PAKISTAN, February 26, 2012 – Afghanistan has been a war zone since the Russian invasion of 1979. Now Western countries, lead by the United States, are attempting to resolve the strife in the country. A long term solution to peace in Afghanistan requires a strategic, religious, political, social and economic solution.
Some of the internal political forces operating in Afghanistan are the Taliban, Hezbi Islami, the Karzai government in Kabul and the Northern Alliance. The Taliban want to impose a strict version of Islam on Afghanistan. Although the NATO forces have weakened the Taliban, it remains a political reality in Afghanistan.
Hezbi Islami, an anti-communist party, was formed in 1975 by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. The group is mainly composed of members of the Pashtun tribe and is considered a terrorist group by the West. The Northern Alliance consists of all the ethnic groups fighting against Taliban and Hizbi Islami. On the other hand, the Karzai government backed and funded by the international community, is in its infancy and is not capable of exerting its influence on the entire Afghanistan.
To bring peace to Afghanistan, all the above factions must cooperate with each other. However, instead of working for a unified and peaceful Afghanistan, they currently are fighting each other and causing instability in the country.
The countries bordering Afghanistan can help to secure stability in Afghanistan. These countries include Pakistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikstan, Russia, China and India. If all these countries come together and commit to bringing stability to Afghanistan, they could help Afghanistan end its long civil war and Afghanistan can become a prosperous country. Instead these neighboring countries are supporting and funding the different internal political forces operating in Afghanistan. India is supporting Northern Alliance, Pakistan is supporting Taliban and Iran is supporting Hezbi Islami. So the internal political forces are playing in the hands of the neighboring countries of Afghanistan. If the bordering countries stop helping their puppets in Afghanistan, it will be easier for the Karzai government to exert its role in bringing stability in Afghanistan. Instead, the border countries are actively destabilizing the situation.
Pakistan wants to influence the internal affairs of Afghanistan. One strategy it is using is gaining contracts to train the security forces of Afghanistan, so that it will have its agents in the future government to ensure Pakistani interests. This agenda is not acceptable to the United States, which wants a sovereign Afghanistan and wants Afghanistan to have an independent foreign policy.
Pakistan also is wary of Indian influence in Afghanistan, as Pakistan and India are historic rivals. Both countries claim ownership of the state of Kashmir, and have fought numerous official and unofficial battles over the province. Pakistan worries that if India wins influence in Afghanistan, it will tip the regional balance of power in favor of India. In order to counter Indian influence in Afghanistan, Pakistan is supporting the Taliban, as India is supporting the Northern Alliance.
Pakistan and Iran are working against each other to gain a share in the economy of Afghanistan. Afghanistan is a landlocked country and does not have access to international waters. To reach ports, Afghanistan must go through either Iran or Pakistan. Whichever country wins the bulk of Afghanistan’s imports and exports will benefit. Iran is supporting the Persian speaking Tajik community to gain influence in the establishment of Afghanistan and Pakistan is supporting the Pashtun community to gain influence in the future setup of Afghanistan.
Russia and China are other neighbors of Afghanistan and are wary of the American policy towards Afghanistan. The presence of American troops in Afghanistan is taken as a strategic threat by both Russia and China. Russian troops are present in Tajikstan, which is a neighboring country of Afghanistan, and China has a shared border with Afghanistan. The presence of American troops in Afghanistan is causing both Russia and China to increase their troops in the respective regions.
Coalition forces, including the United States, also play a role in Afghanistan’s stability as the foreign forces are actively engaged in training the Afghan forces to take control of Afghanistan once the American and NATO forces leave Afghanistan. Coalition forces are also helping the Karzai government to gain legitimacy and counter destabilizing forces like Taliban, Hezbi Islami and Northern Alliance.
The people of Afghanistan are committed to free their country from foreign forces but they are not willing to do it at the cost of hard line regimes like Taliban. People of Afghanistan have witnessed the brutal regime of Taliban and still remember the horrors of Taliban version of Islam. Taliban has lost its popularity in Afghanistan but the members of Taliban are in hiding and once they get the opportunity they can reinforce their influence in some of the eastern and southern provinces of Afghanistan with help and funding from Pakistan. After the U.S. leaves Afghanistan in 2014, the responsibility to bring order in the country will fall on the shoulders of the internal political forces of Afghanistan. The Taliban with help from Pakistan is poised to become the main force to bring peace to the country, reverting Afghanistan to the situation before Western forces entered the country especially in the eastern and southern parts of Afghanistan.
Pakistan is watching the situation in Afghanistan very carefully. As the United States leaves Afghanistan in 2014, the internal political divide between the Taliban and Northern Alliance will become a reality and the chances of partition of Afghanistan into two separate countries will become a real possibility.
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