llama Iqbal was right to call Afghanistan the heart of Asia and that peace in Asia will depend on peace in Afghanistan. It’s not just a particular patch of land cloistered from the outside world, rather the entire region and world politics has been played out in the rugged mountains of Afghanistan.
Marauders of all sorts have come and crossed it to get hold of the fertile lands of India — sometimes under the influence of Hindu empires of India, then Persia and at times Central Asia. The influence has always been limited and would end either through internal revolts or external aggressions.
Islam had inroads into Afghanistan during the times of Caliph Usman (RA). Mongols went to Iran through these mountains. Babar conquered India by first occupying Kabul and then using the Afghans to get the seat of Delhi from another Afghan Ibrahim Lodhi. Mahmud of Ghazni had made it his pastime to build Ghazni with gold from the Indian temples, Mirwais Hotak rebelled against the Georgian governor of Kandahar and attempted an independent kingdom but that did not survive. Ahmad Shah Abdali finally formed the basis of modern day Afghanistan but his successors too had to cope with the British which led to two Anglo Afghan Wars, and so and so forth.
The external intrusions apart, the history is also replete with infighting among the various tribes and unending machinations to outmanoeuver rival cousins. Khiljis and Durranis had been vying for the political ascendancy which was further complicated by the political space taken by Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras. The ethnic and tribal equations further compounded by the coming of various ideologies which claimed political space cross cutting numerous ethnic groups.
Hence, foreign interventions and internal disorder had led to the incessant bleeding of the heart of Asia. The primary part has always been played by the foreigners who would perpetuate its rule by playing one against the other thus embedding the internal rifts into the social fabric of Afghan society. The Afghans thus have been used and abused for the political sports of others.
The situation has not changed even today. The US, Iran, Russia, Pakistan, India and others rely on their internal proxies to extend their hold over Afghanistan politics. The support to certain groups has never been sincere as respective power players always shifted their patronage from one group to another depending on their immediate interests. The big example is of the transformation of “freedom fighters” against USSR into “militants”.
Why the US extended the stay of its troops in active combat, no one has a certain answer since the logic of Trump may warrant a permanent stay of the US. It’s true that the US abandoning Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal led to civil wars; but it will have to leave at some point in time. How much of Afghanistan has been developed and how many dollars have been spent spent in proportion to that development is anybody’s guess. Same goes for Pakistan for its undue expenditures, investments, overt and covert interventions; all it got in return is hatred of the Afghan people and militancy in its own country.
The US want to stay since the burden it took of democratic and progressive Afghanistan is yet to be fulfilled, or that USSR is still a threat in view of its role in the Middle East or the US or its elites are into the billion dollars drug business with eyes on the rich mines and oil in the mountains of Afghanistan which they don’t want the expanding China to take hold of.
Pakistan is worried about the Indian influence in Afghanistan. It can do anything for US but won’t budge an inch when it comes to India. Any statement given by any Afghan official is countered immediately and irresponsibly which further fans the never-ending tensions and vice-versa.
The USSR invaded and confronted a resistance force in the shape of various brands of Mujahideen. True they were strengthened by the financial support of Petro-dollars and that famous “stinger missile”, but they were a natural outcome. Same goes for the US invasion as the Taliban would be resisting it at some level. And if not the Taliban, some other group would have propped up indigenously and would have sought external support to carry out their anti-occupation activities. Purpose here is not to exonerate Pakistan or others, but to understand the nuances of occupation.
Pakistan’s intervention is wrong but if Pakistan ends its support, will the resistance vanquish at once? No. The resistance forces will approach Russia, Iran, Turkey or anyone having grudge against the US to further their interests. The guerrilla warfare can be sustained with local resources as well — for instance a local IED costs a few hundred rupees only. Hence, Pakistan or anyone may be doing bad to interfere in others’ matters, but the fundamental cause for presence of the resistance is existence of the Nato forces. The situation has to be assessed objectively.
The outside forces should not support Taliban, but the Nato forces too should leave for good. Outside support strengthen the activities of Taliban, but presence of the occupation force is the cause of their existence. Hence, let the Afghan democracy evolve naturally with its own resources. We all can support them. No need to occupy them and force democracy down their throats. No one has ever digested such forced meals.
India for sure is involved on various forums to undermine Pakistan which it shouldn’t be doing. But Pakistan too must come out of the India syndrome. If India is investing in Afghanistan and entertaining its students and patients, Pakistan should be obliged that India is sharing the burden of its poor neighbour which otherwise would have done by Pakistan. India and Afghanistan have a historical relation. Afghan kings like Shah Shuja and others would stay in India on their exile and the plans for the seat of Kabul would be designed in India. Moreover, if India and Pakistan are into proxy war in Afghanistan through covert activities then it’s alarming for both and especially to the Afghan government. The Afghan government should not just approach Pakistan to stop its alleged covert activities but also ask India to not use its soil for their fight against Pakistan.
Another concern of Pakistan is the non-acceptability of Durand Line by all the successive Afghan governments. Legally speaking, both the countries interpret the clauses differently. Whatever be the legalities, it’s very much clear that Durand Line is an unnatural boundary like many others across the world. There are two ways to resolve it, either through referendum as is the case of Kurds in Iraq, or make it a soft border like many in Europe. If not, precious resources would be spent on arguing and fighting without any end in the near future.