Fortunately or unfortunately Pakistan is a pivot to the Afghan Crisis; without addressing her reservations, the Trumpism will eventually turned into Dumpism.

The Trump Administration decided to bolster the size of American troops on Afghan soil, which will add 3,000 to 5,000 to an already deployed 8,800. This new development marks the third phase of the ‘The Third American-Afghan War’ and completes the 16th year of this prolonged conflict.

However, this also marks the reversal of President Trump’s electoral campaign pledge – immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan – and his predecessor’s policy – complete withdrawal from Afghanistan. What could be worse than this, he gives carte blanche to his defence secretary – Jim Mattis – to determine troop levels in Afghanistan. For now there are speculations that America would rely on military might more than reconciliatory measures.

Certainly, the troops surge was demanded by the commanding general in Afghanistan since the offensive launched by the Taliban and Islamic State in last April. Due to their barbaric and atrocious activities roughly, 1,000 people died with grave loses of property and infrastructure all around. The most devastating incident was the killing of more than 160 Afghan National Army soldiers in an attack on a military garrison in Herat. This is the deadliest offensive since the American invasion of 2001, leading to an infuriated Ashraf Ghani blaming Pakistan for launching an undeclared war against Afghanistan. Pakistan, on the other hand, categorically denied it and cautioned him to put his own house in order.

The stopgap American strategy of sending more boots to Afghan soil has a limited chance to succeed. One should question the wisdom of sending a petty force to conquer what 160,000 American troops along with allies were unable to do. It would add fuel to fire in an already vulnerable and hostile environment. The Taliban are on and off engaging in peace talks with the condition of a complete withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan – a condition unlikely to meet by the government which is struggling for their own survival.

The American carrot and stick policy, sabotaging dialogues processes, and siding with India further created an environment of mistrust and hostility. Throughout the “war on terror” Pakistan lend her helping hand to America militarily as well as politically but, the “do more” mantra demoralised the spirit of the country which rendered invaluable contribution in an alien war. Moreover, the drone strikes within the jurisdiction of the country further created a trust deficit.

On the other side, Indian involvement into Afghanistan further exploited the war-torn country to weaken their arch-rival Pakistan. They funded and trained the Tehreek Taliban Pakistan (TTP) along the Pak-Afghan borders, who are hatching conspiracies against the county, as well as destabilizing it by launching offensives within Pakistan. Also, they sabotaged every effort towards reconciliation between Taliban and Afghan government led by Pakistan, such as the Murree Talks.

The blame for all this conflict goes to non-other than the Afghan government itself. They are led with unparalleled corruption and maladministration, which subsequently led her into a political deadlock and overwhelmed her capacity to rule beyond Kabul. Ultimately, the Taliban and Islamic State strengthened and drove away the Afghan forces several times from outlying regions, such as Kundaz. Afghanistan’s reliance on India at the cost of Pakistan proved to be a mistake, which provided her nothing substantial against the war at home. Additionally, the role of Afghan leadership as mere spectator in the talks with Taliban and led the United States is hardly going to work.

Pakistan rightly or wrongly is the pivot to the Afghan crisis. Though the country has altered her interests for long time, it is finally driven by her own choices. Her role in facilitating dialogue, countering anti-state elements in bordering areas, lending military assistance to Afghanistan and hosting a flood of refugees are but a few contributions rendered by Pakistan. To have safe passage to Afghanistan, the US should adopt balanced policy towards both India and Pakistan. The long-standing issues of both countries should be resolved through the US diplomacy. The Kashmir crisis, Line of Control (LOC) issues, renewal of Indus Water Treaty and the Indian activities in Afghanistan are a few of those.  Moreover, the US should forego unilateral steps and adopt a more diplomatic stance in her war against terrorists.

 

The writer is Attorney at Law and Foreign Policy Analyst.