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Huma Naz Siddiqui Baqai

1. According to the current situation, what changes will the establishment of the Taliban government in Afghanistan bring to regional security landscapes and even the world? What kind of relationship will Afghanistan establish with other countries? Especially with Pakistan, China, and the United States, what foreign policy will Afghanistan adopt?

The Taliban are the new reality and the political face of Afghanistan. Post the fall of Panjshir their control on Afghanistan is complete. Taliban so far have displayed a lot of political maturity where their statements are both accommodating of internal and external sensitivities and sensibilities. They were able to restore order immediately and the threat of civil is dissipating with every passing day. They are in the process of formalizing a government which is expected to bring both order and peace within Afghanistan. Life is limping back to normal. Women are back to work, and to universities and schools.

Afghanistan has remained in a perpetual state of crisis for the last forty years, this confusion and state of war must end. The Taliban claim that the war has ended. The international community and the peripheral countries must both cultivate and engage with them. This accepting will allow them to nudge Kabul towards a civilized model of governance, which will not be a model of libertine government, nevertheless there will be order and peace. The Taliban’s commitment to not allow their land to be used for any terrorist activity should improve the regional security landscape and is assuring to the international community.

Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Qatar, and the Central Asian Republics are accepting of the Taliban. Many important capitals including Washington, London, and Berlin are cognizant of the fact that not engaging with them is not an option. Isolating them diplomatically and strangulating them financially could be self-defeating. The Taliban are right now actively seeking both international legitimacy and recognition and are ready to exercise pragmatism, this must be both cultivated and supported for the larger end of having an Afghanistan where global terrorism does not flourish. But more importantly an Afghanistan which is progressive and pro people.

The world is adjusting to the new reality in Afghanistan. Completely isolating the Taliban could lead to further instability. The regional countries are looking to engage with the Taliban for addressing the security and socioeconomic concerns of the Afghan people and preventing a humanitarian crisis.

The Taliban 2.0 seem intent on ensuring that their second regime will be on a sounder diplomatic footing. Having largely avoided bloodshed in their takeover of Kabul, they are presenting themselves as a stabilizing force in Afghanistan.

Taliban seem open to an inclusive political framework, implementing moderate policies, and cutting ties with all terrorist groups. However, it was easier for the Taliban to take over Afghanistan but governing the war-torn country would be a balancing act between their ideological vision and real time political imperatives also perhaps between modernity and conservatism. They are yet to announce the new government, which is a tall order in an ethnically diverse, politically fractured, and economically strangulated Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is actively seeking to build relations with Pakistan and China as strategic and economic partners. China with very limited involvement in Afghanistan was the first to hold out an olive branch to the Taliban, Islamabad’s strong convergence with both China and the Taliban is no secret. China emerged as one of the first nations to develop diplomatic channels with the Taliban. The Taliban have also reassured China that the post war Afghanistan will welcome infrastructure and investment projects. They mentioned. “China is a friendly country, and we welcome it for reconstruction and developing Afghanistan.” China in some ways have already given de-facto recognition to the Taliban.

Until 31 August, United States was preoccupied with the withdrawal process. Now that the exit is complete, US is currently assessing its alignment with Afghanistan, and is exploring options to deal with the Taliban. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the State Department could work with the Taliban in areas of mutual interest, such as “securing the release of American hostages, making the region more stable, and conducting counterterrorism operations against ISIS-K.”

US Undersecretary for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland said, “Our relationship with the Taliban will be guided by what they do not by what they say, there are some urgent questions, like the humanitarian condition of the people of Afghanistan. So, we are looking at those kinds of things.” She further added, “But we have made no decisions about any of the rest of it, and we certainly won’t unless and until we see the kinds of behavior expected.” Leaked documents show ‘Biden administration is quietly pressing Pakistan to cooperate on fighting terrorist group, this is not all losing a nuclear armed country to China and having no influence over the Taliban is preventing the Biden administration from distancing from Pakistan. Threatening the Taliban and Afghanistan with consequences is not a feasible strategy, what more could go wrong the thrust should be pro people, pro progress growth and development.

2. What is Pakistan's attitude towards the situation in Afghanistan? What measures or policies will Pakistan adopt in the future?

Pakistan is relieved that the US calendar and not condition based withdrawal and the subsequent collapse of the Afghan government, and the Afghan national army did not culminate into civil war and refugee outflows. Both would have had direct repercussions for Pakistan. Moreover, the shrinking of strategic space for Indian agencies on Afghan land is a huge benefit for Pakistan which was in real terms fighting a two-front war, India had literally shifted its offensive strategies against Pakistan to the western border. Pakistan exercises strategic restraint in dealing with them, however it was a huge source of insecurity for Pakistan. It also had a direct impact on CPEC. Pakistan is relieved on that front.

Pakistan is pro peace and pro a sovereign Afghanistan. It is desirous of Taliban to opt for staying on the right side of international law and for a peacefully negotiated political settlement. Pakistan’s stakes in Afghanistan have never been higher, with the emergence of Taliban as the governing power in the country, Pakistan is threatened yet again with another massive influx of militant groups and Afghan refugees if chaos erupts.

Pakistani officials have stressed that they support a peaceful resolution of the Afghan war and suggest that the process should be “Afghan-owned and Afghan-led.” Pakistan is willing to encourage and support any agreement that the Afghans work out between themselves.

Pakistan is very open to be both US and China’s face of foreign policy in Afghanistan provided its sensitivities and sensibilities are accommodated. United States has made the mistake of engaging with the wrong side in Afghanistan, which resulted in a debacle it will have a hard time recovering from. Is US making the same mistake once again by engaging with India to balance the power equation in South Asia at the expense of Pakistan.

The foreign policy thrust of Pakistan vis a vis Afghanistan is also rooted in geo-economics and is geared towards ‘balance’ and ‘connectivity’. Pakistan has categorically stated its position of not becoming party to any conflict, but only playing a role in peace building and in negotiations for peace.

Editor Assistant Research Fellow: Xianglin Gu

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