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What Pakistan Wants from Afghanistan...?

Published by Global Affairs / July 2017

In the aftermath of the deadly attacks in a diplomatic enclave and a funeral, Afghanistan’s fate now hangs in the balance, while experts mull over the merits of potential troop surges and worry about the endemic corruption, plummeting morale and ensuing chaos. Afghan President Ghani’s statement that his nation suffers from an ‘undeclared war of aggression from Pakistan’ delivered at Kabul Process meeting sums up the problem.

Interestingly, a week before, he expressed the exact same sentiment – only the words were ‘undeclared war of aggression from non-state actors.’ Later his Twitter feed regurgitated the passive aggressive plea from the speech that by turns call for dialogue and apportions blame to its neighbors.

What is it that Pakistan wants is the question foremost in his mind. He also wonders what the Taliban want.

The first question is easily answered. The Pak Army COAS wants Afghanistan to look inwards. Probably at the safe havens and Taliban controlled territory, the resources at their disposal and the failure to harness the collective power of ISAF and Afghan Special Forces against a ragtag army of insurgents.

The Pakistani nation would probably want to keep the regional cricketing diplomacy afloat. They would also like the border security to improve and for the Afghan leadership not to embark on pointless muckraking expeditions and roll back the goodwill that is so hard to come by these days. Most of all they would like the paranoia and (dis)trust issues to be addressed on war footing, because reaching for tired old narratives serve no purpose when the enemy is closing in for the kill and shadows of a civil war loom over the horizon.

“What will it take to convince Pakistan that a stable Afghanistan helps them and helps our region?” To this they would respond with a logical query asking the Afghan people to consider how a failed state scenario benefits the region? Who wants a mix of ISIS and Taliban nexus in the backyard with Chinese investments on the line? Invoking the ‘deep state’ card from a bygone era shows a failure to appreciate Pakistan’s new role along with its razor sharp focus on achieving its counter-terrorism objectives.

Also, with so many competing interests in tow, dragging Pakistan’s name to the forefront hardly absolves the government of their responsibility. The recent street protests and mounting pressure on their leadership perhaps shows that Afghans need more convincing about their own government’s ability to safeguard their interests and end the reign of Taliban / ISIS terror than reassurances from neighboring states. And how the unlawful use of excessive force to suppress their voices will not earn Kabul any favors with its people.

Ghani’s impassioned appeal closes with a reference to their commitment to peace and the geopolitical hurdles in the way. “So we again call on the Government of Pakistan to propose its agenda and a mechanism for that dialogue which can lead to peace and prosperity.” Many may wonder how Afghans may react to a proposition of putting some Pakistani (doctors) boots on ground? Would they still accuse their neighbor of masterminding heinous crimes when Pakistani medical personnel are also in line of proverbial fire alongside their Afghan brethren? Or when they are seen working side by side helping them pick up the pieces?

The President’s final lines have created ripples amongst many for different reasons. “We want peace with Pakistan. We want to be able to trust Pakistan. And we want the chance for friendly, cooperative relationships that will reduce poverty and promote growth on both sides of the Durrand line.” ‘The Indian Express’ in particular expresses deep reservations regarding this capitulation in ‘How Ghani’s appeasement towards Pakistan has worsened the situation inside Afghanistan.’ But the seemingly spontaneous declaration of peace coming on the heels of earlier accusation will always ring hollow unless it can match their actions. For now Afghanistan’s internal turmoil stands in the way of the peace they seek. But if they ever need direction, Pakistan’s successes in counter-terrorism and their familiarity with the terrain could serve as a guiding post some day.


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