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Can Pakistan and Afghanistan get along? -
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Can Pakistan and Afghanistan get along?

Can Pakistan and Afghanistan get along?, because persistent feelings of insecurity will put the lives of millions of people at risk.

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5 mins read
Can Pakistan and Afghanistan get along?

After using multiple pressure tactics to pressurize the Afghan government to arrest and deport the TTP (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan), the Afghan government is reluctant to do so.

After taking over Kabul in 2021, Afghanistan is not taking any keen interest in apprehending those responsible for terrorist attacks in Pakistan, at least this is what the Pakistani policy makers think.

But can Pakistan and Afghanistan get along?, because persistent feelings of insecurity will put the lives of millions of people at risk.

Where does the problem lie?

It’s not the first time Pakistan has blamed another neighboring country for terrorist attacks inside Pakistan’s territory, and rightly so.

Before the current Afghan government took power in Afghanistan, Pakistan blamed the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan for turning a blind eye towards the TTP insurgents, who were fighting alongside the TTA against the western backed government.

Pakistan thought that a new setup in Afghanistan will somehow benefit Pakistan in securing its western border as the new islamist force will not deal with India, an arch enemy of pakistan.

The relationship was not this bad when the new force took power in 2021.

As soon as they solidified their grip on power, they forced the TTP to sit and engage with the Pakistani government and avoid bloodshed.

The negotiations failed with both sides blaming the other for jeopardizing the process, The TTP resumed their attacks including some high-profile attacks in the recent past.

The problem of TTP has been the bone of contention for Pakistan and Afghanistan, because the latter is feeling intense pressure to hand over those who fought alongside them against NATO.

Afghanistan's Defense Minister Mullah Yaqub
Afghanistan’s Defense Minister Mullah Yaqub is a staunch critic of Pakistan, who he accuses of providing air space to the US drones.

Unless and until both the countries resolve this issue, there can’t be any meaningful engagement because for Pakistan or any other country, security remains the utmost priority.

Pakistan has threatened to conduct surgical strikes against Afghanistan with the former Defense Minister Khawaja Asif saying they “have to hit them because we cannot tolerate this situation for long”.

COAS Asim Munir’s visit and looming cloud of war

Pakistan knows if it wants to be an impactful force, it must eradicate the TTP once and for all but that seems very difficult at the moment.

Pakistan Army Chief meets US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken
Pakistan Army Chief meets US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken upon arriving in the US

Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff general Asim Munir’s visit to the United States comes at a crucial time as Pakistan wants to reinclude itself as a frontline ally of the United States.

Political analysts in Pakistan speculated that the visit was about scheduled elections in Pakistan but that doesn’t seem to be a priority for the US when it is busy fighting two wars, Ukraine and the Middle East.

Micheal Kugelman, the director of the South Asia Institute at the Wilson Center, said Asim Munir will “tap into shared concerns about Afghanistan-based terrorist groups to help address a resurgence of militancy in Pakistan, led by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan”.

The way forward

Pakistani policymakers know very well if there is any way to do something about the TTP problem, it is through dialogue and diplomacy.

The US wouldn’t come for help because it had a terrible and humiliating withdrawal just two years ago. Pakistan’s only chance of going about this is to engage with the interim Afghan government over and over again and win over the current government and instead of threatening them with force and aggression.

Being called an “illegitimate government” and people from a different world wouldn’t solve Pakistan’s concerns.

The military option should be on the table, but that too, must be surgical to avoid any unnecessary wastage of lives and ammunition.

But diplomacy must not be done with a barrel pointing towards the Afghan administration as first: Pakistan is not a big power, secondly: it’ll hinder any fruitful outcome.

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