Home > Uncategorized > Why is Pakistan pushing US so hard in Afghanistan at this point?

Why is Pakistan pushing US so hard in Afghanistan at this point?

Consider.

What are the possible outcomes AFTER 2014 in Afghanistan assuming Obama is re-elected?

  1. A complete US withdrawal from Afghanistan with an outright takeover of most areas of Afghanistan by the Taliban.
  2. US cedes most of Southern Afghanistan to direct Taliban control while NA retains areas to the North with a power sharing at the federal level in Kabul.  Under this outcome, US retain a base in Afghanistan along with a few thousand Special Forces to guarantee good behaviour and also pay for the upkeep of the Afghan Army at the federal level.
  3.  The present stalemate continues.

Clearly, outcome [1] above is what Pakistan would prefer while something close to [2] is the preferred outcome of the US.  Outcome [3] has already proved untenable and unacceptable to both the US and Pakistan.  One might rule out complete independence to Afghanistan from consideration.  One can bring other players like Iran, Russia, China and India into the analysis but that will be clearly AFTER [1] looks all but certain.  So it can be ignored now for our limited purpose.  Our question is merely confined to why is Pakistan pushing the US so aggressively and early in the game considering this is just 2012 and real US drawdown begins 2014.

Consider outcome [2] in some detail for its implications for Pakistan’s control of Afghanistan, not just its stated desire to see Phaktuns gain a share in power and check Indian influence in Kabul.

Outcome [2], if it results in stability in Afghanistan, will set off an inexorable process whereby the following things can happen:

  1. A need for money to pay for army and Govt expenses means the Federal Govt will always be beholden to the US putting the latter in the driver’s seat with minimum outlay of troops and treasure.  The US can use a small force along with air power to deny sanctuaries in Afghanistan to any rebel Taliban or forces hostile to them. Meanwhile they can continue to build the Afghan army.
  2. Afghanistan has been fighting for well nigh 40 years.  As these cycles go, the civilian population, weary of fighting, will begin to punish rebels by passing on intel on rebels to Govt forces, a phenomenon that sounds the death knell of an insurgency.
  3. Over a period of time Pashtuns, north and south of the Durand line, will begin to think of a homeland, something that can unravel Pakistan’s own territorial integrity.
  4. This set-up leaves Pakistan with highly armed militias on its own soil with no prospect for their rehabilitation. One way or the other, these people will fight for their own survival – either in Afghanistan or in Pakistan.

Outcome [2] is something that Pakistan really dreads and will seek to avoid at all costs if it can.  For outcome [2] means that all of the investments that Pakistan has made in terror assets so far, at great cost at home in blood and treasure, come to a naught.  Furthermore, it leaves Pakistan with an intractable Pasthun problem of its own on its own soil. Lastly, a combination of its own Jihadis and rebel Pashtuns will seek power in Islamabad rather than Kabul, a prospect nobody can relish, not even the US itself.

So it is safe to say that while Pakistan will word its demand as one seeking participation in the peace process, the real reason is to pre-empt outcome [2] or anything close to it.  That unfortunately can be accomplished only by a complete bug out of the US from Afghanistan.

Pakistan calculates that US will to fight with elections looming large is at its lowest over the next election cycle.  A determined intensification of the insurgency in Kabul and areas north to it can push the US into believing that outcome [2] is infeasible or too expensive to try for.  The hope is that the US will conclude a complete bug out, albeit with a face-saver, is the solution which Pakistan can provide.  There is no downside to this strategy to Pakistan at this point in time.  Aid has been suspended anyway.  US dependence on Pakistan for logistics ensures no harsh punitive measures can be taken by the US.  And the need for face saver, in case of outcome [1] being acceptable to the US, ensures the latter will never sanction Pakistan till it is all over.

So Pakistan’s intensification of insurgency in Afghanistan can be expected to continue until US figures out a way to make the cost of doing so prohibitive.  The US has limited options until it is able to reduce its logistical dependence on Pakistan by drawing down troops and building up supplies.

NB: I am no student of strategy. I read stuff on International Politics only to the extent of being aware of what shapes markets.  So this is  merely a lay person’s reading without any pretense at anything beyond that.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. September 24, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    You lost me right at the start.. Since this post is based on an assumption which will never happen.

  2. September 24, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    As I understand it Pakistan is ruled by the army and represented by crooked politicians. The former have a business interest in managing a low level conflict for as long as possible no?

  3. September 24, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    If the US bugs out of Afghanistan, Pakistan may achieve its goals with regard to Afghanistan, but will lose the cow they’ve been milking all along. Pakistanis have to be confident that someone else is going to finance them if the Americans get terminally pissed off. It is not clear that either China or Saudi Arabia will step in.

  4. September 24, 2011 at 2:58 pm
  5. churpi
    September 24, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    A logical (too) sensible analyses. Unfortunately answers in international politics have never been in the black and white region, it has been always in grey and that too in SHADES OF GREY. However one thing is sure that India would continue to be fence sitter.

  6. September 24, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    thanks for the update

  7. kumar
    September 25, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    Why is leaving out option (4) – A free balochistan,with a clear road to Afghanistan from the sea,not an option,even a low cost one for the U.S?

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