Where Lies the Key?

Afghanistan has remained a hotbed of tension between its neighbors in the east i. e. India and Pakistan. During the Cold War when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979, Pakistan closely collaborated with the Americans as their interests in opposing invasion converged. Both the U.S. and Pakistan were united to prevent the Soviets’ misadventure to reach the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. This common threat perception helped them maintain their camaraderie until the Soviet forces withdrew in 1989.

The decade of Soviet occupation of Afghanistan was significant for the Pakistanis. They were rewarded with huge American aid in achieving strategic depth by the U.S.in Afghanistan. The American administration embraced the mujahidin guerillas as friends and lavishly supplied them money and material to oust the Soviets. Moslem guerillas were recruited from around the world to form a resistance army in Afghanistan. Pakistan as a beneficiary of increased U.S. military assistance played the role of a honest ally.

Following the departure of the Soviets from Afghanistan, the U.S. interests in that country waned significantly. During the 1990s Afghanistan was politically-destabilized where both India and Pakistan tried to wield their influence on the governance of the country. Rival tribal factions in Afghanistan were supported by India and Pakistan to pursue their own narrow national interests. This aggravated the stability of Afghanistan leading to its emergence as a safe haven for terrorist groups including al-Queda.

After the horrific incidents of September 11, 2001 killing a few thousand Americans, the U.S. has launched a war in Afghanistan. It claims that the war is to fight terrorism as it believes that 9/11 attacks against America were perpetrated by al-Queda based in Afghanistan. There are various terrorist groups in Afghanistan which are opposed to U.S.-backed Karzai government. America wants the opposing groups negotiate with Kabul regime for peaceful Afghanistan. Paradoxically, the same Mujahiddeen guerrillas who once received American training and weaponry to oppose the Soviets are now U.S. enemies.

The present establishment in Kabul is supportive of India but antagonistic to Pakistan. The members of Afghan Taliban opposed to Kabul regime are Pakistan allies whom the latter utilizes as its strategic depth against the Indians. India, in view of its strategic value, has attached due importance to Afghanistan. It  has been generously offering aid to the country. Pakistan alleges that India has been creating troubles by abetting terror attacks against it through its consulates in Afghanistan. Indian accusation against Pakistan-sponsored terrorism against her interests needs no repetition.

Pakistan sees quite different national interests in Afghanistan largely because of India. Its tolerance of different Jihadi groups is the result of an obsession with India. Pakistan fears encirclement by India and its ally, the current Afghan regime and hence wants influence in Afghanistan. Therefore, the ending of Pakistani support to terrorists, some Afghan-focused and some India-focused is a key element for successful counterterrorism as opined by former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan Anne Patterson. Considering the present realities ambassador Patterson’s analysis on the issue provided to the U.S. government back in September 2009 looks credible.

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