American trust in Pakistan and Taliban difficult to comprehend

DelhiWritten By: Rajan KhannaUpdated: Sep 13, 2019, 06:29 PM IST
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File photo. Photograph:(Reuters)

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Pakistan has used extremist groups to attain strategic depth in Afghanistan in order to achieve its objectives. Tomorrow, it could well use the Taliban to foment trouble in Afghanistan, India and the region in general.

President Donald Trump has announced the cancellation of talks with Taliban in view of the killings of 12 persons, including an American, by the terrorist outfit. Interestingly, the Taliban has owned up the attack to derive leverage during its secret talks with the American President; the so-called peace deal is derailed for the time being.

During his recent visit to the US, Pakistani PM Imran Khan seems to have convinced the American President that if the latter offers to mediate in Kashmir, Pakistan will bring Taliban onboard and facilitate US’ honourable exit from Afghanistan.

When American troops set foot on Afghan soil they did not ask for the Taliban’s permission. So why should they need it now when they are all set to leave? President Trump is contesting elections for a second term and he needs to convey to the American people that he is going to save billions of dollars, which were unnecessarily spent in Afghanistan; hence the hasty retreat. 

The truth is that the Americans know the Taliban better than anyone else because of their extensive dealings with the terror outfit: they know the Taliban’s propensity to go back on an agreement. Any American attempt to involve Pakistan to broker the deal with the Taliban is going to be a futile and counter-productive exercise. Yet, they continue to do so.

Pakistan has used extremist groups to attain strategic depth in Afghanistan in order to achieve its objectives. Tomorrow, it could well use Taliban to foment trouble in Afghanistan, India and the region in general.

Afghans perceive Pakistan as their principal enemy because of them, peace has always eluded the landlocked country. Islamabad has consistently created and used radicals in Afghanistan. It has blackmailed that country for long because it offers the Karachi Port for Afghanistan’s import and export needs. Pakistan has consistently supplied low-quality wheat to Afghanistan at high prices, taking advantage of the latter’s geography.

The other big reason for this dislike is the Durand line, which the Afghans believe the British used as a tool to divide the Pashtuns. In 1893, the British split the Pashtun areas keeping Peshawar and FATA belt within the borders of British India while giving a bigger chunk to Afghanistan. Most Pashtuns hope for a united Pashtunistan one day.

There may be some Pakistani friends in Talibani Pashtuns, but all other ethnic groups living in Afghanistan nurse deep animosity towards that country.

It is noteworthy that Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras and Shia tribes living in bordering areas of Iran, hold Pakistan responsible for the disturbances and instability that their country is undergoing.

One can safely conclude that once NATO forces exit from Afghanistan, Pakistan with the help of its Taliban supporters, will let all hell loose, as it had done after the withdrawal of Soviets.

If there is any country which has done developmental work in Afghanistan in the last few years, it is India. The Salma dam, constructed and funded by India in the Herat province, has been named the Afghan-India friendship dam by the government of Afghanistan. Afghanistan’s Parliament has been build by India, which is also supporting numerous other infrastructure projects.

Afghans acknowledge their friendship with India and value the economic cooperation that comes with it. India has built the Chabahar port in Iran and has constructed a road connecting it with the Herat province in Afghanistan.

Pakistan is likely to arm-twist Afghanistan on account of sea connectivity it provides to the latter through the Karachi port. In that scenario, the Chabahar- Herat route can become a lifeline for the Afghans. The current Afghan government earnestly wants India to be involved in talks with the Taliban.

As far as India is concerned, the geopolitical scenario looks grim in the Af-Pak region. In all likelihood, Pakistan will send Taliban guerrillas to foment trouble in Kashmir and try to jeopardise Indian economic activities in Afghanistan.

It will also play spoilsport for Indian trade with the Central Asian republics through the Chabahar-Herat route.

Someone has to persuade Trump to understand that a country, which harboured Osama bin Laden, was never trustworthy in the past and will never be so in the future.

(This article was originally published on The DNA. Read the original article)

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)