In June 2011, President Obama announced that US troops would begin their withdrawal from Afghanistan, asserting that the country no longer represented a terrorist threat to the United States. The plan specified that the first 10,000 troops were to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2011, and an additional 23,000 were to leave by the summer of 2012. The number of the American troops has been reduced from 100,000 in 2011 to 66,000 in beginning of 2013, and in 2014 it is scheduled to be around 10,000 troops. At the same time, other NATO countries announced planned reductions in their troop numbers. The drawdown would continue “at a steady pace”, and the mission would end up been supportive to the Afghan troops, and would not conduct any combat operation. By 2014, the United States are expected to have handed over the majority of security to the Afghan National Security Forces, leaving it with control over 75% of Afghan territory. However, the plan for withdrawal notably conceals any information about the post-2014 role of the US, such as the number of forces and the amount of funding that will remain in Afghanistan.
But future cooperation between the US and Afghanistan might be more difficult than expected, and the US may not be able to accomplish their missions as they plan. Afghans have historically been opposed to the presence of foreigners in their land and now express widespread distrust and very little support for foreign troops. This is due to the numerous reports of abuse, torture and killing of Afghan civilians by foreign troops and their associates. And although acts of violence performed by Afghan forces against civilians have also been reported, they have not caused as much outrage as the ones perpetrated by international forces. Indicative of the Afghan’s growing discontent with foreign forces in their land, the government recently banned all operations of elite American forces in the province of Maidan Wardak, a crucial area adjoining Kabul. And yet elite American troops are scheduled to continue pursuing members of Al Qaeda and other terrorists in Afghanistan even after the withdrawal of NATO forces, and because of its proximity to the capital, Maidan Wardak would be a crucial area for the US mission. Banning foreign troops from this province therefore demonstrates that the Afghan government is no longer willing to accept subordination to foreign troops, blaming them and the Taliban equally for the continuing disruption of the country, leaving the coalition without any political capital. The ban of American troops in this province is also an indicator that the Afghans are truly starting to take control of their own country.
Furthermore, the main objective of the United States, NATO and the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan was to ensure the country’s ability to sustain its own security and stability, thereby diminishing prospects for any future cooperation between Taliban and Al-Qaeda against the United States and its allies. As President Obama declared, the country is no longer considered to be a terrorist threat. But the lack of a clear plan for the aftermath of the withdrawal means that Afghanistan is unlikely to be able to sustain itself. In fact, there are legitimate concerns that the eventual withdrawal of coalition troops will give the Taliban an advance. Without a clear, concise, detailed plan for US withdrawal, it is likely that the persistent internal unrest will bring the country to the verge of civil war, dividing Afghanistan into pro-government regions and insurgent controlled areas. The eastern and southern provinces are the most likely to fall under the influence of the Taliban, as the presence of coalition forces in those provinces is currently the only thing that keeps insurgents at bay.
As a consequence of the above, there is an urge by international community to reach a peaceful agreement. There has been a rush of diplomatic activity, and many attempts to reach an agreement between Pakistan and the Taliban. Presidents Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan and Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan had committed themselves to reaching a peace settlement within six months, as well as to opening an office in Doha to hold negotiations between the Taliban and Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, a committee responsible for holding discussions with Taliban representatives. Plans put in place by Afghanistan’s High Peace Council such as the “Peace Process Roadmap to 2015,” invite the Taliban not only to be included in peace negotiations but also, to eventually share power with the Afghan government. In exchange for ceding control of the southern and eastern regions, the Taliban would be appointed several key positions within provincial government or even within the ministry in Kabul, without any elections. Yet for the moment, the Taliban is unwilling to cooperate with Kazrai’s government, and states that it will only negotiate with the United States directly.
Despite the fact that both Pakistan and Afghanistan are Muslim neighbouring countries that, share more than 2,500 kilometres of border and common ethnic groups, the two countries have rarely been at ease with each other. The Durand line has demarcated Afghanistan and Pakistan since 1893, following an agreement between the British Empire and the Afghan king. Since then, the border has also been responsible for creating a divide between the ethnic Pashtuns, the separation of which has been held mainly responsible for contention between the two countries ever since the independence of Pakistan in 1947. The tribes on both sides of the border intermarry, trade, feud, and share a common religious sect – Sunni Hanafi Islam. These tribes have been living together for centuries and even today’s Pak-Afghan border holds only -symbolic significance for them as tens of thousands continue to travel across -the border on a near daily basis. According to Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan Muhammad Sadiq, some 52,000 Afghans crossed the border into Pakistan everyday in 2009 for business, jobs, medical treatment, and education or in order to visit their relatives. More visitors are now undertaking documented travel between the two countries by obtaining visas or visit permits.
Ethnically, Pashtuns constitute the majority of the population of south-eastern Afghanistan and also have a considerably large population in north-western Pakistan. The Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan, comprised of seven tribal agencies, is populated by a little over 3 million Pashtuns. Additionally 28 million Pashtuns live in Pakistan and 15 million in Afghanistan. The latter would prefer an independent Pashtunistan. And even if Pakistan never acceded to the Pashtunistan demand for independence, Afghanistan has already essentially staked its claim, in the form of propositions about a future Pashtunistan, to that area if the Pakistani state were to fail. An independent Pashtunistan would not only serve to effectively give up the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, where Pakistani sovereignty is only nominal, but also parts of Baluchistan.
Tension between the two countries rose again after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, since this event compelled Pakistan to pursue an anti-Taliban policy aligned with the Bush administration and the “War on Terror” crusade. This was a rather contradictory action for Pakistan -since it had previously supported the Taliban in Afghanistan both politically and diplomatically throughout the 1990’s. Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan became strained and since then, have further deteriorated due to NATO strikes in Pakistan’s territory. These strikes have significantly alienated Pakistan as it considered them to be a blatant violation of its sovereignty as a state.
Pakistan has long had contradictory policies towards its neighbors and the US, which raises fears about what will happen post-US withdrawal from Afghanistan. After the Americans announced their intent to end active combat operations by the end of 2014, Pakistan became a key route for the United States to that would be used to withdraw thousands of containers of equipment out of landlocked Afghanistan. Even though Pakistan had previously closed the route in the past for seven months, after US airstrikes had killed 24 Pakistani troops in November 2011, Islamabad reopened the route in July 2012 after Washington apologized for the killings. Pakistan’s cooperation with the United States in this regard further solidifies its position as a conflicted ally on the war on terror; on the one hand, it supports the US and cooperates with it in its efforts to eliminate Al Qaeda and on the other hand, it faces allegations that it provided Osama Bin Laden with shelter. At the same time, it is a known supporter of militant organizations such as the Taliban.
The duplicity of Pakistan’s military stands, its consistently unstable government and use of divisive politics, its socio-economic mismanagement and ethnic feuds, have created continuous domestic turmoil. This brings to prominence the question of what will happen in Pakistan after American withdrawal from Afghanistan. And more importantly, will Pakistan accept India’s role in Afghanistan’s economic reconstruction?
In May 11 elections Muslim League-N’s leader Nawaz Sharif won an overwhelming lead at the Pakistan’s National Assembly. PML-N is a center-right political party and Sharif is considered by many analysts a rightwing Punjabi nationalist. The most immediate issues that will draw Sharif’s attention as Prime Minister are the internal security challenges posed by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the “war on terror” that will bring into focus Pakistan’s relations with the United States and the transition in Afghanistan and its implications in the tribal areas. His victory was welcomed by India as Sharif has set an agenda to improve relations with India. As there is no political consensus on how to deal with the Taliban movement in Punjab, Sharif must secure the political support of the military. Sharif’s relations with the military are rather strained, since he had been overthrown by a coup d’état after the Kargil war adventure, in 1999.
Similarly to Pakistan, India also has significant economic and security stakes in Afghanistan. India has given approximately US$2 billion, in aid to Afghanistan to be used in sectors such as infrastructure, education, transportation, health and diplomacy from 2011. The Indian government also runs scholarship programs for Afghan students and has also built numerous clinics and hospitals in the country. In addition, under a Memorandum of Understanding signed by India, Iran and Afghanistan in 2003, India funded the construction of a new road connecting Zaranj to Delaram in Southern Afghanistan. Finally, the most obvious symbol of Indian assistance to Afghanistan is the construction of the Afghan parliament building by the Indian firm C&C Constructions. India’s high degree of interconnectedness within Afghanistan raises fears in Pakistan and is viewed with suspicion.
The Taliban outspread to Punjab was partially a result of the ongoing power struggle for Kashmir between Pakistan and India. Punjab is a geographical region in South Asia comprising vast territories of eastern Pakistan and northern India. In Pakistan, it includes the Punjab province and part of the Islamabad Capital Territory. The rivalry between the two countries over Kashmir and Punjab already counts three wars and after the 9/11 the US invasion in Afghanistan only increased tensions between them. Top Tehrik-e-Taliban leaders, such as the late Wali Ur Rehman, have pledged to send fighters to Kashmir and wage a struggle for the implementation of Sharia law in India. Rehman vowed to arrive in Kashmir and liberate the Kashmiris.
Pakistan and Afghanistan thus, suffer from acute mistrust that stems from both the Indian influence in Afghanistan and the presence of American troops in the country. With regards to the Indian threat, Pakistan seeks to protect itself from the perceived Indian threat and aims to limit Indian influence in Kabul by installing an Islamabad- friendly government. It has towards this purpose that Pakistan supported militant groups like the Taliban during the 90’s. Today though, Pakistan does not wish to see the Taliban’s in power again, since it would have implications towards Pakistan’s security, as the former director of the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) Lieutenant-General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, said in an interview.
As for the issue with American presence in Afghanistan and the post withdrawal situation, it is quite probable that there will be an impact on Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) as the Taliban’s are likely to take control of the post withdrawal setup in Afghanistan. This perception in Pakistan is based on is the existence of ethnic differences within the Afghan forces and the strong presence of the Taliban.
The pattern of Indian and Pakistani relations with Afghanistan is generally analyzed in terms of zero-sum game. Throughout its history, Pakistan has feared either direct war with India (which has happened 3 times so far), or encirclement by its allies, and this has had tremendous impact on its relations with neighboring Afghanistan. Under present circumstances it is India that has fully capitalized upon the changed conditions and new realities in the aftermath of 9/11, where it has found favorable opportunities to establish and develop relations with Afghanistan at the expense of Af-Pak relations. Some examples include its assistance to the ANA (Afghan National Army) forces with provision of training, humanitarian aid (meals to around 2 million Afghan school children) and the building of infrastructure; India has built roads exceeding 700 km in total costing around US $250 million.
Pakistan’s goals in Afghanistan are mainly India-centric and focus primarily on undermining Delhi’s influence in Afghanistan while promoting its own. The general belief in Pakistan is that, everything India does in Afghanistan is a ploy against Pakistan, be it economic investment, infrastructure, or any related matter. As a result, Pakistan has tried to ensure that Indian interests are blocked whenever and wherever possible, mainly by helping foster a pro-Pakistani administration in Kabul.
Some military and jihadist groups believe that American withdrawal will lead to a more stable Pakistan with strategic adjustments. Others believe that there will be a war between Afghanistan and non-state actors from Pakistan, where Afghan Talibans - , logistically and strategically supported by Pakistan - , will be willing to battle an Afghan army. Either way, the undisputed fact is that Taliban extremism has already spread from across the Durand Line and into Punjab territory. Based on this and given India’s longstanding spite towards Pakistan, it is likely that Afghanistan will therefore be used as a battlefield between the two nations, especially when the Americans withdraw from the area.
All links accessed on 7/06/2013
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 Lander, Mark, Cooper, Helen, op.cit.
 Doronsoro, Gilles, “ Waiting for the Taliban in Afghanistan”, Carnegie Endowment, (20/09/2012) http://carnegieendowment.org/2012/09/20/waiting-for-taliban-in-afghanistan/dvkr#
 Keck, Trevor, “What civilian casualties? Afghan forces' implausible denials,” Foreign Policy, (12/03/2013) http://afpak.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/03/12/what_civilian_casualties_the_implausible_denials_of_afghan_forces
 Rosenberg, Matthew, “Afghanistan Bars Elite U.S. Troops from a key province,” New York Times, (24/02/2013) http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/25/world/asia/afghanistan-orders-us-troops-from-key-province-of-wardak.html?nl=todaysheadlines&adxnnl=1&emc=edit_th_20130225&adxnnlx=1361797965-Q5qRkBu6QYDqx6zF7zD85A&pagewanted=all&_r=1&
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 Sadiq, Mohammad, “Pakistan-Afghanistan: The Conjoined Twins”, Mohammad Sadiq, (04/2010) http://www.mohammadsadiq.com/writings/Pakistan-Afghanistan_Conjoind%20twins_03232010.htm
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 Bennett, Adam, de Schaetzen, Bruno, Dicks-Mireaux, Louis, Fischer, Felix, Kalfon, Thierry, Van Rooden, Ron, ‘Reconstructing Afghanistan’, International Monetary Fund, (2005) http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/nft/2005/afg/eng/reaf.pdf
 Thottam, Jyoti, op.cit
 Pierre Tristam, “Kashmir: History and Background: How the Conflict in Kashmir Influences Policy in Afghanistan and the Middle East”, About.com, http://middleeast.about.com/od/pakistan/a/kashmir-history-backgrounder.htm
 Wali Ur Rehman was killed by a drone strike on 29 May 2013
 The Indian Express, “Taliban vow to ‘take’ Kashmir, implement Sharia rule in India”, (09/01/2013) http://www.indianexpress.com/news/taliban-vow-to--take--kashmir-implement-sharia-rule-in-india/1056525
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 Radin C.J., op. cit.
 Institute for the Study of War, “Pakistan and Afghanistan” http://www.understandingwar.org/pakistan-and-afghanistan
 Balachandar Shreshta, “India’s Role in Afghanistan: Past Relations and Future Prospects”, Foreign Policy Journal, (30/11/2012) http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2012/11/30/indias-role-in-afghanistan-past-relations-and-future-prospects/
 Chalk Peter and Hanauer Larry, “India's and Pakistan's Strategies in Afghanistan: Implications for the United States and the Region”, RAND Cooperation, (2012), p.43 http://www.rand.org/pubs/occasional_papers/OP387.html