What will happen in Afghanistan and Pakistan after 2014

Published: July 2, 2011
The writer is Distinguished National Professor Emeritus of Linguistic History

The writer is Distinguished National Professor Emeritus of Linguistic History [email protected]

For more than a quarter of a century, the history of Afghanistan is one of unending violence, death and tears. Now let us see what the future holds for this unfortunate land and, by extension, for Pakistan and the whole South Asian region. This future begins in July 2011, when US President Barack Obama will begin withdrawing 10,000 troops. General David H Petraeus wants the withdrawal to be slow because, in his opinion, the eastern part of the country is still insecure. But Obama’s mind seems to be made up. He wants this done soon and, in addition, he wants the 33,000 troops he sent in the autumn of 2009 to come back home before 2012 too. This withdrawal is widely linked with the coming presidential elections in the US but, even granting this, is this a bad thing? If many Americans want the end of the Afghan war, is the desire of the military and the neocons to give a tough nationalistic front to the world the best course of action? Or is it peace and reconciliation and the cutting of losses?

Those who have read Bob Woodward’s Obama’s Wars (2010) know how the American military, which surrounded the president, finally persuaded him to send in these troops as part of the ‘surge’ policy. But now, perhaps because of the confidence Obama has gained in the last few months, he has decided not to give in to the military’s pressure ending on this protracted and useless conflict. And, in my view, it is a good decision.

Anyone who has read my article on the surge in The News on Sunday (Dec 12, 2010) will bear witness that the policy supported by the military has not achieved what it was supposed to achieve. Indeed, anyone who goes back even further to my article warning against a war in Afghanistan (The News, Sept 17, 2001) will agree that the war was not the solution to the threat posed to the US by al Qaeda. If at all any policy would have worked, it was covert action based on intelligence reports and predators. However, that did not happen and now, after 10 years and thousands of wasted lives and incomputable anguish, the war might be ending by 2014.

What does this mean for Afghanistan? For Pakistan? For South Asia? And for the rest of the world? The optimistic scenario is that the Afghan government will be powerful enough to resist a complete takeover by the Taliban. Indeed, the government will become cleaner day by day, and the influence of the Taliban and the warlords will decrease as good governance bears fruit. India and Pakistan will act sensibly and not indulge in a proxy war in Afghanistan. Pakistan will initially experience a trust deficit in Afghanistan but when they see no interference in Afghan affairs, the Afghan government will start building a new relationship with Pakistan. On the domestic front, the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, or other religious militants who still continue to fight the state of Pakistan, could be fought single-mindedly as the people will no longer consider this as somebody else’s (America’s) war. The confusion which so divides Pakistanis and makes the public so lukewarm about fighting the militants will vanish and a united response to terrorism will emerge. Being so strengthened Pakistan will wipe out religious militancy and turn the leaf in its relations with India. Our policy need not remain India-centred and there would be a new phase of peaceful coexistence in South Asia.

The pessimistic scenario is that the Taliban will take over Afghanistan or at least parts of it adjoining Pakistan, leaving some northern provinces to the warlords. This means going back to square one for most of the country. Girls’ schools will close down again; investors will be frightened away; women rights and human rights will be held in abeyance. Afghanistan will revert to medievalism of a frightening variety yet again and, of course, all shades of religious groups, including al Qaeda, will flourish. For India, it means that all the money spent in reconstruction will go down the drain. Pakistan is mistrustful and annoyed anyway, but then Afghanistan will also be antagonistic. Moreover, with the Taliban sworn enemies of non-Muslims, India will face a rise in militant activities domestically and a hostile country in the neighbourhood.

For Pakistan, while the Taliban regime may appear friendly in certain ways, it will increase its influence in Fata, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and even in the rest of Pakistan. It would be difficult to fight the militants who, if left alone, will establish their sovereignty over parts of Pakistan. And, if fought with, will seek help and safe havens in Afghanistan. Such a battle will be impossible to win and Pakistan might well succumb to a Talibanised or a civilian authoritarian regime backed by the military.

There is a third scenario too — that the Americans withdraw leaving the Afghans fighting. In such a case Pakistan is sure to back the Taliban and India, the Kabul regime. In short the Indo-Pakistan conflict will be expressed through a proxy war in Afghanistan. In this case, too, the Pakistani state would find it difficult to fight the religious militants and their influence would not decrease. In a sense, then, the present scenario of supporting some militants while fighting others will drag on while parts of the country gradually fall to the militants and the people remain confused.

Under the circumstances, Pakistan would do well to talk to the US, India, Iran and Afghanistan in order to make a clear and unambiguous policy against terrorism. Talking to Taliban groups in Afghanistan, like the Americans are doing now, may be an option too, but only to secure our role as a neutral body. What Pakistan should never do is to fight a proxy war with India in Afghanistan and this is precisely what India should also do. What must be guarded is the democratic freedom of Pakistanis and their right not to be controlled by the Taliban or any other religious groups. This means that the Pakistani state should stop playing games in order to continue its proxy war against India and should start looking after Pakistan for a change.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 3rd, 2011.

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Reader Comments (36)

  • faraz
    Jul 2, 2011 - 11:38PM

    Our real problem is the 500,000 strategic assets, the extensive jihadi infrastructure, massive funding from Middle East, millions of poor youth which are potential recruits for terrorist groups and the extremist mindset that has engulfed a large part of the society. After the end of Kashmir jihad, many Kashmir oriented jihadi groups turned against the state. Most of the suicide bombings in cities are assisted by groups that operated in Kashmir. Peace elsewhere would put these strategic assets of out of job, and they will turn inwards. Whatever happens in Afghanistan, the militancy in Pakistan wont endRecommend

  • Safir afkhan.
    Jul 3, 2011 - 12:52AM

    @ faraz every where army is strong so dont blame army its necessery amer budget for
    army is over 600b why they need it and nato and indian defence budget so on army is

  • Reality
    Jul 3, 2011 - 1:01AM

    Everything will be ok and normal if outsider leave it at rest and peace USA, Pakistan, India, Iran and many more countries has been destroyed and destroying Afghanistan for own Interests since long. Some need resources, some need influence, some need fighting, some need market place/investment/money some need unrest/battle ground while the own Afghan people/national are being killed, divide, comes under slavery, their culture has been destroyed, their families and children’s has been killed, their resources has been occupied, their country their own land being made for them graveyard. Where is justice, where is Islam and where is brotherhood, where is humanity, human rights and real human being… the whole outsider using/fighting their game of interest since long …But one day they whole will be ask for their cruelty, deeds and destructions soon..Just wait. Long Live AfghanistanRecommend

  • faraz
    Jul 3, 2011 - 1:16AM

    @Safir afkhan

    By 500,000 strategic assets, I didn’t mean the army; I was talking about the dozens of jihadi organizations operating in Pakistan since the 1980s, which have about 500,000 members. And the jargon used by the army for these militant groups is strategic assets; the term suggests something sophisticated but it isn’t Recommend

  • Ahmad
    Jul 3, 2011 - 1:40AM

    your article presents nothing new. it also represents idealist approach that is far from reality. wake up and see the real world. Recommend

  • Cautious
    Jul 3, 2011 - 2:09AM

    There are a number of other scenarios – most having the USA with military bases which will allow the USA to use drones/aircraft to pound on militants throughout the region with a ground force only large enough to defend the bases. This is a cost effective method for the USA to keep militants off balance as well as remind them that crossing borders doesn’t provide them protection regardless of what nefarious deal they make with Pakistan. Recommend

  • junaid khan
    Jul 3, 2011 - 3:57AM

    Your a house slave, every single term your white masters have given you you accept. Pakistan and Afghanistan have never been labelled South Asia in their 7000 year existence, yet because your white masters use the term, you use it. Islam which is the most powerful force exerted on the sub continent in the last 1200 years including the joyous period for you when the British looted, raped and plundered the place is not mentioned. The Pakistan, Afghan and Indian muslims are united by brotherhood and are bonded, and hopefully old slaves and secular fundamentalists such as yourself will be wiped away by new Pakistani’s full of confidence and pride in who they are, not imperial lap dogs who’s only aim is to shamelessly ape foreign masters regardless of how ridiculous they look. Finally you want religion militancy to be wiped away except for your relgion, or sorry the religion your white masters raped into you until your ancestors accepted that, is the religion of secularism.


  • corporal
    Jul 3, 2011 - 9:22AM

    @junaid khan
    control buddy,..7000 years of existence of Pakistan and Afghanistan…you seem to be a student of archaeology.Mehrgarh..? ring a bell?are you having any doubt regarding geographical location of Pakistan and Afghanistan?rest of your rants are incoherent and incomprehensible to be best…all that your post conveys,is that you have been ticked off by author saying something like religious militancy to be vanished.are you an al -qaida or sipah e sahaba sympathizer?or worst an activist? Recommend

  • Samad Ali
    Jul 3, 2011 - 9:28AM

    Think about total economic crisis and collapse in Pakistan.This should be the biggest worry.Recommend

  • Mirza
    Jul 3, 2011 - 10:00AM

    @junaid khan:
    Dear Cautious, I agree with the scenario that you have offered. Most people do not understand, even if USA leaves, they are not going to handover the charge to Taliban. They have determined what is most practical for them, and now they are practicing that. In the US only the president is the chief of armed forces and the US generals are not allowed to think out loud by the civilian govt. At present the majority of US population wants out of Afghanistan sooner rather than later. Being a democracy the incumbent president is not going to ignore the voters; hence most of the soldiers would be withdrawn. They would still leave enough soldiers/advisors to help the Afghan govt to control the terrorists. Once the Afghan govt is established with its police and army trained, they would not need so many US soldiers.

    Junaid Khan, there is a short fact that can answer your long argument about the power of Pakistan and Muslims against the foreigners. The British ruled India for well over a century and they never had to send more than 20,000 Englishmen to the whole Indian subcontinent. In other words they controlled today’s India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh with only “a tiny number of British officials and troops (about 20,000 in all) ruled over 300 million”. What was the Islamic Jihad doing all those years? The fact is even if the all the British population would have come to combined India, still it would be a tiny fraction of the local populations. In addition the pre-partition Kashmir was ruled by a Dogra dynasty for a long time.
    Mirza Recommend

  • Jul 3, 2011 - 12:17PM

    Doctor Sahib! Your article is informative and a scenario is emerging, which will spell socio-economic troubles and encourage civil war with a weak government in the saddle.

    But will the USA really exit Afghanistan? According to the Blackwill Plan the USA will remain in the northern part of Afghanistan and keep twenty five thousand troops to counter terrorism. The country will be truncated with the eastern and south eastern going to Pakistan. Then another problem will emerge, which will be unification of the Pashtun tribes.

    Moreover, the USA wants a complete check and an aspired control of our nuclear assets. Why? How can a Muslim state have nuclear weapons with a delivery system? That is why all the incidences of terrorism in the country to weaken us within. Also, we too are at fault for our policy of nurturing tribals to fight on our behalf. Salams to Pakistan.Recommend

  • Udaya Bose
    Jul 3, 2011 - 12:54PM

    “This means that the Pakistani state should stop playing games in order to continue its proxy war against India and should start looking after Pakistan for a change.”

    Mature and pragmatic advice which will benefit all concerned and bring about desirable change in South Asia.
    Unfortunately, unlikely to be accepted by GHQ Rawalpindi – the real arbiters of Pakistan’s policies.Recommend

  • Frank
    Jul 3, 2011 - 2:02PM


    Most of the suicide bombings in cities
    are assisted by groups that operated
    in Kashmir

    This is complete and utter rubbish. I challenge you to provide a single piece of evidence to support this claim. No, quotes from American newspapers and even shriller outbursts than usual from you do not constitute ‘evidence’.Recommend

  • Aryabhat
    Jul 3, 2011 - 2:30PM

    Well descripted scenarios.

    2 missing things though. 1) It fails to take in to account USA remaining in Afghanistan in 2014 and beyond and it assumes China which shares border with Afghanistan remaining a silent watcher! 2) It also forgets capability of India being at least 10 times of Pakistan in 2014. Capability of a nation is not just its military but also economy, quality of the people who rule at top, education/health of its population, and diplomatic power at the top table in world.

    Consider these two points and you would see that things would be much more challenging for Pakistan. Today even Saudi Arabia (ideological backers of Taliban) wants good relation with India and Malaysia (a modern Muslim nation) will have free trade with India coming in effect from 1st August 2011! Why Taliban – how much ever they hate Hindus – would do differently? 2014 will be 20 years different then 1994!

    So for India, it only has to keep doing what it is doing and play the time game. Recommend

  • Rahil
    Jul 3, 2011 - 3:10PM

    Taliban will be eliminated from Afghanistan. People of Indian occupied Kashmir will apologise to the Indian Government for all the atrocities they have committed against the greatest ever democracy of the word. Pakistan will accept India as a local super power. Religion will take a back seat in Pakistan. The constitution of Pakistan will be rewritten in accordance with modern ‘values” and “ethics”. Everything will fall in its place. Why? Because the author is doing a good job for his masters! Keep it up!!Recommend

  • Ahmad
    Jul 3, 2011 - 3:14PM

    @Frank: Frank you are naive to think that Extremists are tegetting suicide attacks in cities. the fact of the matter is that Black Water with the aid of US admin is orchestrating suicide attacks in PK. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lPp4VLdqgcg&feature=fvst . wake up Frank. Recommend

  • Ahmad
    Jul 3, 2011 - 3:17PM

    @junaid khan: I agree with you 100%. secularism is a joke. People like talking about Islam yet their readings of the Quran are minimal if at all. When faced with dilemmas they resort to Mullahs of whome otherrwise they abhor. May these people understand that they need to learn and read the Quran with tafseer. Read Islam not Wahabishm, Sunnisin, Shiasim & others like Deoband etc. Recommend

  • Feroz
    Jul 3, 2011 - 4:23PM

    This is a very good essay and an honest attempt at assessing the future of Afghanistan post American withdrawal. The Writer can visualize and fantasize any scenario but policy towards Afghanistan is decided by a very small cabal at Military Headquarters whom everybody in the World has tried to meet and enlighten, without success. If the main trouble maker is not amenable to reason irrespective of what other players do, bloodshed is guaranteed both sides of the Durand line. Recommend

  • faraz
    Jul 3, 2011 - 5:46PM


    Kashmir based militants were involved in attacks on – GHQ, Mehran Base, Parade Lane Mosque, Ahmadi mosque Lahore, attempts on Musharraf, Srilankan cricket team, attacks on ISI offices in Multan Faisalabad and Lahore, attack on SSG Zarrar, Naval academy Lahore, CID Karachi, Munawan Police academy etc. Read local newspapers and come out of the state of denial.

    Almost all sectarian blasts on Imam Bargahs and mazaars were conducted by Laskar e Jhangvi, SSP and Jaish e Mohammad. The main groups have fragmented now. I am not saying that the main leadership of these groups is involved, but break away factions are involved in terrorism inside Pakistan. For example, the head of Alqaeda operations inside Pakistan was Ilyas Kashmiri who has recently died in a drone attack. He was involved in almost all the major attacks on military installations. Previously, he fought in Kashmir and even participated in Kargil war.Recommend

  • malik
    Jul 3, 2011 - 10:31PM

    What will happen to Pakistan after 2014:

    — After the US exit of Afghanistan, Pak will lose its biggest bargaining counter for getting more money from US. Because, US, after 2014, will no longer need the support of Pakistan and US would like to stop the flow of billions of aid which is basically given for using NATO route. US won’t need NATO route after 2014.

    — So, this means that we have a major worry on our hands: the possible collapse of the economy after US withdraws its ‘credit card limit’.

    —Once the US leaves Afghanistan and once they decide that Pak is fully dispensable, all their pent up frustration and anger will manifest through various measures. US has been at the receiving end of the stick of all these years, and they are not likely to forget those wounds. Using some pretext, US might label Pakistan as a Terrorist Country. Sanctions and embargoes might follow.

    —-All these will halt the investments and the remittance inflows. There might be difficulties for even paying the import bill.

    —Using the turmoil on the economic front, the insurgencies that has been dormant will rear their ugly heads once again. You can expect Balochistan to be on the boil by 2015. You can expect US to voice its support for the Baloch cause openly.

    The fact of the matter is, after 2014, US does not need us. Period. Whether we can survive without the US aid or without its friendship?

    Let’s forget about what will happen to Afghanistan. Let them stew in their own soup. Let’s worry about our economy, our infrastructure and our future.Recommend

  • Asif
    Jul 4, 2011 - 12:44AM

    I was a young man during the 1971 war. Maybe I was stupid but it take me 2 weeks to realize our glorious armed forces had been absolutely crushed by the Indians we loved to look down upon. The whole country back then lived in a fools paradise that we were giving the Indians a good trashing.

    I see a similar fools paradise in full force in todays Pakistan. Some of our biggest nationalists are going around bragging that our boys in the intelligence and taliban have defeated the superpower. Dont they realise the americans have no intention of leaving afghanistan. They will hand over some southern provinces to the pashtuns (not any of our strategic assets but those who will create problems for us in fata) and maintain a credible force in Kabul. The size of the force will be such that it can be completely supplied via Russia and Central Asia. Already they get 50% of their supplies this way. Once that happens is there any doubt they will declare Pakistan a state sponsor of terror and cut off aid. The only reason they havent already is they need our supply route. Does anybody think our economy will survive that? Even our so called deeper than oceans friends from China will not do business with us because any company that does will not be able to do business in america. Can anybody name one country that has managed to do progress economically after the Americans declared them a terrorist state. Even Iran with all its oil struggles with massive inflation and shortages.Recommend

  • Frank
    Jul 4, 2011 - 9:29AM


    Kashmir based militants were involved
    in attacks on – GHQ, Mehran Base […]

    Evidence please.

    Almost all sectarian blasts on Imam
    Bargahs and mazaars were conducted by
    Laskar e Jhangvi, SSP and Jaish e

    Laskhar e Jhangvi and Sipha are Wahabi terrorist groups that have been around since Zia’s rule and whose target is the Shia community in Central Punjab. They have no involvement in Kashmir.

    For example, the head of Alqaeda
    operations inside Pakistan was Ilyas
    Kashmiri who has recently died in a
    drone attack. He was involved in
    almost all the major attacks on
    military installations. Previously, he
    fought in Kashmir and even
    participated in Kargil war.

    In actual fact Ilyas Kashmiri started his militant career fighting on the American side against the Soviets in Afghanistan. When he turned his attention to Kashmir his group had little impact and no following there. He really took off only a couple of years ago after meeting Osama Bin Laden, He only got this opportunity, I might add, because Osama bin Laden was allowed to escape into Pakistan from Afghanistan by your American friends.Recommend

  • faraz
    Jul 4, 2011 - 10:56AM


    Evidence is everywhere in news reports in local newspapers. Ilyas Kashmiri was behind Mehran base attack. Dr Usman, a member of the army’s medical corps, was involved in attack on GHQ. Usman was part of HUJI. HUJI was active in Kashmir. Ilyas Kashmiri participated in Kargil war, and Musharraf awarded him cash reward for bravery.
    Jaish e Mohammad is involved in Kashmir. SSP and LeJ terrorists were given protection by Mullah Umer in the 90s; both these terrorists groups share common ideologies with good and bad Taliban.

    Its about your beloved LeT:

  • sudhir
    Jul 4, 2011 - 11:34AM

    @let there be peace:
    Never try to argue with a fool, other he will bring you to his level and humble you in the game of which he is a masterRecommend

  • harry stone
    Jul 4, 2011 - 8:41PM

    From the perspective of Pak, one has to assume it will become a land of peace with ever increasing freedoms and economic growth.Recommend

  • Frank
    Jul 4, 2011 - 9:35PM


    Evidence is everywhere in news
    reports in local newspapers

    Look, it isn’t a trick question. In actual fact it’s very simply really.I requested you to provide evidence for your claim that Kashmiri militants were responsible for terrorism in Pakistan. Speculation in newspapers does not constitute evidence. Though even for speculation you have not provided a link. How many Kashmiri militants have been caught and tried for terrorism in Pakistan?

    .Its about your beloved LeT:

    My beloved LeT? Oh grow up, and if you are not able to provide evidence for your outlandish claims at least be man enough to admit defeat.Recommend

  • faraz
    Jul 4, 2011 - 10:33PM

    I am not an intelligence officer. I am talking of major newspapers, books, authors and analyst who explain the links between Kashmir based militants with TTP. You have seriously lost the argument. After living through decades of jihadi propaganda, its difficult to think rationallyRecommend

  • Bilafond
    Jul 4, 2011 - 11:40PM

    @Ahmad: Totally agree with you AhmadRecommend

  • observer
    Jul 5, 2011 - 9:26AM


    How many Kashmiri militants have been caught and tried for terrorism in Pakistan?Speculation in newspapers does not constitute evidence.

    How many militants of any variety been ever caught and prosecuted in Pakistan, including the self confessed killer of more than a hundred Shias?

    And how many RAW/CIA/MOSSAD agents have been apprehended and prosecuted in Pakistan?

    So shall we say, Not withstanding any reports to the contrary in newpapers etc, there is no ‘evidence’ of any terrorist activity in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.Recommend

  • Frank
    Jul 5, 2011 - 12:40PM


    I am not an intelligence officer. I am
    talking of major newspapers, books,
    authors and analyst who explain the
    links between Kashmir based militants
    with TTP. You have seriously lost the

    There is all kinds of speculation in Pakistan about who is responsible for what. You claimed that Kashmiri militants are responsible for terrorism in Pakistan. I am simply asking you for proof. If for example you can point to a conviction of a Kashmiri militant for a major terrorist attack that would help your case. If you could point to a dozen convictions that would almost seal it. I repeat what proof do you have that Kashmiri militants are responsible for terrorism in Pakistan?

    After living through decades of jihadi
    propaganda, its difficult to think

    jihadi this Zaid Hamid that. classic burger boy rant. stick to the point.Recommend

  • observer
    Jul 5, 2011 - 2:23PM


    Speculation in newspapers does not constitute evidence. Though even for speculation you have not provided a link. How many Kashmiri militants have been caught and tried for terrorism in Pakistan?

    Exactly how many ‘militants’ of any variety have been caught and tried for terrorism in Pakistan, including Mr Malik Ishaq, self-confessed hitman of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, who himself admitted to a local Urdu daily in October 1997 that he had been “instrumental in the killing of 102 people”


    So shall we say, News paper reports not withstanding, there is no ‘eveidence’ of terrorist activity in Pakistan?

    P.S. Please note that I have provided a link for the ‘speculation’.Recommend

  • Frank
    Jul 5, 2011 - 8:58PM


    P.S. Please note that I have provided
    a link for the ‘speculation’.

    You provided a link to what exactly, Einstein. Laskhar-e-Jhangvi is not a Kashmiri millitant group. As the name suggests it targets the Shia community in district Jhang.Recommend

  • humza
    Jul 6, 2011 - 2:46AM

    Talibans represent 47 percent Pakhtuns of Afghanistan. There is no other party which represents pakhtuns. So their share in running the affairs of state is mandatory that is why Americans have started dialogue with them. Now the success depends upon their required representation in their majority areas. Sooner or later it will be same Afghanistan which was before Operation Enduuring Freedom. Pakistan knows it and that is why she is selective in operations focusing on miscreants and criminals only who are doing terrorism. Pakistan is mindful of the catagorization of Talibans and treating them accordingly. The main group of Talibans donot have time to fight with someone else other than NATO forces. Its Indian sponsored Talibans coupled with Balochis trying to destabilize Pakistan and its peace. And Pakistan is aiming towards themRecommend

  • mubeen
    Aug 30, 2011 - 1:06PM

    feels like and indian has written this article.


  • mubeen
    Aug 30, 2011 - 1:10PM

    useless article. this guy probably works for usa interests.


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