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Will the U.S. continue to fight against terrorism in Pakistan?

22.07.2013 14:17

Aleksey Fenenko

In mid-2013 in American journalism there is a revival of the term ‘AfPak’. The Obama administration prefers not to use this term at the official level. Nevertheless, U.S. experts use it to designate Afghanistan and Pakistan as a single seat of war in the framework of the NATO antiterrorist operation. Such popularization of the term ‘AfPak’ is not accidental. The White House appears to working out an option of completing the Afghan war through the signing of double agreements both with Afghanistan and with Pakistan.

Islamabad has been a party to the Afghan conflict since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. And yet, ideas of ??Afghanistan and Pakistan as a single military-political space arose during the administration of George Bush, Jr. In autumn 2001, the White House feared that disorders in the Pakistani cities would prevent to use the country as a base for operations against the Taliban. Since the spring 2004, the Pentagon helped the government of Pervez Musharraf to conduct military operations in the north-eastern province of Waziristan, where the Talibs relocated from the Afghanistan have established their ‘quasistate’. On September 27, 2006 there was a summit of the U.S., Afghanistan and Pakistan presidents for the purpose of resolving the Afghan-Pakistani border disputes. The White House acted as a mediator in the settlement of the Afghan-Pakistani conflict in May 2007.

The emergence of the AfPak term was the result of this process. Its author is a prominent American diplomat Richard Holbrooke. In spring 2009, the AfPak term began to be used in the American analytics to analyze military operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Such an approach has, however, dissatisfied Islamabad and New Delhi. On January 24, 2009 the Indian government declared the rejection of the AfPak term. In June 2009, a former President of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf criticized the AfPak concept. The joint actions of two opponents prompted the U.S. to correct its position. On January 21, 2010 Richard Holbrooke said that the Obama administration refuses to use the AfPak term.

A new wave of interest in AfPak began in the U.S. from the turn of 2012-13. Coming around to it by U.S. experts is due to three factors. In autumn 2012, the failure of the talks in the framework of the Dushanbe Four on a quadripartite treaty between Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. The U.S. seeks to use Pakistani territory as a space for the withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan. Washington fears that Islamabad would begin independent talks with a certain segment of the Taliban. The situation is complicated by the U.S. desire to independently come into contact with the Taliban. Such intention was demonstrated on June 21 b a visit of the U.S. diplomat James Dobbins in the newly opened Qatar Office of Taliban.

A new wave of Americans’ interest in AfPak has however caused dissatisfaction in Pakistan. First, Islamabad fears that approval of the AfPak concept will lead to the legalization of NATO military operations in Pakistan. At the present time, the alliance strike blows on Taliban on the Afghan-Pakistan border in the framework of the policy of assistance to Pakistan. Within a single AfPak the alliance will be able to conduct similar operations without requesting Islamabad.

Secondly, the use of the AfPak term may create difficulties on the Afghan-Pakistan border. It now follows the ‘Durand Line’ of 1893. This line is recognized by Islamabad, but is contested by all Afghan leaders.

Third, over the past twelve years, the American experts have often qualified Afghanistan and Pakistan as ‘failed states’. In relation to Pakistan this wording meant doubts about the ability of its government to retain control over its nuclear facilities. The Pakistani leadership fears that the introduction of the AfPak term would legalize discussions about Afghanistan and Pakistan as two roughly equal ‘failed states’.

Fourth, the Pakistani leadership fears of the ‘tribal area’. In 1970, it received the status of Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Islamabad suspects that under the pretext of discussions on AfPak the representatives of the tribal area will require more autonomy.

India does not accept the AfPak concept for other reasons. Delhi does not recognize Pakistan in its current borders, arguing that part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir is occupied by Islamabad. The introduction of the AfPak concept means, according to the Indian side, an indirect recognition by the U.S. and Afghanistan of Pakistan’s current borders.

But for the Obama administration the AfPak project remains the best version of regional policy. The administration of democrats seeks to build a regional security system based on the agreement of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Americans fear that after the withdrawal of NATO main forces the guiding role in the region will be played by China, possibly in conjunction with Russia. The American AfPak project thus acts as a counterbalance to the SCO and CSTO influence.

 America as a ‘crucial balancer’ would suit both Pakistan and India. But America as a ‘creator of rules of play’ causes cautious attitude in both countries. Therefore, to implement the AfPak project, the Obama administration will have to find an acceptable compromise formula both with India and with Pakistan. Otherwise, Islamabad and Delhi will be aside from the Afghan settlement process, which is hardly good for the U.S.