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Afghan quagmire

Akhtar Ali

With the foreign forces’ withdrawal timeline from Afghanistan come closure, the concern by the regional countries is getting louder. Afghan Taliban, the strongest group, are reluctant to engage with the current Afghan dispensation prompting the likelihood of civil war in Afghanistan. It has been more than four decades since the Soviet Union occupied, and Afghanistan remained unstable. The fallout effect of instability in Afghanistan has been well pronounced in the neighboring countries including Pakistan.

There is widespread apprehension that the hasty decision of America to withdraw its force may put the war-torn country into unending civil war.  Such a situation would have an adverse impact not only on Afghanistan but on the whole region, particularly in Pakistan.  The situation in Afghanistan whether it was the Soviet’s invasion, post-Soviet withdrawal, or after 9/11 has been challenging for Pakistan. Post US withdrawal quagmire will further intensify.  

The first and foremost serious challenge for Pakistan is the law and order situation. Anarchy in Afghanistan may create a power vacuum that would be filled by anti-Pakistan forces already operating from Afghanistan. Emboldened by uninterrupted safe heaven, Tehrik-e- Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and other anti-Pakistan insurgence groups may accelerate their militant activities in Pakistan. Successful military operations though broke their base in Pakistan, yet their existence in Afghanistan continues to cast the shadow of terror in the country. The existence of ISIS in Afghanistan is a special concern particularly for its motives to fan sectarianism.

Deteriorate the security situation in Afghanistan has always cast an adverse impact on the social life of Pakistan. Soviet invasion and post-Soviet withdrawal introduced Kalashnikov culture in Pakistan. The crime rate in post-Soviet invasion drastically rose in the country. Furthermore, the lawless land of Afghanistan is heaven for drug cultivators. About more than 90% of illicit heroin is produced by Afghanistan and is smuggled to the rest of the world through Pakistan. These and many others from Afghanistan disturb the social fabric of Pakistan. According to United Nations, almost 6.7 million people are drug-addicted in Pakistan. American withdrawal and possible civil war would further augment these numbers putting the country into social degeneration.

The effect of Afghan’s civil war on the economy of this country cannot be ruled out. Pakistan already hosts four million Afghan refugees for four decades and the new wave of war may further increase their numbers putting an additional burden on the already plummeted economy. Volatile security in Afghanistan may affect investment in Pakistan the Pakistan China Economic Corridor (CPEC), the flagship project of OBOR, maybe the easy target for the anti-Pakistan forces in Afghanistan. Moreover, CPEC needs a peaceful environment for regional connectivity. China and Pakistan want to extend CPEC to landlocked Central Asian Republic and Afghanistan letting them access warm water. Without peace in Afghanistan, this project may not be materialized.

The effect of the Afghan situation on the other countries is not too different. Given the challenges stemmed out from the Afghan insurgency, it is in the best interest of the global as well as regional powers to play their role to restore peace in Afghanistan. Hitherto Afghanistan has undergone proxy wars by different regional and global powers. To protect their interest, these powers have supported one insurgent group or others. Peace in Afghanistan is to achieve; regional connectivity and trade are to be developed, all the regional and global powers will have to abandon their proxies in Afghanistan. At the same time, it also should be kept in mind that the peace settlement must be Afghan own Afghan-led, while regional and global power ought to offer their good offices instead to middle the process.

(The writer is research and content writer).

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