In 2003, an influential American thinker, Noam Chomsky, in his book ‘Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Power’ presented the case of America’s pursuit of its Imperial Grand Strategy as a threat to the global security. Imperial Grand Strategy, as defined by Chomsky is ‘USA’s unilateral pre-emptive attack on an enemy who is strong enough to pose an existential threat to USA and weak enough to be defenseless’. The theatre of USA’s Global War on Terror followed by the 9/11 incident, was set on the rugged land of Afghanistan, ruled by the Afghan Taliban. The Afghan Taliban while observing the ‘Pashtun wali’ culture provided safe havens to the mastermind of 9/11 attacks, Osama bin Laden. Consequently, the United States set its boots in Afghanistan hoping to achieve their military objectives as swiftly as they were able to achieve in Iraq. However, today, 17 years later, US military objectives in Afghanistan remain unfulfilled and consecutive governments of the super-power of the world stare at their defeat in dismay, hoping to find a way out. The Trump administration, however, as a manifestation of its neo-conservative policies, has been quite vocal in its intent to withdraw the US troops from Afghanistan. Pak-Afghan relations has provided India, a fault-line to be toed. While the Trump Administration seeks to withdraw from Afghanistan, and Pakistan becomes a part of the Afghan Peace Process, and India finds itself on the losing end (for not being able to become a stake-holder in the peace process), it becomes indispensable to study the positive and negative implications that the phenomenon will bring along.
Afghanistan is a familiar basket case for Pakistan. The more you try to remove from this swamp, the more you go down in it. The US-led NATO occupation led to negative security implications for Pakistan with which we are still dealing that another event going to emerge. If the US withdraws from Afghanistan after facilitating a rapprochement between the Afghan government and Taliban, there is a likely chance that peace would prevail not only in Afghanistan but also in the whole region. However, if the USA withdraws without succeeding to achieve a rapprochement between the Taliban and Afghan society, then effects of a most probably civil war would be recognized across the whole region. If the solution is the satisfaction of all sides, which is doubtful, that would be welcome development. Anyhow in both cases Pakistan would have to bear the brunt. However, the type of agreement would determine the scale of repercussions for Pakistan, provided other conditions remain the same. Any solution can further splinter Afghan Taliban and some of their diehard fighters and criminal elements within their ranks may join Daesh and try to wreck peace in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They can join hands with Pakistani Daesh and TTP affiliates and pose serious problems. But if Afghan Taliban succeed to capture power alone in Kabul under the garb of negotiations, and they are intent on doing it, then it would be the beginning of another long civil war, the repercussions of which can even endanger the integrity of Afghanistan and naturally would pose more serious security issues for Pakistan.
One cannot overlook the innate factionalism in Afghan society and Afghan government. If some elements within Kabul Administration come to the conclusion that it would be better for them to compromise with Taliban on their own than to wait for a settlement, they can do it. Some elements feel threatened with the prospects of peace and withdrawal; they can pick up arms against Taliban and even join them against Kabul government.
It has been long since Pakistan is being blamed for supporting the Afghan Taliban and is being portrayed as the sponsor of terrorism. As the U will face humiliation in Afghanistan, it will try to find a scapegoat to shift the blame of its own failure in Afghanistan. Because Pakistan is the immediate neighbor of Afghanistan and already possesses a distorted image across the world, it will exactly be the suitable scapegoat to be held responsible for all the disaster in Afghanistan. This would lead to the western powers led by the USA, imposing various economic and diplomatic sanctions on Pakistan, which would be further detrimental for Pakistan’s already crumbling economy and tarnished global standing.
Peace has its cost. Pakistan would also bear it. The ascendancy of Taliban to power can definitely endanger the 18 years long achievements in the field of education, health, women freedom and freedom of expression and other civil liberties. In such a situation the desperate influx of another spate of refugees cannot be ruled out. The fence would not be able to stem the tide of desperate Afghans. It can be torn down with the help of vehicles. Afghans can resort to unthinkable in desperation and now they all know the weak point of Pakistani state.One cannot buy into this argument that Taliban have changed, Americans may offer such faulty justification for their fatigue and withdrawal hurry. Taliban leaders would naturally listen to them as they have been raised in that sort of interpretation of Islam. It’s very clear that America wants Indian presence in Afghanistan to contain Chinas economic rise. Indian investment in Afghanistan will rise Indian economy and will also have access to Central Asian states.
Determined efforts by the external powers are needed to avoid difficulties. Close coordination with Americans on this score is needed albeit cautiously guarding our interests. Secondly, Moscow and Beijing must be consulted on each step. One cannot avoid the spoiler role of India which is obviously perturbed over the prospects of withdrawal and they can easily wreck the peace efforts jointly with like-minded elements in Kabul administration or increase the stakes for Pakistan. The recent anti-Iranian sanctions imposed by US can also threaten peaceful solution to increase stakes for US and Pakistan.
Pakistan should stress upon Americans to lead its allies and try to keep them united as an entity prepared for peace deal. The same situation applies to Taliban and they could be persuaded to enter united for a peace deal and avoid split within its ranks which could jeopardize peace. However, they should be persuaded for an intra-Afghan dialogue and beginning of a ceasefire. Without these two internal aspects of the solution means the unilateral push of Taliban to achieve victory in the battlefield. They know that their strength lies in battlefield. But Taliban should be warned in no uncertain terms that US withdrawal and their unilateral victory will not decrease their afflictions. In such a scenario they could be prepared for a UN-sanctioned continuous US bombardment. Comprehensive, all-embracing, and inclusive peace is in the interest of Pakistan. This sort of scenario will minimize the dangers for Pakistan. This would not impel another influx of refugees and the already remaining refugees can be forced to repatriate, though unwillingly. Another dimension is that if Afghan Taliban also comes in the government formation then it would be very helpful to Pakistan as both are against ISIS and India. This government will be in favour of Pakistan to contain India in the region.
The US withdrawal from Afghanistan is inevitable and will have multiple implications as highlighted. As proposed by Barry Buzan in his theory, the security of nations situated inside a specific geographical region is trapped with one another and any weakness inside one specific nation can spread to different nations of a specific security complex. Barry Buzanaptly describes the international security of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Most importantly the security dynamics of the neighbouring countries especially Pakistan would be seriously undermined. It is important to note that what ways US adopts to exit the battle ground. It took time just to realize that the solution to conflict is non-military. Now what political model would be adopted, whether there would be a power sharing model, or the Taliban would acquire full control over the centre and periphery are the important questions which could only be answered hypothetically in the present time. If US fails to bring out rapprochement between the Afghan National Government and Taliban, then most likely a civil war will breakout to take control over Kabul that would severely impact Pakistan. So, in order to achieve durable peace in Afghanistan US must take measured and calculated steps whereby keeping in view the interest of Afghan people who have suffered from this 17-year prolonged war.