Islamabad’s Afghanistan policy is caught between a rock and a hard place
The recent spate of terrorist attacks across Afghanistan, but most especially in Kabul, have been once again blamed by the Ashraf Ghani-led government on the Afghan terrorist groups sheltering in Pakistan. In other words, it was Pakistan that was seen as the offender. America devolved the decision-making with regard to “response” to its local commanders. Drones that at times didn’t spare the non-tribal areas in Pakistan in the past may now start targeting deep inside Pakistan.
The fact is that the attacks were carried out by the Afghan Taliban and the Islamic State but that didn’t give pause to President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Abdullah to blame Pakistan. Pakistan swears it doesn’t shelter the Haqqani Network forming the backbone of the Taliban movement which now holds 70 percent of Afghanistan. The American presence in Afghanistan has thinned but the decision about demission has been likely postponed by President Trump because of the “Chinese factor.” The U.S.-India convergence on China is hardening and Pakistan may get punished for getting itself isolated in the region.
The state of no solutions will not help. Pakistan and India will not normalize their relations because a more economically powerful India will no longer be interested. But Pakistan, hounded by a two-front situation, equally will not stop frontloading Kashmir in any proposed peace talks with India. Wisdom recommends that Pakistan declare its firm position on Kashmir but discuss it once the bilateral equation has been sorted out and border tensions removed. The latest Kashmiri Hurriyat call from Srinagar has declared that India quit killing innocent Kashmiris and engage Pakistan in peace talks disrupted under Prime Minister Vajpayee.
But the strategic layout has changed drastically for that. Pakistan and China couldn’t include India in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and now a U.S.-India policy of targeting CPEC has gelled. The cruel irony is that if the Taliban ever get to run Afghanistan again it will endanger an unstable Pakistan more than ever before because of the behavior grooves formed during Pakistan’s “divided support” of the government of Mullah Umar.