What Does Pakistan Want in Afghanistan?

The Pakistani establishment has always believed that Pakistan has the right to decide the government and future of Afghanistan. With the recent decision by the Trump administration to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, the question facing Imran Khan’s Naya Pakistan is: Does Pakistan know what it wants in Afghanistan?

A recent editorial in Dawn stated the challenge facing Pakistan: “helping achieve an Afghan peace settlement that has the support of internal and external powers” before asking whether “Pakistan has a plan or ability to help achieve a region-wide desire for peace and stability in Afghanistan.”

It seems that Pakistan’s quarter-century support of the Taliban has left Pakistan with few genuine friends in Afghanistan. Even before the Taliban, Pakistan favored Pashtun fundamentalists as Afghanistan’s rulers after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989. 

It would be a tragedy if Pakistan uses the U.S. withdrawal as an excuse to instal extremists in power in Afghanistan again.

At least the latest talks have led to an end to lies that Pakistan has nothing to do with the Afghan Taliban as the ISI acts as facilitator for American contacts with Taliban leaders enjoying safe haven in Peshawar, Quetta, Karachi, and Rawalpindi. 

According to the editorial in Dawn, “Abandoning Afghanistan after the Soviets were defeated, waging war in Afghanistan in response to 9/11 and allowing itself to be distracted by a disastrous war of choice in Afghanistan are some of the well-known reasons offered for US failure in that country.”

However, “as the US appears to be attempting to fashion a hasty exit after a prolonged stay, the US may create yet more problems for the region. A withdrawal without a peace settlement would risk not just plunging Afghanistan into chaos but could also have disastrous effects across the region.”

Yet, “as a Pentagon report this week has asserted, reintegration of Taliban fighters will take place if the fighters and Taliban leadership believe that they may be on the verge of outright victory?”

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