Millennium Post

The perennial global battlefield

As United States of America forces execute their exodus from turbulent South Asian state of Afghanistan, the world would witness the fate of this unannounced global battlefield in resilience, for its woes seems to be perennial.

The US announcement of an exit by 2014 has made way for a new set of predictions. But the consequence of such an exit when stability is far-fetched in the state is the question which needs to be addressed.

Pakistan’s foreign policy apprehension vis-à-vis US' Afghanistan 2014 exit is two-fold. First, Pakistan military is jostling with its ally status with US and at the same time is annoyed with India’s increasing strategic influence in Afghanistan. Violations of Pakistan’s sovereignty by US (Osama Bin Laden’s neutralisation and drone incidents) have sent shock waves in the military-bureaucracy nexus in Pakistan. Their leaders, of late, have become vocal criticising US actions, but whether they would choose to re-frame their strategies independent of their elite interests’ remains a million dollar question. The closure of NATO supply routes by Pakistan since November 2011 has also become a bone of contention. Even a last minute visit of Pakistan President, Asif Ali Zardari couldn't yield much. Both Obama and Zardari escaped a face-off showing unhappiness from both sides.

United States of America had intervened in Afghanistan post 9/11 on the pretext of ‘War on Terrorism’ and even after a decade of their combat on ground zero, they ostensibly have not been able to achieve much except the neutralisation of Osama Bin Laden.

Whether USA did any good by intervening in the region is a question not too easy to answer for the region which happens to be too rigid and complex to be dictated. Neither the intensified operations by the Pakistan Army in the Khyber Pakhtunwa nor US drone attacks have dented the motivation of the Pashtun, both Afghan and Pakistani, nor they have diminished the Taliban.

Tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan are not hidden either. Afghan jeopardy, Afghans claim, is the result of forged benevolence between US and Pakistan Military. Pakistan military and US did succeed in overthrowing the Soviets who invaded Afghanistan by giving birth to Taliban, however, their own creation confronts them today. What US probably didn’t and still refuse to realise is that it’s easy to intervene but difficult to exit. They saw it in Iraq and they are facing it in Afghanistan too.

Pakistan military's skepticism on India’s strategic interests in Afghanistan

Already skeptical of developments in Afghanistan (India’s announcement of training Afghan soldiers and developing strategic relations), Pakistan’s military has been uncomfortable as far as Indo-Afghan bonhomie is concerned.

Pakistan military’s prime objective will always be jeopardising Indian influence in Afghanistan.
According to a recent Pentagon report, the presence of Al-Qeada and Taliban safe havens in Pakistan still remains an unresolved issue and the biggest risks to the process of turning security gains into a sustainable Afghanistan.

India’s good relation with Hamid Karzai’s government in Afghanistan is what pursues Pakistan to nourish Taliban on the pretext of 'strategic depth' in and outside Afghan territory.

Recent unprecedented appreciation of India by Taliban on former's resistance towards United States to increase their role in Afghanistan have raised a few eyebrows, but pretending that it could be the beginning of change in relationship between India and Taliban would be too amateurish.

Future of troubled US-Pakistan relations; its impact on US 2014 exit?

Apart from Pakistan military’s India-centric approach vis-à-vis Afghanistan, change in paradigm in relations between Pakistan and US is also important. Considered as US’s satellite state in this region, Pakistan had been providing their masters (US) grounds to operate since 1979. However, the equation seems to be changing now for it would be noteworthy to see the brewing bitterness between the two states. Pakistan stopping NATO forces from using supply routes are causing friction. The closure of supply route has cost the US and NATO an estimated $38 million a month in excess fees as they reroute supplies through a northern corridor in Central Asia.

The ally states which the two states share seems to be denting as animosity on issues of sovereignty and drone incidents are evident. While Pakistan has been vocal for the first time on issues of their national sovereignty, US continue to blame Pakistan for sheltering Taliban. Now when US has announced their exit plan for 2014, there major concern is Pakistan, who they fear would be the one causing hindrances in Afghan stability.

Taliban and Pakistan military

Though there are reports on US trying to negotiate with the Taliban for initiation of peace processes in Afghanistan, any outcome is too unpredictable. And Taliban is not at all easy to be tackled for they have developed a strong hold in the state. Their penetration in Afghanistan is ubiquitous.

In a study carried out in September 2011, it was found that all 34 provinces of Afghanistan have a parallel Taliban representation. Situation was different, in fact, better earlier as in 2005, only 11 provinces had Taliban shadow governors. Pakistan military’s role in such a scenario becomes extremely important. Taliban is still being nourished by Pakistan military.

The exploitative bureaucracy-military axis of Pakistan needs to realise that until they decide to give up on their personal interests, the stability to both Afghanistan and Pakistan would continue to remain a hypothesis but realty. Pakistan military’s excuse of strategic depth for their actions in Afghanistan is just an outcome of its Indian obsession. The sooner they realise it, the better it would be for them.


Claiming to combat the Islamic fundamentalists in the region, Pakistan’s military’s response to US forces 2014 exit from Afghanistan will be seen from the prism of responsibility. It had been four decades since Taliban became what it is today and it has seen foreign powers intervening and interfering in their state twice, if not often. Hence it would be difficult to bring them to terms and the strategic players would need to have more offerings on their platters to bring peace to violent South Asian region.

India will also have to craft their foreign policies which are suited for the entire South Asian region.

If Taliban is a threat, than it can only be combated by joint efforts of US, India and Pakistan military. All three players need to compromise their own interests first if they want to bring stability to Afghanistan and eventually South Asia.

Mohit Sharma is the principal correspondent at Millennium Post.
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