Pakistan’s relations with its landlocked neighbour have seen many ups and downs. These two countries have been bound together because of their geographical compulsions and complex security paradigm, for decades. Divided by an imaginary 2250 Km long border (Durand Line) which is ‘undoubtedly the most porous and practically impossible boundary to guard and surreal, marks the history between these two countries. Presently, the Afghan security situation has global attention because of its high stakes and actors involved. The Peace talks between Afghan government and Taliban has other angles besides the US anxiety, Chinese, Indian and Iranian interest, the advent of Russian involvement and focus of all these actors on Pakistan for its expected influence on the Taliban.
Other than the obvious, most ominous development is the IS’s and Diash’s footprint in Afghanistan and the on-going campaign between these banned organization to claim superiority / control over the majority of the war ravaged country. A concern by Afghanistan includes allegations, that Pakistan is protecting Haqqani network and Quetta Shura, resulting in political and security chaos in Afghanistan. Not realizing the rapidly changing environment, Afghan Govt is chasing ghosts of the past. Reality, however, is somewhat different today regarding the Haqqani Network, Quetta Shura and Pakistan’s influence on Afghan Taliban.
Following points need consideration of Afghans and other stakeholders in connection with peace talks and prevailing security situation in Afghanistan:-
The Haqqani Network and Quetta Shura are not as potent as it was in the past. This change is attributed to the advent of Diash and IS in Afghanistan. Many of the Taliban splinter groups have joined hands with / converted into Diash and IS fighters for a renewed economic life line. The loyalty of Afghan fighters is primarily with money or economic gains rather than the organization or to its ideology.
Pakistan’s association with Taliban is propagated on two main factors:-
Affiliation of Taliban to Akora Khattak madrassah. Pakistan’s recognition of pre 9/11 Taliban government in Afghanistan and its diplomatic ties with the regime. Though Pakistan apparently took a U turn on its Taliban policy after 9/11 but failed to gain the trust of its allies. Pakistan without a doubt played a major role in effectively curtailing the wave of terror in the region and also sacrificing immensely but was unsuccessful in projecting the image it should have after doing so much. A stable Afghanistan is in Pakistan’s favour and a consensus over this idea must be developed in the country.
Other than Afghanistan, Pakistan will benefit the most from a successful resolution of Afghan issue or in the aftermath of a successful peace dialogue. Pakistan is conducting Operation Zarb-e-Azb with a conviction to deal with all terror groups even handedly. Refuting the concept of “Good Taliban” or “Bad Taliban” by Pak Army is a step in the right direction. Afghanistan and rest of the world must understand that Pakistan’s role in Afghan crisis is pivotal but not only because of its alleged influence over the Taliban but because of its geographical positioning, economic dependency of Afghanistan over it and the toll Pakistan paid for bearing the burden of more than a million Afghan refugees for decades now. In addition, the sooner all stake holders acclimatize to the changed Afghan geo political / security scenario, easier would become the course of resolution of this issue. Lastly, Pakistani is not a threat to Afghan peace, it is actually the indigenous Afghan militant groups emerging as Taliban, IS soldiers or Diash operatives, with changing economic motivations.
Pakistan must achieve internal stability by cleaning up its backyard, this can only be done if operation Zarb-e-Azb is concluded as planned by Pak Army. This will solve half of security problems but the other half depends upon initiation of a similar sort of military operation in Afghanistan. At present, the Afghan Army does not have the operational capability to carry out a campaign like that, but with the help of its Western allies it can be done. US and NATO forces have spent trillions on their wars in Afghanistan with insignificant results. It is prudent that before the rise of another evil a collective effort seems imperative to secure the world’s most dangerous border.