Biden’s ‘New Plan’: Challenges and Options for Pakistan

Although, the recent statement by the US President is in line with the peace process but Biden's disregard for the Doha Agreement and announcement of a new date for the complete withdrawal from Afghanistan should be taken cautiously by the country’s Political and Military leadership.

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The great power politics have wreaked havoc in the South Asian Region particularly in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Pakistan has suffered the most, after Afghanistan, from the so-called US-led war on terror in the region. During the last two decades, more than 70,000 Pakistanis lost their lives while an economic blow of $125 billion jeopardized the prospects of national economic growth. It has not only won war against terrorism but also played a significant role for initiating Afghan Peace Process. Although, the recent statement by the US President is in line with the peace process but Biden’s disregard for the Doha Agreement and announcement of a new date for the complete withdrawal from Afghanistan should be taken cautiously by the country’s Political and Military leadership.

Pakistan has been fighting the so-called war on terror led by the US since 2001. Thousands of citizens including security personnel lost their lives, and besides the destruction of infrastructure Pakistan has faced an economic loss of billions of dollars. The frequent terrorist attacks including the suicide bombing deteriorated the law and order situation in the country which resulted in a significant decline of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Pakistan. Finally, after the unequalled sacrifices of Pakistan’s valiant soldiers and resilient Pakistani nation have established peace and stability across Pakistan.

Volatile Afghanistan has been providing safe havens to the terrorists. For sustainable peace in Pakistan and the region as a whole, it is essential to have peace and stability in Afghanistan. Peace in Afghanistan is only possible with the success of the ongoing Afghan Peace Process. Although the new date given by the Biden administration for the withdrawal from Afghanistan is disregard to the agreement which was signed by the Trump administration, it shows that the new administration of the US have also agreed to pull out the forces from the war-torn country.

Addressing the world from the White House, the US president Joe Biden has declared it was time “to end America’s longest war” as he announced that nearly 10,000 US and NATO troops would return home from Afghanistan in the run-up to the 20th anniversary of 9/11. In response to Biden’s announcement, the Foreign Office of Pakistan has stated that it is important that the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan coincides with the progress in the Afghan Peace Process. Pakistan supports the principle of responsible troop withdrawal in coordination with Afghan stakeholders.

Despite the consensus on withdrawal with the new date, Pakistan should remain cautious about the US administration’s plans, and the spoilers of the peace process particularly India should also be kept under strong observation. Whether the US forces leave Afghanistan or not, the US interests in the region will not change especially containment of China, to keep a close eye on Russia and check on Pakistan. Moreover, the US has developed a strategic partnership with India, therefore, it will also strive to serve the Indian interests in Afghanistan. Peace and stability in Afghanistan do not suit India as it is operating terror launch pads in the country to support and sponsor terrorism in Pakistan.

In recent months, Western media outlets especially the US-based media companies like CNN have been propagating the narrative that Biden is making a major mistake on Afghanistan by announcing to end America’s longest war. It is pertinent to mention that the US has a history of playing “dual games”, Biden has already disrespected Doha Agreement and more can be expected from him as he was also part of the Obama administration when the US did not fulfill its commitment to completely withdraw from Afghanistan by 2014.

The US has always accused Pakistan of supporting a non-existent Ho Chi Minh trail along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. In the US war against Vietnam, Cambodia was officially a neutral country in Vietnam War, though North Vietnamese troops moved supplies and arms through the northern part of the country, which was part of the Ho Chi Minh trail that stretched from Vietnam to neighboring Laos and Cambodia. In March 1969, the then US President Nixon began approving secret bombings of suspected communist base camps and supply zones in Cambodia as part of “Operation Menu.”

Cambodia wasn’t the first neutral country to be targeted by the US during the Vietnam War—the US began secretly bombing Laos in 1964, and would eventually leave it the most heavily bombed country per capita in the world. The US bombings did little to break the resistance of the Vietnamese but they had devastating consequences on the Cambodian government and its nation. History can be a guide in such tricky issues. Though Pakistan is not like Cambodia, it has a powerful military and also possesses nuclear weapons, therefore, the US cannot press Pakistan for the alleged support to Afghan Taliban in a way it acted against Cambodia.

Nevertheless, there can be a surge in terrorism in Afghanistan by the proxies like Al-Qaida and ISIS. TTP has already been reorganized in Afghanistan by Indian intelligence agency RAW to expedite the terrorist attacks on Pakistan’s soil. In this situation, Pakistan needs to be proactive and robustly engage with the Afghan leadership, regional and extra-regional stakeholders such as China, Russia, Iran, and Turkey to keep them on board to mitigate the possible emerging challenges due to the vested interests of the states in the region.

Pakistani nation and its armed forces have gone through a long phase of terror and successfully defeated the menace of terrorism. Pakistan has also been playing an effective role in the resolution of the Afghan Conflict as Pakistan sees no peace in the region without peace in Afghanistan. It is exorbitant for the Afghan nation, Pakistan, and the other regional stakeholders, if “anyone” tries to reverse the efforts that have been made so far for ending the decades-old conflict in Afghanistan.

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