Finding common ground in Afghanistan

There is much finger-pointing between the US, other NATO states, and non-NATO allies like Pakistan, about the prevalent precarity within Afghanistan

Blame games may offer political mileage, but they imply a grave toll for Afghanistan, and strategic instability for the broader region and beyond

No one predicted the speed with which the Afghan government would fall to Taliban forces

But despite their surprisingly swift military victory, the ability of the Taliban to rule Afghanistan remains uncertain

The floodgates of potential refugee flows into neighbouring states like Pakistan and Iran, which would have invariably accompanied a civil war-like situation in Afghanistan, have been averted for now, but this threat lingers

The Taliban face multiple changes to create an effective government, and to clamp down on militant proxies or terror groups with global ambitions

Afghanistan desperately needs to build a homegrown governance system, which is representative, and which does not continue to become more repressive

It is also vital to prevent chaos in the country which could unleash another humanitarian disaster and provide a fecund environment to extremist outfits such as Al-Qaeda and its offshoot, the Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K), an affiliate of the central ISIS group in the Middle East

However, the international community remains reluctant to go beyond providing meagre humanitarian support, to unfreeze Afghan assets, and resume international aid

Meanwhile, the Taliban find themselves locked into an intensifying rivalry with IS-K

IS-K is now portraying itself as a Taliban rejectionist group, by claiming that the Taliban have somehow sold out or been coopted by the Americans, and it is IS-K which now represents the spirit of anti-imperial resistance

Such posturing is not only indicative of IS-K political connivance, but this nature of propaganda places severe limits on the Taliban’s ability to show political leniency

The Taliban’s announcement of a largely Pushtun and all-male caretaker government was not only an illustration of ideological myopia, but it was also compelled by the need to avert the IS-K from exploiting internal dissent within the ranks of the Taliban

Pakistan has already seen IS-K being emboldened across the Durand Line, besides the Taliban themselves challenging the status of this demarcation as an international border

IS-K affiliates, such as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), have also become more active, and they have been known to target Chinese investors in Pakistan in solidarity with the Eastern Turkmenistan Islamic Movement (ETIM)

The threat of IS-K gaining strength in Afghanistan is an issue of concern for not only Afghanistan, but for Pakistan, China and other regional states, besides the US

While all states agree that IS-K and Al-Qaeda should not be given an opportunity to regroup in Afghanistan, there is a major difference of opinion about other militant outfits

Contending with ETIM and TTP remains a priority for China and Pakistan, but the US is less concerned about these latter groups

Pakistan also fears that India will take advantage of the turmoil in Afghanistan to resume support of militancy in Balochistan

On the other hand, India is concerned with the re-energisation of militant groups which operate in Kashmir

Instead of using Afghanistan as a tit-for-tat arena for stoking trouble in rival states, all countries with a stake in Afghanistan need to cooperate to effectively contend with IS-K and Al-Qaeda

If such cooperation succeeds, it may enable needed collaboration to curb illicit opium production and to make the Afghan economy more sustainable

Afghanistan has an immensely valuable geostrategic location, which is at the crossroads of Central and South Asia, and it has mineral deposits worth nearly $1 trillion

Yet, regional trade possibilities and increased foreign investments to inject life into the Afghan economy can only materialise if Afghanistan’s descent into chaos is averted

Published in The Express Tribune, January 7th, 2022

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Date:08-Jan-2022 Reference:View Original Link