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Pakistan Accepts Strategic Depth in Afghanistan a Failed Policy

Flag of Tehreek Taliban Pakistan

Strategic depth in Afghanistan has been an objective of Pakistan's foreign policy over the years and in fact ever since its independence in August 1947. This policy did not change over Soviet occupation and Taliban’s occupation of Kabul in 1996 led to Pakistan recognition the government with hopes of establishing a strong bond of Islamic fraternal relations.

As the United States launched Operation Enduring freedom in Afghanistan in 2021, Pakistan believing that a favorable regime in Kabul was only feasible with return of Taliban in power and thus continued to provide covert sanctuary and support to the terrorist group which was banned by the United Nations. This support continued despite United States blaming Pakistan for the same from time to time including by the President’s then Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

After the Taliban came to power for the second time in Kabul in August 2021, Pakistan’s then ISI chief Lt General Faiz Hameed rushed to celebrate what he called victory presuming a regime in Afghan capital. In the last 2 1/2 years this premise has being turned upside down as the Taliban has fostered acolyte the Tehreek Taliban Pakistan a  move which has seen a rising insurgency and terrorist campaign by that outfit in Pakistan.

This has resulted in major security concerns in Islamabad which is fighting back the terror threat with limited success so far.

Thus acknowledging the perception that Taliban in power in Afghanistan provided strategic depth to the country, Pakistan’s Special Representative on Afghanistan Ambassador Asif Durrani said on April 24 that the belief that return of Taliban to power after withdrawal of NATO will lead to stable Afghan Pakistan relations fulfilling the desire for strategic depth has not been successful.

Durrani was speaking at the one-day International Conference “Pakistan in the Emerging Geopolitical Landscape”, organised by the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) and the German Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES). “After the withdrawal of Nato forces, it was hoped that peace in Afghanistan would bring peace to the region. However, such expectations were short-lived,” he said as per the Dawn News. TTP attacks in Pakistan’s border areas increased by 65 per cent, while suicide attacks increased by 500pc. “The TTP’s enhanced attacks on Pakistan while using Afghan soil have been a serious concern for Pakistan. Another worrying aspect is the participation of Afghan nationals in these attacks,” he maintained as per the Dawn.

This confession however is unlikely to change Pakistan’s perception of seeking strategic depth in Afghanistan given intense rivalry with India. Pakistan Army and the Inter Services Intelligence are unlikely to seek a change in policy hoping that the Afghan situation can be turned to advantage.

Importantly the business community particularly in Karachi has called directly to the Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif to open talks with India, something that the PM is unlikely to do till there is a fundamental shift in approach by Pakistan on Kashmir and support to terrorism.


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