History often tends to repeat itself. This adage has gained currency in the contemporary Afghan context. Afghanistan is a hot mess right now. There is a civil war brewing with far reaching implications for neighboring countries, especially Pakistan.
In 1989, the Soviet Union was sent packing from Afghanistan by the mighty American forces with the help of Pakistani security agencies and, of course, the Mujahedeen (now the Taliban). After the Soviet defeat, the Americans left Afghanistan, and Pakistan stood alone to deal with the latter. History is repeating itself. In 1989, it was the mujahedeen and Pakistan; today, it is the Afghan government and Pakistan.
After the US withdrawal, the Taliban are gaining ground by the day. They have managed to capture around 180 districts and escalated their nationwide offensive to Herat, Lashkar Gah and Kandahar, major Afghan cities. President Ashraf Ghani’s recent statement that Afghanistan will be out of the current situation is mere wishful thinking. The protracted fighting between the Afghan security forces and the Taliban has the potential to culminate into a civil strife, which will have huge reverberations in the neighboring Pakistan.
Pakistan has time and again iterated that its security is inextricably linked with that of Afghanistan. Threats to Pakistan’s security have started raising their head owing to the ongoing conflict in its neighborhood. Even though the border-fencing along Afghan soil is complete and the border crossing will now be managed a bit better, it may not be sufficient enough to put a halt and a check to the movement of people entirely, given the complex mountainous terrain.
Furthermore, the resurgence of militancy in North and South Waziristan has sent shockwaves throughout the security circles in Pakistan. The splinter cells of Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) are reunifying. The TTP recently vowed to reinvigorate its attacks against Pakistan’s security agencies. There is news of a possible alliance between the TTP and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Afghanistan against the Afghan government. If true, it will have dire consequences for Pakistan’ security. The reactivation of sleeper cells on Pakistani soil also presents a threat to the nation. To add fuel to fire, the footprints of India in Afghanistan are growing at an alarming pace.
Pakistan has already sacrificed its social and economic fabric for another country’s war. It is highly unlikely that the country has the capacity to engage in the vicious cycle of war again. Thus, those at the helm of affairs must devise firm and sound policies encompassing, but not limited to, the mechanism for the repatriation of the Afghan refugees, putting a barrage the new wave of refugees from Afghanistan and pressurizing Taliban to come to the table for an amicable solution to the Afghan question, possibly a power-sharing formula. Additionally, Pakistan must join hands with countries like China and Russia including international organizations for the economic and social development of the country. What’s more is that Pakistan must do all in its capacity to hinder the space being given to India in Afghanistan.
Ergo, the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan has put at stake the security of an already fragile Pakistan. If these threats remain uncountered, the much-awaited economic recovery, social stability and political unity of Pakistan will remain a distant dream.