Speaking in an interview with the website of the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, Behrouz Ayaz said that the US decision to withdraw 2,500 troops from Afghanistan on May 1 and finally on September 11 this year, marks the end of the 20-year US war in Afghanistan and the longest war in the history of the country and noted: This has wide political and economic implications for Pakistan; because this country considers Afghanistan its backyard and has always tried to infiltrate it.
He referred to efforts to form the Taliban in the 1990s and encouraging the group to negotiate peace now (as of December 2018) as one of Pakistan’s measures to infiltrate Afghanistan and added: Therefore, the US withdrawal from Afghanistan will be a turning point for Pakistan and the United States is aware that the conditions for its post-withdrawal period depend on Pakistan.
Ayaz, saying that Pakistan sees the current situation in the region in its interests, added that the country, which in recent years has replaced its geo-economic strategy with a geo-strategic, intends to use the current situation to strengthen its current strategy.
US withdrawal from Afghanistan, a win-win for Islamabad
He explained: This strategy means emphasizing economic and trade exchanges and represents a new look at the issues and developments in the South Asian region. In this regard, the recent decision of the new US administration to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan, the same demand that the Taliban is negotiating, is a win-win situation for Islamabad.
The expert on Asia affairs continued: On the one hand, the US withdrawal from Afghanistan will reduce India’s presence and influence in that country, and Pakistan sees this as an opportunity to increase its influence in Afghanistan, which is also of great importance in the political arena by strengthening and supporting the Taliban in order to turn Afghanistan into its strategic depth and in the field of economy and export of its goods to that country; because Afghanistan is one of the largest markets for Pakistani goods.
Ayaz stressed: On the other hand, Islamabad wants to use the relationship with the United States for its geo-economic strategy; because it knows very well that with this move, in addition to solving its problems with that country, can take steps for economic development and growth and overcome its internal problems; that is to say, the same behavior that India has chosen in its foreign policy; therefore, it is clear that Islamabad is assessing the military withdrawal of Washington and NATO from Afghanistan with a political and strategic view before India and the recovery of its strategic depth, with an economic approach to Afghan markets, as well as improving its relations with the United States.
Possibility of Taliban’s domination over most parts of Afghanistan
He also said that one of the most likely predictions and concerns of the US decision is the Taliban, Pakistan’s further support for Taliban, and return to 1990s for Afghanistan, adding that this could lead to Taliban’s domination over most parts of that country.
Ayaz continued: The importance of this issue is as such to know that the Taliban has made a lot of progress these days and has become stronger than the Taliban in previous years. It dominates 76 states and has influence over other states and considers itself the winner of the 20-year war with the United States.
The expert on Asia affairs noted: All of this is while confronting the group is not at the heart of the US policy at the moment, because the United States has changed its definition of “threat” and terrorist groups are no longer a threat to that country, rather countries like China and Russia are more relevant in this regard.
US failure to establish structural democracy in Afghanistan
Ayaz added: Although Islamabad has stated that it wants extensive relations with its neighbors and seeks to achieve a peaceful outcome in Afghanistan and de-escalate tensions with India; but it is possible that the US withdrawal from the region will have negative political and security consequences for the Kabul government and pave the way for the Taliban’s violent expansionist ambitions; because, after all, the United States has failed to build the structural democracy, overall security, and nation-state building project it claimed in Afghanistan.
Taliban strive for military victories
He added: Attracting Taliban forces in the Kabul government and the group’s efforts to gain political power is a more idealistic view of this issue. What is likely to be predicted is that the Taliban will give the green light to Islamabad to seek more military victories and conquests.
According to the expert on Asia affairs; given the dependence of Afghanistan’s security and military forces on the US forces and NATO, their remarkable effectiveness cannot be seen after the withdrawal of foreign troops, and the Taliban are expected to continue their large-scale attacks and insecurity in Afghanistan, more than ever, becomes a prey of the Taliban totalitarianism and pave the way for similar internal conflicts of the 1990s.
Ayaz, referring to Pakistan’s concerns over the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, commented on some analyzes of the possibility of establishing a base in Pakistan for the US, said: Pakistan wants broad relations with the United States, relations that are beyond strategic concerns and beyond suspicion about peace in Afghanistan.
Referring to Pakistan’s recent remarks on Islamabad’s desire for broader relations with the United States, despite Pakistan’s 60 billion dollars economic corridor with China, he continued: Those remarks show Islamabad’s desire for deep economic and political ties with the United States and a green light to the Biden’s administration which, of course, has not yet received a positive response from the other side.
Possibility of US refusal to establish close relations with Islamabad
Ayaz said: Although it is possible that relations between Pakistan and the United States will improve, given the new Cold War between Beijing and Washington on the one hand and the strategic relations between Beijing and Islamabad on the other hand, not only there is not a high possibility for Pakistan becoming a safe political base, rather, given that administrations in power in the United States look at Islamabad through the lens of Afghanistan, it can be said that the relationship between Islamabad and Washington largely depends on the foreign behavior of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
He stressed: There is a high probability that aftershocks and the post-US withdrawal from Afghanistan will bring more insecurity and instability to that country, and it is expected that the United States will refrain from establishing close relations with Islamabad, which will also be rooted in the US distrust of Pakistan, closer ties with India and Pakistan’s cooperation with the Taliban.