Flawed US-Afghan peace deal and the Pakistan gamble
With NATO withdrawal imminent, Pakistan and Afghanistan are caught up in a 22-catch situation. The forever war, famously known as, ‘the war of Terror’ is finally ceasing after 2 decades. Keeping in view the prevailing conditions and historical encounters, the probability of civil war and urgency is soaring high. Similarly, it is not surprising that Pakistan is once again starting to face the brunt of the domino-effect.
In lieu of its struggle in promoting regional peace and fostering Afghan-peace process, it is alarming that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani blamed Pakistan for its “negative role” in supporting TTP in its pursuit of destabilizing Afghanistan. Moreover, the allegation has spawned antipathy among Afghan inhabitants and global activists that has manifested in the form of millions of retweets of hashtag #SanctionPakistan trending over social media.
In its defense, Pakistan has stood its ground by stating the ground realities. Firstly, the US-Taliban peace deal which brokered between the Trump administration and the Taliban in February 2020, had been marred with several loopholes since the inception. Despite considerable criticism, even from the US military and former president Bush, Biden turned a deaf ear and decided to proceed unilaterally-brushing aside the prerequisites of a democratic America.
Secondly, it must be noted that the initial terms of the deal incorporated NATO troops’ withdrawal from Afghanistan, disassociation of Taliban and Al-Qaeda, and intra-Afghan talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government. Consequently, USA reduced its forces, lifted economic sanctions and released Afghan prisoners from Guantanamo Bay. However, the situation presented absolute-gains as Taliban managed to procure their stipulations, without doing anything in return.
Most importantly, exclusion of the Afghan government had far-reaching consequences. It diminished the morale of the true ‘representatives’ of the nation notably- the government and ‘US-built’ army. Evidence shows that thousands of Afghan soldiers fled to Tajikistan to stay alive. Conversely, Taliban have been so empowered that they have started capturing regions and crushing citizen’ uprisals through subjugation. The dilemma being that insurgent attacks have increased manifold, raising alarms of humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. The aggravating situation can be assessed; as per the International Organization for Migration, the percent of enforced Afghan displaced-persons has augmented up to 40% solely in the preceding month.
Consequently, Afghan refugees may turn towards Pakistani borders, as had happened in the period of the Soviet presence in Afghanistan. National Security Adviser to Prime Minister, Moeed Yusuf has warned that there is a looming threat of porous Pak-Afghan borders emerging as a terrorist haven. This can be substantiated by 28th UNSC findings, stating that despite the assertion of Trump to rid the country from Al-Qaeda, a significant part still resides along Pakistan-Afghan border. As militant groups: TTP, Al-Qaida, Daesh and Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA) continue to strengthen, terrorist attacks will significantly surge in Pakistan. There have been allegations of Indian-sponsorship and finances to TTP and JuA to undermine its neighbor. For instance, foreign Minister, Shah Mehmud Qureshi, has alleged RAW and TTP of the suicide-bombing attack on a bus killing 10 Chinese and 3 Pakistani laborers of CPEC in Dasu last month. Fair-weather friendly nature of USA is apparent as Prime Minister, Imran khan, blamed USA of maintaining cordial relations as long as Pakistan played the role of an arbiter of rectifying the ‘wreck’ of misdoings of USA in Afghanistan.
Analyzing the above arguments, it is clear that Pakistan has high stakes in Afghan state-of-affairs. Hence, Pakistan must formulate an effective strategy to resolve refugee crisis, counterterrorism and law infringement. However, the need of the hour is for Islamabad to pressurize Taliban to participate in the peace process and help transform Afghanistan into a state that protects human rights- especially, women and minorities. It is incumbent that Afghan government recognize the historic sacrifices of Pakistan as allegedly hosting, up to 2 million, the largest Afghan refugees to date, as well as, initiating peace talks; eventually, both states must realize mutual gains and cooperate for an Afghan-led peace process.