Afghanistan and the role of regional powers

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By Mirza Kashif Baig

Pakistan has played an important and very positive role in the Afghanistan transition process. Pakistan has maintained from the start that the solution to Afghanistan peace is through dialogue and that a military option is not beneficial for anyone. It has been almost two decades since the NATO forces led by the US invaded Afghanistan and shortly after the declared victory.

Their victory celebrations were short-lived as the Afghan Taliban started guerilla attacks on the invading forces ensuring that the invaders don’t get time to settle in. What was supposed to be an open shut case for the US stretched over two decades due to the resistance from the Afghan Taliban and during that the US and its allies were never able to ensure complete control of Afghanistan. They had never won but they did, however, suffer a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Afghan Taliban.

During the entire war, the US repeatedly blamed Pakistan for the heavy losses it was suffering so much so that despite Pakistan’s sincere efforts they always had a ‘DO MORE’ mantra for Pakistan. Some US defense analysts blamed Pakistan for their defeat in Afghanistan all the while requesting Pakistan to mediate during any peace talks between the US and the Afghan Taliban. In this way, Pakistan had a significant role in Afghanistan, and  Pakistan played a significant role in this victory of the Afghan Taliban.

China and Russia were convinced by Pakistan to play their role in Afghanistan and both these countries supported the Afghan Taliban. Afghanistan provides China with a route to the Central Asian countries. This is an excellent opportunity for China to advance the OBOR project and develop multiple trade routes. Better terms with China are in the interest of Afghanistan as the country needs major infrastructure development while its economy is in shambles. China can prove to be a reliant partner for trade and can provide significant support to Afghanistan in rebuilding its economy and developing its infrastructure.

Similarly, Afghanistan will require a strong partner for military supplies and Russia can be of great help in that regard. Russian military might rival that of the US and coupled with the economic might of China, it can provide Afghanistan with the right mix of protection and development. Iran has a considerable stake in Afghanistan and due to the efforts of Pakistan, Iranians supported the Afghan Taliban in their conquest of Kabul. The Shi’ite majority force in Afghanistan supported the Afghani Taliban against the puppet government of Ashraf Ghani. Afghani Taliban should strghten their ties with Iran as it is crucial for regional peace.

Pakistan can provide Afghanistan with crucial intel and train the Taliban in counter-insurgency being the only country to have successfully crush terrorism on its soil. In turn, the Afghan Taliban should remember that Pakistan has supported them as two super powers, and the Afgahn soil is not used against Pakistan. Afghan Taliban have a long way to go still and Pakistan’s influence can provide them with significant support to cater to their political and domestic problems.

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