Post-exit Af-Pak scenarios

Different scenarios may emerge before the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan.

Asad Munir November 24, 2012

With President Barack Obama winning a second term, the US exit policy conceived by his administration will be implemented and American troops are likely to be pulled out as per stated policy, maybe even earlier than 2014. The proposed exit policy will have a great impact on the future security environment in the region. Different scenarios may emerge before the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan.

One scenario could be that a breakthrough is achieved in the peace process with the Taliban and other insurgent groups decide to join a broad-based interim government in Afghanistan. The modalities for future elections, amendment to the Constitution and details about post-exit assistance to be provided by the US are worked out and agreed upon by all. Elections are held under the supervision of Isaf and an elected government takes charge before the withdrawal of Nato forces. Before its exit, the US manages the resolution of the Durand Line issue through dialogue with all Afghan factions. These are the ideal and most desirable conditions for a smooth exit and transition. With peace between Afghanistan and Pakistan, the existing sanctuaries of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) across the border will be denied to them, which in turn will weaken the TTP and their ability to conduct terrorist activities will be further diluted. If al Qaeda is not defeated by then, drone attacks will continue in Fata.

In the second scenario, a partial success is achieved in the peace process. There is a split in the ranks of the Taliban, some prominent leaders show their willingness to end the war and support peaceful means for transition. The momentum of the Taliban insurgency will be retarded to a great extent; however, they will continue with their activities to destabilise the government in Kabul. The Taliban may not be able to capture major cities but are likely to establish their hold in some eastern provinces, depending on the Haqqanis’ role in the peace process. In this situation, Nato forces will exit but the US may have to leave some forces, intelligence set-up, fighter aircraft and drones in Afghanistan to deal with insurgents. The TTP will continue with their activities by establishing sanctuaries in Afghan areas that are not in Kabul’s control.

The most dangerous scenario would be the inability of the Nato forces to retard the momentum of the insurgency by 2014, failure to achieve any breakthrough in the peace process with the exit strategy remaining unrevised and forces withdrawing. A general perception is likely to emerge that another superpower has been defeated through jihad. This will give a new lease of life to al Qaeda and jihadists all over the world. There will be more violence against US facilities in the world. In case a division emerges in the Afghan National Security Forces, there may be a civil war with different factions fighting for control of Kabul. The TTP will gain strength, regroup and make all possible efforts to regain grounds they lost to the Pakistan Army. Dealing with them will be an uphill task for the army. The region may witness instability never seen in the past.

One issue, if resolved, could lead to lasting stability in the region; i.e., recognition of the Durand Line as an international border by Afghanistan. At present, even the discussion of this issue is considered taboo by Afghans. The Durand Line Treaty was signed in 1893 by Afghanistan with Britain and was validated by different Afghan rulers in 1905, 1919, 1921 and 1930. The Durand Line is the only Afghan border determined bilaterally between Afghanistan and Britain; all northern borders were determined by Russia and Britain without Afghanistan’s participation. As per the Vienna Convention on Succession of States in Respect of Treaties, bilateral agreements are “passed down” to successor states. The Durand Line is associated with the interrelated issue of Pashtunistan. Pashtuns are now so well integrated in Pakistani society that there is hardly any supporter of Pashtunistan in this country. In case the US and other world powers succeed in persuading Afghans to recognise the Durand Line, it will open a new chapter in relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan ending interference in each other’s internal affairs, prove more beneficial for Afghans and also help the US in its war on terror and exit from Afghanistan.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 25th, 2012.


realist | 10 years ago | Reply

If anything, the Durand line issue will be used by Americans to pressure/punish pak post-2014. The world is not about to forget the double games played by pak.

An advice to pak: being the bigger/stronger country of the two (Afghanistan/Pakistan), pak should make unilateral concessions on the Durand line.

Zalmai | 10 years ago | Reply

The author writes: "Pashtuns are now so well integrated in Pakistani society that there is hardly any supporter of Pashtunistan in this country."

I guess he means a handful of Pashtuns that benefit from the crumbs thrown at them by the establishment. Millions of Pashtuns in KPK, FATA and Balochistan languish in poverty disenfranchised and not integrated into mainstream Pakistani society.

They may not support the cause of Pashtunistan but they definitely want greater autonomy whether it is under the nationalist banner of Pashtunistan or a Pan-Islamic Taliban state made up of Pashtuns. Either way they are tired of their puppet masters and are looking for a way out.

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