Clear thinking and full institutional backing has led Pakistan’s Prime Minister to declare unequivocally that there is ‘absolutely no’ chance that we will allow the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) any bases or permission to conduct military operations inside Afghanistan. In fact, PM Imran Khan’s policy statement is reflective of his long-term commitment for support to peace in Afghanistan.
When it comes to Afghanistan, Pakistan has suffered enormously over the last four decades: politically, economically, militarily, socio-culturally, environmentally, and perhaps most importantly in the domain of internal security. No other nation, except the Afghans themselves, have suffered so colossally than Pakistan, for a security situation of its neighbour.
When Soviet Union entered and occupied nearly the whole of Afghanistan in December 1979, Pakistan opened its doors for the Afghans who were forced to abandon their homes. At one stage during Soviet occupation, Pakistan was home to over three million refugees, who could not be confined to the camps due to certain policy decisions, but were allowed to spread and settle at places of their choice. On the other hand, Iran was able to confine the refugees inside the camps and therefore did not have to face the socio-cultural fallout that Pakistan did for its own policies.
Inflow of guns and drugs with refugees and the freedom fighters, suicide bombings by Taliban, drone attacks by US, and economic sanctions by US and NATO allies, is what Pakistan got for the sacrifices it rendered for the brotherly Muslim country
The situation was no different when the US entered Afghanistan to clean up Al Qaida in the aftermath of 9/11, which were allegedly planned inside Afghanistan. Pakistan once again opened its doors for Afghans maintaining the same old policy of unrestricted and undocumented movement of the legitimate as well as unauthorized refugees. This time, Pakistan went through torrid times in terms of internal security because Afghan fighters were fighting against old companions: the US. Hence, Pakistan was seen supporting the US efforts against the Global War On Terror (GWOT), which Taliban did not approve off. Pakistan was subjected to severe backlash from Afghan Taliban which led to the creation of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
While Pakistan was picking its martyrs across the country from shopping malls, military complexes, schools, and border areas, the US was insisting on its politico-military leadership to ‘do more’ to support their effort against Taliban hiding in border areas of Pakistan. On the one hand, US was launching drone attacks in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) to kill Taliban fighters who were suspected to be doing operations against the US troops inside Afghanistan, and on the other, Taliban suicide bombers were killing men, women, children, soldiers, officers, and members of Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) inside Pakistani cities.
Pakistan’s entire societal fabric was affected in the last four decades because of the invasions. Inflow of guns and drugs with refugees and the freedom fighters, suicide bombings by Taliban, drone attacks by US, and economic sanctions by US and NATO allies, is what Pakistan got for the sacrifices it rendered for the brotherly Muslim country.
On the economic front, Pakistan has suffered a loss of over USD 120 billion, only since 9/11, against the military assistance of around USD 20 billion. Environmental and infrastructural degradation that major Pakistani cities suffer due to the additional refugee population cannot be measured correctly due to longevity of the events which are ongoing.
Now that US troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan following the Doha Agreement, concluded and signed on 29 February 2020, between US and Taliban. Pakistan played an important part in the process and the same was acknowledged by all stakeholders. The US has started to withdraw its troops and equipment since 1 May 2021, which initially was the completion date of the withdrawal according to Doha Agreement. However, the new Biden Administration requested more time to settle down and assured that US and NATO forces’ withdrawal will be completed by September 11, 2021, perhaps for symbolic reasons. The US is leaving Afghanistan after its longest war which lasted for 20 years. US accomplishments during the Afghan campaign costing over a trillion US dollars would be debated for a long time.
Pakistan is once again making efforts for a peaceful Afghanistan in the post-US withdrawal scenario, which looks gloomy and uncertain, because Taliban are not willing to share any role in governance with the present Afghan government. The US has assured its support to President Ashraf Ghani even after the withdrawal of its forces, for which it appeared keen to look for launching pads in Pakistan, like before. However, Pakistan has categorically rejected the idea that it would provide any space to the US for any kind of military operations inside Afghanistan from its soil.
Pakistan has suffered a lot for its support to extra-regional forces for operations inside Afghanistan. Therefore, it has decided very wisely to declare that there is ‘absolutely no’ chance that it will provide any space to external forces for any kind of military operations inside Afghanistan from Pakistani soil. Pakistan may have to face the consequences of the decision at international forums: FATF, and the IMF. Pakistan’s decision must be supported at all levels and our media should take some responsibility to support the government’s decisions taken in supreme national interests.
Dr Shamsi is Director of Peace & Conflict Studies (CASS) and the author of the book ‘Nuclear Deterrence and Conflict Management Between India and Pakistan.’ The article was first published in Daily Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Image Source: Express Tribune. “Pakistan wants peace in Afghanistan.” April 30, 2019.