately quit Afghanistan as vanquished in 1989. Afghanistan, however, continued to bleed as the internal conflicts persisted between ethnic segments. Taliban prevailed later but sequel to twin towers destruction in the city of New York through a terrorist attack, United States of America ventured into Afghanistan to seek out or kill the alleged perpetrators of New York attack. Since then, the scholaristic community continues to dispute the American claims as one; James Rothenberg writing for ‘Foreign Affairs’ journal (May 26 issue, 2010) opined that US objectives of landing into Afghanistan were other than portrayed as the US sought to establish a permanent presence therein the energy rich Caspian basin.
The migration of Burhanuddin Rabbani and Gulbadin Hikmatyar to Pakistan post Saur Revolution ultimately drew Pakistan into the conflict. The CIA trained and Saudi funded freedom fighters (Taliban) took over power in 1996. The infighting continued between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance that brought an opportunist India on the side of Northern Alliance. Russia though defeated by the Taliban put itself at ease watching America to do its bidding for an ultimate peaceful Afghanistan that would later place Afghanistan as its soft belly once Americans quit. China ventured in Afghanistan with its huge investments in mineral sector for economic benefits. Iran is also active in Afghanistan in the name of safeguarding interests of Hazara, Persian and Dari speaking communities. Pakistan with shared borders with Afghanistan has suffered exorbitantly with lasting effects on its security and territorial integrity. Pakistan has always supported efforts that could stabilize Afghanistan as unstable Afghanistan is a recipe for instability in Pakistan and the region.
Pakistan has an undeniable interest in seeing Afghanistan stabilized as soon as possible. It has many reasons to see that through. Pakistan has been housing over 2 million Afghan refugees that has had an adverse effect on its economy and environment. It might have to cater for the fall outs of a civil war when US troops withdraw from Afghanistan. The cross border movements to support their factions/groups on either side of the divide tremendously affect Pakistan’s security. Its army is over stretched and remains deployed in FATA to stem the spillovers of Afghan insurgency. Its communication infrastructure has been ruined because of heavy trucking of American supplies. Economic benefits that Pakistan wants to accrue from energy rich Central Asia still remains a dream.
Consequent to ‘Strategic Partnership’ deal with India, Afghanistan has provided space to squeeze Pakistan from two fronts in the event of a conflict with its powerful neighbor. Though Pakistan has sincerely worked to remove the element of mistrust between the two countries yet it persists. The lack of trust between the Shimla (India) educated President Hamid Karzai and his counterparts in Pakistan also have had destabilizing effect in the region.
Analyzing a decade old international coalition’s efforts to stabilize Afghanistan that has failed to pay any dividends, one is compelled to think on alternatives. So far all the members of International coalition only focused on minimizing their respective casualties. For the purpose they went extra miles to befriend Taliban or warlords to let them stay peacefully in areas of their deployment and rewarded them with bags full of cash. Talking of Americans it is on record that they have been paying large sums of money to warlords for letting pass the logistics convoys from their areas of influence. That money ultimately went to Taliban who in turn utilized to keep their insurgency boiling. The viable way out is to let the Afghan stability problem to the countries that border Afghanistan as the issue has always been regional and not global. If it ever was, it is no more now. The bordering countries should have a joint approach for dealing with the militants operating inside and along the Pak-Afghan and Pak-Iran borders. Pakistan has invited Afghan and Iranian Presidents to Islamabad to discuss the turmoil in Afghanistan and adopt a joint strategy for peace in the region. US Secretary of State Clinton also showed its American willingness on what Pakistan has been saying for ages that talking to Haqqanis would add to stabilization efforts.
Since the international community has failed in its endeavors in Afghanistan and is destined to leave in vain come 2014, there is a likely hood of a civil war in Afghanistan post US withdrawal. It is the solemn duty of Afghanistan to let go its ego and jingoistic approach towards the region and work towards at least a partial stability in Afghanistan if not complete in the small window of opportunity that they are left with till 2014. The need to ‘do more’ was never greater than today as Afghanistan is reaching another milestone. Notwithstanding the fact that Northern Alliance dominated Afghan establishment has an adversarial approach towards Pakistan, the latter continues to seek better relationship with Afghanistan. There may be differences in West’s and Pakistan’s approach on how to stabilize Afghanistan but one thing is certain that all roads to Afghan stability lead through Pakistan.