PAKISTAN-US-AFGHANISTAN: The Way Forward

By Hira A. Shafi
Research Analyst, Spearhead Research

On August 21st President Trump unveiled the broad contours of the US Afghan and South Asian Strategy. The resolve- as announced- seeks to find favourable enduring outcomes of the US investments and sacrifices in Afghanistan. The US perceives that exiting Afghanistan under the current dynamics could create a power vacuum enabling transnational terror groups to usurp power. The US also accounts for its broader security concerns that necessitate an enduring stay.

The core pillars of the new ‘Afghan-South Asian’ strategy as laid out by President Trump include: a shift towards a condition based approach, utilisation of American diplomatic, economic and military capabilities to fulfil security objectives, transitioning from a military effort towards political reconciliation in Afghanistan, managing the Pakistan-US ties and lastly, developing a strategic partnership with India on shared objectives in the ‘South Asia and Indo Pacific region’.

A critical point of the new strategy involves the broad regional hyphenation. With Afghanistan at the crux; the new US commitment of an enduring stay seeks to simultaneously manage its multidimensional objectives in the broader Asia Pacific and Eurasian zones.

The contours of the Afghan policy maintain a strong essence of the past strategies, thus creating speculations of predictable outcomes. ‘’What has essentially changed?’’ Remains a widely debated point of inquiry not only amongst regional players but also within the US.

The critical change lies in the broad regional hyphenation, as this also broadens the concept of security beyond the issue of terrorism. But, a murky vision for the path ahead stems from the issue that while the new the new strategy acknowledges catering to broader US objectives, it continues to discuss the means to various ends solely through the prism of the terrorism crisis in Afghanistan.

The current day Global East is a dynamic region witnessing major tectonic shifts. Core ethos of the states are dictated by their multifaceted security interests. On the parallel the broader region is also inclining towards principles of multilateralism. In a panoramic view, the paths forward to the unanimous end goal of global stability and prosperity are yet defining their convergence. 

Amidst this reality, critical high level meetings– on the tripartite US, Pakistan & Afghanistan level– have taken place since the US policy announcement. The aim of this paper is to discuss the policy directions enunciated by each State on the Afghan issue, understand the various perspectives and discuss the opportunities for the US, Pakistan and Afghanistan’s path forward under the light of the broader global shifts.

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