Thursday, January 31, 2019

Afghanistan and Geopolitics

By Brigadier Nadir Mir (R)

The single most crucial factor in Afghanistan peace efforts or end game is Pakistan’s national interest. Pakistan and Afghanistan are entwined in multi-faceted ways. Pakistan has suffered immensely since 9/11. US-NATO intervention has added two decades of mayhem and consternation to both Afghanistan and Pakistan. The US under President Trump, the supreme fiscal pragmatist has resolved to evict from Afghanistan. Of course the American strive for the best deal out of a lost war. The question is what does Pakistan aims for in a post-US Afghanistan?

Guarding Pakistan’s National Interests
Pakistan must project One Stated Afghan Policy. Ambiguity can be self-defeating for Pakistan. The civil-military, foreign office, think tanks, media must project one single, clear Afghan policy. The outcome of the post 9/11 Afghanistan war is evident like the day light to patriotic Pakistanis initiated in geopolitics. There is no room for vacillation or compliance on any score. 

Who won the Afghan war? 
The real winner of the Afghan conflict post 9/11 is simply Pakistan. Even though the Afghan Taliban or resistance to foreign forces did the war fighting. Russia, China, Iran even Central Asian States found US-NATO longevity of presence unwelcome. Earlier the Soviets were evicted by the Mujahideen mentored by Pakistan’s superlative ISI. This time Pakistan’s vaunted ISI would also facilitate the End Game of this chapter of the New Great Game

Pakistan is the real winner because it can secure its geopolitical, geo-economic and geo-strategic interests in post-US Afghanistan. However, before declaring victory or being drowned in the euphoria of happy geo-political tidings, a word of caution is mandated. The script for the next chapter of Afghanistan is being written, it should not be the handiwork of forces inimical to Pakistan’s interests. 

Reflection of national history also suggest that Pakistan has a legacy of betrayal by its political elite. Else the elite of the time was unworthy and missed these geopolitical opportunities. 

Lost Geopolitical Opportunities
1962 Kashmir. India was beaten by China. The Dictator of the time did not avail the opportunity of liberating Indian Held Kashmir. Persuaded by President John Kennedy and enamored by Jacqueline Kennedy the Pakistan Elite allowed the opportunity to slip out of Pakistan’s hands. By 1965 when Operation Gibraltar and later Grand Slam was launched, Pakistan found India better prepared. Even though Pakistan’s soldiers fought brilliant, bold tactical battles, the result was a strategic stalemate. Geopolitics turned against Pakistan and in 1971 Pakistan suffered terribly with the loss of East Pakistan, brought about by its existential enemy – India! 

Khalistan 1980-1990 - Khalistan was another golden opportunity to repay India for 1971. Also it would sever Kashmir and bring back Kashmir to Pakistan where it belonged. The creation of Khalistan would re-balance geo-strategic power between Pakistan and India. It would also set in motion domino effect since a dozen Indian freedom movements would be boosted. Khalistan was betrayed by the Pakistan political elite, in essence Pakistan was betrayed.

Afghanistan post 9/11 - In the last two decades of Afghan War, both dictator and political elite were to blame for Pakistan’s woes. The resilient Pakistani nation and its heroic soldiers stood fast stoically for this day. The time when Pakistan would influence the final outcome to its own ends in Afghanistan. 

US – Afghan Taliban Talks. US – Afghan Taliban Talks are very welcome. Pakistan has and should facilitate talks and negotiated settlement. Pakistan should maintain friendly balance with both USA and Afghan Taliban. A clear post US-NATO Exit vision is the basis of peace and stability in Afghanistan. Peace talks or final settlement will be greatly influenced by US politics.

US Politics - President Trump is basically a non-interventionist. For the $ 5 billion wall on the Mexican border, he shut down the US Government. For saving $50billion from the Afghan War annually, he will pull out sooner or later. In USA, despite being a hyper super power, ‘All politics is ultimately local!’ If after a two decade unwinnable war, $ 1 trillion US in the Afghan drain or swamp besides loss of life, limb for US military who can grudge his Kabul pullout? If you ask Americans about the Afghan War, many may be surprised that it is still ongoing. Of course Pentagon, CIA, State Department are already thinking ahead. They know Afghanistan was a previous war. Iran is the next one! Besides USA, Pakistan is the other most decisive player for end script.

Visitors to Pakistan - Foreign visitors, dignitaries to Pakistan by design differentiate between civil-military leadership. Of late political elite is being pampered, while the military faces a demonization campaign as usual. Pakistan’s answer is to present one policy, one voice on Afghanistan. Maintaining diplomatic protocol input of foreign visitors should be taken with a pinch of salt, if history is any teacher of geopolitics. Zalmay and other anti- Pakistan elements can bring no good. Aftermath of Geneva Accord and Bonn should be kept in mind.

No role for India, the spoiler - India the spoiler for Afghan peace has no role at all. Pakistan’s political elite should not confuse or lack in diction. In simplest terms Indian job in Afghanistan is to wind up its terror-consulates and terminate its hybrid war against Pakistan from Afghan soil!

Post US-NATO Umbrella in Afghanistan - After Soviet departure, Zbignew Brezinski, the architect geo-politician of Soviet defeat was asked about the terrorist menace born in aftermath of Soviet withdrawal. His reply was succinct. In essence for defeating a greater enemy (Soviets) a small enemy terrorists could be defeated later. In Post US-NATO umbrella in Afghanistan, the fact is that both State actor and non-State actor enemies will be defeated. Pakistan will triumph!

  • Firstly, the Kabul regime puppets of India and hostile forces will be ousted. Whatever or ever replaces will be a lesser evil. If Pakistan pro-actively asserts which it should the future Kabul Regime should be friendly to Pakistan.
  • Secondly, the Indian terror consulates and Delhi’s hybrid war against Pakistan from Afghan soil will be untenable. India is already reportedly reaching out to Iran, Russia and others for its war of survival in Kabul after the Americans leave.
  • Thirdly, Pakistan can deal in multiple ways, even if the Americans leave Afghanistan without a deal. Afghanistan will be more dependent, Pakistan’s leverage will increase. Not only would US-NATO but China, Russia, Iran need Pakistani geopolitical succor. 
  • Fourthly, under COAS General Bajwa, Pakistan has improved border security with Afghanistan. Border fence and management will reduce terrorists intrusion from Afghanistan, while terrorists safe heavens have already been eliminated on the Pakistan side. The overall favorable geo-strategy and resultant healthy foreign policy environment, credit goes to COAS General Bajwa and not anyone else.

It was Pakistan’s dictator and political elite which for personal aggrandizement wanted the war in Afghanistan to continue perpetually. Now the Americans need to exit, which is in the interest of all parties except Indians and their surrogates in Afghanistan.
Afghan Peace Deal
• A negotiated settlement is the best outcome.• The Afghan Taliban get a fair share in the political dispensation.• The US-NATO forces withdraw completely along with a ceasefire. • Kabul regime ensures its soil not used for any terrorist activity against US/EU and Pakistan.• US supports the Kabul regime financially. 
What does Pakistan get? Pakistan’s national interests must be guaranteed as part of the deal if and when one is finally concluded. 

Pakistan National Interests 
Geopolitical: The Kabul regime cannot be allied to India against Pakistan. Indian investments, intrusion, consulates must cease. The sanctity of the Pakistan-Afghan border must be respected. A friendly regime in Kabul is indispensable. 

Geo-economic: As stated in my book ‘Gwadar on the Global Chessboard’, Afghanistan is a route to Central Asia linking Gwadar. Geo-economic bonanza of Gwadar, CPEC and corridor to Russia, Central Asia will bind Afghanistan- Pakistan geo-economically. Russia, Chinese investments in Afghanistan- Pakistan would be synergized. I had earlier written letter to President Putin, given interview to voice of Russia, met Russian Ambassador and diplomats to join Gwadar CPEC. A Central Asian Ambassador told me after the Americans leave Afghanistan they would connect through Afghanistan to Pakistan’s Gwadar.

Geo-strategic: Pakistan with a friendly Afghanistan in its rear can focus on re-absorbing Kashmir and rebalancing South Asia. In my book ‘Geopolitik Pakistan’ (2013) it was highlighted that after US-NATO exit Pakistan shall proactively deal with India. The American’s sans Afghanistan will be more focused on their next conflict with Iran and would need Pakistan to stabilize Afghanistan. 

Geopolitical opportunities - Three geo political opportunities beacon themselves in 2019-2020 period. 

  • • Afghanistan. Pakistan can and should be the principal winner of US-NATO exit from Kabul.
  • • Kashmir. The heroic Kashmiris have waged a sacrifice laden struggle. Pakistan cooperation with USA should as quid pro quo enlist US support to resolve Kashmir dispute.
  • • Khalistan. The Khalistan 2020 movement is spreading. Kartarpur initiative has smitten many Sikhs to Pakistan. Kartarpur should lead to Khalistan! An independent buffer state and neutral trading space bringing peace to Pakistan and India and delinking Kashmir from India.

Geopolitical winds are blowing in Pakistan’s Favor - USA, China, Russia all need Pakistan for various reasons. This rare geopolitical good fortune should not be frittered away. Nor sold at the altar of political expediency. The people of Pakistan have firmly supported the state. Now the state must ensure the real winner of Real Politik in Afghanistan is called Pakistan.
“Pakistan is destined to rise as a Great Nation”.

About the Author Brigadier Nadir Mir (R): Soldier – Scholar – Reformer, Chairman, PNRM.
Author of books ‘Gwadar on the Global Chessboard’ and ‘Geopolitik Pakistan’.
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