Pakistan has been playing an active and negative role in Afghanistan, a US report asserted, stating that Islamabad is attempting to weaken the government in Kabul. In US Congress' latest report, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) recognised Pakistan as the most significant neighbour of Afghanistan. It further added that Pakistan's security services have maintained ties with Afghan insurgent groups.
Pakistan, it said, has played an active, and by many accounts, a negative role in Afghan affairs for decades. "Pakistan's security services maintain ties to Afghan insurgent groups, most notably the Haqqani Network, a US-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) that has become an official, a semiautonomous component of the Taliban," CRS, which periodically prepares reports on issues of importance for Congressmen for them to make informed decisions, said.
Afghanistan leaders, along with US military commanders, attribute much of the insurgency's power and persistence directly or indirectly to the support of Pakistan. Moreover, the report said that US President Donald Trump has even accused Pakistan establishment of "housing the very terrorists that we are fighting".
The report asserted that US officials have long identified terror safe havens in Pakistan that have posed a threat to the security of Afghanistan. However, the charge has been disputed by some Pakistani officials. "Pakistan may view a weak and destabilised Afghanistan as preferable to a strong, unified Afghan state (particularly one led by an ethnic Pashtun-dominated government in Kabul; Pakistan has a large and restive Pashtun minority)," the CRS said. However, instability in Afghanistan could rebound to Pakistan's detriment; Pakistan has struggled with indigenous Islamist militants of its own, the report added.
Apart from terrorism, Pakistan-Afghanistan relationship is further inundated by the presence of over a million Afghani refugees in Pakistan as well a long-running and ethnically tinged dispute over their shared 1,600-mile border. "Pakistan's security establishment, fearful of a strategic encirclement by India, apparently continues to view the Afghan Taliban as a relatively friendly and reliable anti-India element in Afghanistan," the CRS said.
"India's diplomatic and commercial presence in Afghanistan - and US rhetorical support for it - exacerbates Pakistani fears of encirclement. Indian interest in Afghanistan stems largely from India's broader regional rivalry with Pakistan, which impedes Indian efforts to establish stronger and more direct commercial and political relations with Central Asia," the CRS said in its latest report on Afghanistan.
The CRS said insurgent and terrorist groups have demonstrated considerable capabilities in 2019, throwing into sharp relief the daunting security challenges that the Afghan government and its US and international partners face. At the same time, prospects for a negotiated settlement, driven by direct US-Taliban talks, are uncertain in light of the September 2019 cancellation of those negotiations and the Taliban's continued refusal to talk to the Afghan government, it said.
The CRS warned that a potential collapse of the Afghan military and/or the government that commands it could have significant implications for the United States, particularly given the nature of negotiated security arrangements.
Regardless of how likely the Taliban would be to gain full control over all or even most of the country, the breakdown of social order and the fracturing of the country into fiefdoms controlled by paramilitary commanders and their respective militias may be plausible, even probable, the report added.
New Delhi has never considered the militant group Taliban as a legitimate political actor in the region, unlike Pakistan. Ever since the inception of the Taliban in the 1990s, Pakistan's Foreign Policy in Afghanistan has been in favour of the Taliban, who also considers the militant group as the true Afghan representative, instead of the democratic government.
Islamabad's Afghan policy has been motivated to counter New Delhi's influence in Afghanistan, considering India's backing for the government of the country, which has brought some democratic normalcy in the war-torn country. Islamabad, by backing the armed group has contradicted New Delhi in Afghanistan, who has significantly contributed economically, culturally to the neighbour, and been the largest regional contributor to the reconstruction of Afghanistan.
(With PTI inputs)