For renowned political scientist Francis Fukuyama, the Taliban, in Afghanistan or Pakistan, are bogeymen.
“One must understand that the political motives of the Taliban [in Afghanistan] focus on the exit of Nato forces from Pashtun areas. They don’t have a larger agenda and they don’t want to branch out in other parts of the world,” says Fukuyama, a Senior Fellow at the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law at Stanford University, in an interview with The Express Tribune.
He believes their brethren across the Durand Line in Pakistan are equally non-expansionist.
“The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is an ethnically based group. It is not plausible they would destabilise the state or extend their influence over non-Pashtun areas,” Fukuyama adds.
He believes there is an ‘alliance’ between the TTP, the Haqqanis and the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), but that the nexus is far from apocalyptic.
“These groups don’t like a revolution and instead are content to target and kill people to put pressure on the state,” he says.
For Pakistan, Fukuyama believes the “problem lies elsewhere” – a failed decentralisation experiment.
“The decentralisation of provinces has worked fairly well. That situation could worsen if centre-province relations deteriorate. That could then get out of control,” he adds.
India and ISI
What about the threat from the eastern neighbour, India?
Fukuyama doesn’t say whether that is an actual threat or not, but insists “that senior military officials are more worried about India than the stability of their own country. They know what they are doing.”
The country’s premier intelligence agency is not awry, either, he says.
“The interpretation that the ISI does not read the situation in its own interest is wrong. [Senior military officials] do not completely control the various militant outfits but keeping them as assets is useful. This will continue,” he adds.
On the endgame in Afghanistan, Fukuyama says a constitution that gives the president too much power can be seen as an ‘obstacle,’ because “the de-facto situation [in Afghanistan] is that the system is very decentralised.”
“A political settlement post-withdrawal will have to take into account what the people decide. We need to see whether the Pashtun will have the government. But I don’t see the Taliban marching to Kabul,” Fukuyama says.
“The problem is whether the south can dominate or will it be a decentralised settlement on the basis of ethnic lines. If it is an ethnic settlement many of the groups have to be included,” he adds.
Fukuyama says the biggest obstacle to a central government working in Kabul would be Afghanistan’s meddling neighbours.
“For [a central government in Kabul] to work, there has to be international agreement which is complicated given that the US, Russia, India, Pakistan and Iran see the potential threats of their rivals,” he says.
“We have to take into account how the external parties bless this agreement and how the interested parties keep their hands off under some understanding,” he adds.
As for the United States’ presence, Fukuyama says “the country remains a powerful player in the equation,” and that “it is not leaving Afghanistan.”
“They can continue to accomplish what they want with the help of special forces and drones. They should have done this in 2010 but due to domestic political reasons this proved to be tough,” he adds.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 15th, 2012.
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