Will Afghanistan’s future depend on Pakistan?
By Jaime Leon
Islamabad, May 19 (EFE).- Pakistan is emerging as a possible arbiter of Kabul’s fate amid fragile peace talks, the specter of a new civil war, and looming uncertainty over Afghanistan’s future following the withdrawal of the United States and NATO forces.
On Sep.11, the US and NATO troops will conclude their pullout from the Afghan soil after 20 years, leading to fears of a new civil war between the Afghan government and the Taliban, a traditional ally of Islamabad.
In the 1990s, the Taliban took control of Afghanistan with Pakistan’s support. Since the fall of the Islamist regime in 2001, Washington and Kabul have repeatedly accused Islamabad of supporting the insurgents.
“The question of peace or hostility is now in Pakistani hands,” Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani said in a recent interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel.
Ghani said the Taliban have a logistical, financial, and recruitment support system in Pakistan, an allegation Islamabad has always denied.
Retired general and political analyst Atiqulah Amarkhil told EFE that the only way to reach a peaceful solution was for the neighboring country to stop supporting the insurgents.
Pakistan has facilitated negotiations between the Taliban and the US that culminated in the 2020 Doha agreement for the withdrawal.
Washington has thanked Islamabad for its involvement without revealing much about its role.
However, what role does Pakistan play against this new backdrop?
“Pakistan wants a government in Kabul where the Taliban have a dominant role,” Ayesha Siddiqa, an academic from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, told EFE.
Siddiqa believes that Islamabad wants to exert influence in Afghanistan to contain its rival India and control access to Central Asia, among other things.
In this regard, the Taliban could be the best ally of Islamabad, if not the only one.
“Pakistan has a more than 20 years of relations with the Taliban, why would they end it,” the Pakistan analyst said.
The relationship gives Islamabad leverage to “put pressure” on Afghanistan and its president Ghani, who does not like the Pakistani military, according to Siddiqa.
“All Pakistan has to do is to ensure that the Taliban keeps standing” while Ghani’s government destabilizes, according to Siddiqa.
The academic believes that Afghanistan’s future is partly in the hands of the all-powerful Pakistani Army, which controls the foreign policy and its relations with the Taliban.
President of the think-tank FATA Research Centre Saifullah Mahsud doubted if Islamabad can impose its will on the Afghans.
However, he acknowledged the Taliban’s “long working relationship” with the Pakistani Army that Islamabad won’t end the ties with its “only friends” in Afghanistan.
“Pakistan wants a peaceful resolution, some agreement resulting from intra-Afghan talks,” Mahsud told EFE.