The biggest misgiving about Pakistan’s Afghan policy is its alleged plans to support a takeover of Kabul by the Afghan Taliban, after US withdrawal. Given regional and international consensus against such a possibility it is a suicidal thinking to bet on the Afghan Taliban. In fact, the Afghanistan’s return to Taliban rule will greatly undermine and damage Pakistan’s counter-insurgency operation against the homegrown militants i.e. the Pakistani Taliban in its tribal areas. The Pakistan Taliban have found safe havens in Afghanistan from where they launch cross-border militant raids on Pakistani soil. The nexus between the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban is a well established fact. Kabul’s return to Taliban rule will have serious implications for Pakistan’s own internal security situation.
All Pakistan advocates is inclusion of the Afghan insurgent groups in process of political reconciliation and not a forceful takeover of the government by these groups. It is also widely misunderstood that by supporting the agenda of political reconciliation with these groups Pakistan wants to manipulate the whole process of the Afghan endgame. This line of thinking is also erroneous and ill-founded. Pakistan only advocates this approach no matter who leads the peace process and no matter where the negotiations take place. It only reminds all the conflicting parties to tone down their rhetoric and reconcile to existing ground realities in Afghanistan.
Lastly, it is also believed that Pakistan negatively views the recently concluded US-Afghanistan and Indo-Afghan strategic partnership agreements. It is opined that Pakistan is highly apprehensive of India’s growing role in Afghanistan, which actually is not the case. As a matter of fact, after the withdrawal of US and NATO forces from Afghanistan in 2014 firm commitments of economic assistance and investment plans shown from regional economic powers like China, Russia and India to fill the vacuum is viewed positively in Islamabad.
However, Pakistan strongly discourages a zero-sum game of regional states in Afghanistan. The policy of pitting one regional state against the other in Afghanistan, for furtherance of narrow strategic objectives, is a dangerous trend. The policy of awarding one regional actor bigger role at the cost of other is fraught with dangers of turf battles and proxy wars in Afghanistan. Such a trend is recipe for further instability and chaos. It will further complicate the matters instead to solving the existing ones.
A stable, peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan not only guarantees regional peace and stability but by virtue of its unique geographical location being situated at the cross-roads o South, Central and West Asia it also holds the key to unlocking the economic potential of this region. There are no easy answers to existing situation in Afghanistan. Instead of going for quick fixes and short-term stabilizing measures Afghanistan requires a muddle-through approach which looks for tangible solution to Afghanistan’s jigsaw puzzle. An exit in undue haste will push Afghanistan toward another phase of protracted civil war which is in no one’s favour.