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Afghanistan and Pakistan: Difficult Neighbors Rasul Bakhsh Rais Rasul Bakhsh Raisis Professor of Political Science in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at Lahore University of Management Sciences. He can be reached at . 145 Executive Summary This essay examines the difficulties that Afghanistan and Pakistan face in structuring a stable relationship based on trust, cooperation, and mutual interest. Main Argument Afghanistan and Pakistan have yet to overcome the difficulties of the past and shape a new strategic relationship to meet the challenges of the Taliban and al Qaeda. Pakistan has a great stake in a stable and peaceful Afghanistan but faces problems in convincing post-Taliban Afghan leaders of its sincerity. Pakistan believes Afghanistan’s territory is being used by India, in connivance with Afghan leaders and intelligence agencies, to interfere in the Baluchistan Province of Pakistan and in other trouble spots. Afghanistan has not ceased accusing Pakistan of intervention and using the Afghan Taliban as an instrument of Pakistani regional policy. Policy Implications • Problems between Afghanistan and Pakistan have adversely affected, and will continue to adversely affect, international efforts to defeat transnational terrorism. • The growing Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan and in the tribal regions of Pakistan may gain further strength if the two countries continue to squabble and play the blame game. • The international community may have difficulty in isolating the war on terrorism from the divisive regional issues of the India-Pakistan conflict and from the simmering distrust between Kabul and Islamabad. • The success of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan requires deeper and more effective regional cooperation, particularly regarding settling Afghan-Pakistani problems, including the issue of the Durand Line. • The international community may help promote latent interdependence within the larger region through the power of trade, economic opportunity, and gas pipelines in order to change the structure of state-to-state relations and create a popular stake in peace and stability. 146 rais A fghanistan and Pakistan share multiple strands of culture, history, religion, and civilization, but the two countries have never succeeded in establishing bilateral relations free of tensions. Rather, passive antagonism and mistrust have marked bilateral ties for the larger part of more than half a century following the creation of Pakistan. The intensity of hostility has varied under different regimes in Afghanistan, however, and though brief periods of cordiality have occurred as well, these have never been enough to provide a consistent positive direction. Although relations were stable to some extent under the Afghan monarchy and opposing claims over the boundary and tribes in the frontier region did not provoke serious conflict, a feeling of estrangement prevailed. The two states developed very different strategic visions and perceptions of regional roles, and became enmeshed in competing structures of global power. Their opposite tendencies in foreign and security policies manifested finally in the superpower contest of the 1980s; the Afghan government hosted the Soviet forces while Pakistan aligned with both the Afghan mujahideen rebels and the United States to defeat the Red Army. As the effects of the Soviet-Afghan War spilled over into Pakistan in the form of millions of Afghan refugees and tens of thousands of armed fighters, Pakistan became deeply involved in Afghanistan’s internal affairs. The civil war between the Taliban and the Northern Front (comprised of Afghan factions), which forced every neighboring country to engage in a regional “great game,” drew Pakistan closer to the Taliban. The Northern Front leaders, who benefited from Pakistan during the Soviet-Afghan War, blamed Pakistan for the suffering and pain that the Taliban inflected on them. In terms of the war on terrorism, the past continues to overshadow the shared quest of defeating terrorist groups that threaten both countries and to frustrate the efforts of countries in the international community that also share this interest. This essay examines the difficulties that Afghanistan and Pakistan face in structuring a stable relationship based on trust, cooperation, and mutual interest. The three sections that follow respectively: (1) evaluate the impact of the war on terrorism on these relations, (2) present differing Afghan and Pakistani perspectives on the key challenges facing post–September 11 bilateral relations and the ability of these countries to successfully defeat the Taliban and transnational terrorism, and (3) conclude with a brief discussion of policy implications emerging from the essay’s findings. 147 nbr analysis The Impact of the War on Terrorism on Afghanistan-Pakistan Relations The post–September 11 overthrow of the Taliban regime by a coalition of international forces led...


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