Pakistan’s Coming Defeat in Afghanistan
Image Credit: ISAFmedia via Flickr

Pakistan’s Coming Defeat in Afghanistan


Irrespective of how the coming security transition in Afghanistan pans out, one country is on a surprising course to a major strategic defeat: Pakistan. Every foreseeable ending to the Afghan war today—continued conflict with the Taliban, restoration of Taliban control in the southern and eastern provinces, or a nationwide civil war—portends nothing but serious perils for Islamabad. But judging from Pakistan’s behavior, it appears as if this fact has eluded the generals in Rawalpindi.

Pakistan’s Enduring Aim

Ever since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Pakistan has had one simple strategic goal on its western frontier: ensuring that Afghanistan remains a stable but subordinate entity deferential to Pakistan’s sensitivities on all matters of national security. Such deference was sought for a host of reasons. Islamabad wanted a guarantee that Kabul would not reignite the dispute over the countries’ common border (the Durand Line) and would not seek to mobilize the region’s Pashtun populations in support of either absorption into Afghanistan or the creation of a new nation. The Pakistani leadership also aimed to ensure that Afghanistan would not enter into close geopolitical affiliations with other, more powerful countries, such as the United States or India, in order to increase Kabul’s autonomy from Islamabad.

Amid the chaos that emerged after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, Pakistan settled on supporting the Afghan Taliban as its strategic instrument for securing Kabul’s compliance with its objectives. Although the Taliban were not always dependable surrogates on these matters, they appeared better than other Afghan rivals, and hence Islamabad—despite its denials—has stuck by them to this day.

Whatever the intended benefits of this strategy, it has alienated both the broader Afghan populace and the government in Kabul, which now views Pakistan as a habitually hostile neighbor. It has also undermined the U.S.-led international stabilization effort in Afghanistan, as well as hopes for a peaceful security transition—not to mention infuriating Washington, which now views Pakistan as a perfidious partner. And it has provoked heightened regional rivalry involving Afghanistan’s neighbors, especially Iran, India, the Central Asian republics, and Russia, all of whom are determined to prevent a Pakistani-supported Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

Worst of all, Islamabad’s strategy promises to fundamentally undermine Pakistani security. Every one of the three possible outcomes of the Afghan security transition leaves Pakistan in a terrible place.

January 17, 2014 at 16:24

I think this is a very limited article and tries to portray that Pakistan Army (approx. budget $6 billion) would mess up things for NATO (approx. budget $1 trillion).

There are a lot of players involved in Afghanistan and NOT a single country is there to help Afghans. Every country is looking after their self interest.

I think people forget the Indian-Irani axis which has been working against the Pashtuns for the last 30 years. Northern Alliance, which is heavily sponsored by India has been responsible for the deaths of thousands of pashtuns.

Iran itself sees the pashtuns of Afghanistan as a threat and hence is funding against them.

Russia and China are investing in Afghanistan in response to the American influence on it’s borders.

If someone is naive enough to think that there is a single ‘taliban’ they are fools. There are militias funded by India, Iran, USA, China, Russia and Pakistan and all of them are fighting each other.

March 26, 2014 at 16:42

You are absolutely right. Iran and India have funded the peadophilic Northern Alliance warlords for 3 decades. They are as much of a problem for Afghanistan as the Taliban are.

Taliban have come to represent the only power projection tool for the Pashtuns since they refused to join the Afghan Army (Northern Alliance in Uniforms) after the Kandahar agreement.

There is a possibility that Afghanistan will splinter into two countries on the each side of the Oxus river, one for the Pashtuns on the Pakistan side of the border and the other for the Northern Alliance, Hazaras, Tajiks and Azaris.

February 5, 2013 at 22:52

Absolutely right.

Able Lawrence
January 20, 2013 at 20:58

The most durable solution to the Afghanistan Problem is to actually fulfill the aspirations of the majority of Pathans by creating a Pashtunistan. Pashtun majority regions in Pakistan also can be added to this. This way Pashtuns will get their wishes fulfilled and outsiders (of all kinds) would not have any legitimate interests left. Pakistan also will be freed of a lot of head ache. The remaining minority regions in Afghanistan can then accede to the neighbouring states (according to ethnicities) of Iran, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan Afghanistan, a hotchpotch of a state that cannot be governed by anyone other than a Genghis Khan will cease to exist as a state and a problem. Pashtuns devoid of any other ethnic rivals would have no option to unite and ponder their united future. 

December 21, 2012 at 00:18

Pakistan sucks..!!

December 21, 2012 at 00:12

the rate at which Pakistanis are being killed by your own terror groups in suicide bombs or other attacks, I feel there will be demographic problem in Pakistan in next 10 years….!! he he he he
by the way, good dream…China is already kicking Pakistan under the curtain for the terror entering into its border from Pakistan. Also China and Russia simply doesnt want Taliban to be strong in Afganistan. Ismalic terrorism as foreign policy could be Pakistan's foreign policy but they are Chinese and Russia's nighmare..

December 21, 2012 at 00:07

Pakistan faced 236 suicide bomb attacks in 2012 by Taliban and almost every day there is a bomb blast by terror groups once or till date being supported by ISI or its army. What is Pakistan's point of view in letting is own people being killed by terrorst while it still see terrorism as an foreign policy instrument?

Rajeev Aravkar
October 30, 2012 at 23:47

Yea, so that means know you the cons of dividing a nation

September 24, 2012 at 16:39

You need to re read the history leading the creation of Bangladesh and india's  role in that. and for the record also please read the statements of  Ms Indra Gandhi after the   71 war. you indians need to read some history books that are not written by  india authors.

September 12, 2012 at 20:20

Pakistan and Afghanistan are two-neighbor country in world but unfortunately, both did concentrate the real demand of people who want to peace and tranquility in the region. Today is a very past era and the people cannot  derail easily.  Therefore, thousands of people have killed for nothing and further people are being prepared to do so. So, kindly understand the demand of time and not waste billions of dollars for conspiracy one another and spend the amount only for the peace and reforms.
Naik Mohd Loralai Quetta Pakistan.

July 31, 2012 at 17:33

can't expect anything, but pak-bashing from the indian stooge called Ashley tellis, the crap of an article doesn't need a re-look, except for pointing out to ashley that "haggling over transit fees" is already solved and there was no haggling over it from pakistan as your big daddy panneta made it out to be. so enjoy the humble pie

July 17, 2012 at 16:27

Even if the analysis is considered correct, the article should note that the so-called 'international community' has much more to lose in each and every scenario, as long as they continue to malign and isolate Pakistan. Afghanistan is a land locked country which will always be dependent on Pakistan to link to the outside world, just as the NATO supplies are dependent on Pakistan keeping its routes open. I would also recommend the authors of such articles to not confuse 'Kabul' or 'Afghanistan' with the Northern Alliance. By giving a moral justification to NA rule you are ignoring the shameful slaughter of tens of thousands that they enacted the last time they were in power (prior to the Taliban government) and legitimizing the rule of a bunch of self obsessed warlords who will themselves begin an armed struggle between one another over the drug trade the very day NATO and the US exits from that country. The West needs to realize that it failed in Afghanistan, destabalized Pakistan in the process & intensified regional disharmony, unless of course, that was its aim from the start.

July 16, 2012 at 15:10

By about 2017, there will be a Pashtunistan, Balochistan, Hazaristan(propped up by or annexed to Iran) , Greater Uzbekistan, Greater Tajikistan, a rump Punjab-istan and Sindh-istan but NO AFGHANISTAN and NO PAKISTAN !! Just like the cuurent CARs (Central Asian psuedo-Republics).

July 16, 2012 at 02:22

@yeshwanth; Perhaps you'd like to chart the spread of Islam in India and beyond by walking up to the nearest library & learning some facts before regurgitating the anti-Islam bile that you were probably fed at a RSS/VHP rally or at a bhakt.. The vast majority of conversion to Islam in the subcontinent and beyond was peaceful, led by Muslim merchants and missionaries who preached peacefully.. Any conversions by the 'sword' that you claim are negligible.. Aside from that, focus on the article written here by the author instead of finding excuses to express your prejudices against Muslims..

July 15, 2012 at 19:34

Der Mr. Asif, I appreciates your wise comments unlike Indian trolls can only offer their hate filled LIES.
I beleive that we need to give one last opportunity to US that they refrain their evil alliance with Indian upper cast junkies and stop their controlled anarchy plan for Pakistan whon they pose as front line ally but never miss any opportunity for back stabbing Pakistan.
Last time, General Kayani gave President Obama 26 paper documents showing what their agencies are doing with close alliance with India about destablilizing this entire AF-PAK region. I personally in this idea that due to blessed strategic position of Pakistan, we must facilitate all major powers US, RUSSIA and CHINA to use our land and sea routes for their progress and act like Switzerland as we have suffered enough by siding US during last over half centure and they did with this country despite our countless scrifices, one can see. Look this author, either he is paid for Pentagon or by Indian embassy in DC.
what is your opinion??

July 15, 2012 at 18:07

Utter nonsense! The whole article is based on 'assumptions' & conjecture as to what 'might' happen.. Various factors are thoroughly ignored by the author.. The issue of 'Pashtunistan' never came up when the Taliban ruled Kabul from 1994 till 2001.. To even bring up the topic of 'Pashtunistan' is evident of the author's ignorance of the realities on the ground where there is no enthusiasm for any type of 'Pashtunistan'.. Guess these type of authors have to make a career out of blabbering something to appear 'professional analyst'.. 
As for the 'other' states in the region trying to thwart pro-Pakistani Taliban govt in Kabul or their control over much of Afghanistan; the author again ignores, that all such options have already been exercised by countries like India, Iran & others from 1994-2001 with little or no success.. The Northern Alliance saturated Karzai puppet regime that governs Afghanistan today is nothing but a benevolence of America & ISAF..
The author also 'assumes' that Karzai or his stooges will remain in power post-withdrawal era.. The puppet Karzai regime is but a house of cards ready to fall down when the general population has lost complete belief in the corrupt system that exists today and when the rag-tag Afghan armed forces melt away in the face of Taliban onslaught when US & ISAF troops aren't there to babysit them.. 
The only country heading towards defeat in Afghanistan is the United States of America.. Pakistan gains most when the western troops propping up a failed artificial regime in Afghanistan leave..

July 15, 2012 at 18:06

Haqqani Network, Haqqani Network…
I am surprised to see why US military commanders learnt telling LIES from their Indian strategic partner??
Haqqani network operates in Eastern Afghanistan where 7% of total US casualties are recorded. What about rest 93% casulties by which network??? Can you give some truth to American tax payers????

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