US Endgame Plan in Afghanistan and Its Neighbours

Sardar Tee Shahid

Is the longest war of the US and International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) approaching its end? Seems so. The US and ISAF troops in Afghanistan zipped up their bags following the announcement of President Joe Biden’s declaration that all of his military paraphernalia would be uprooted from the Afghan battle zone by September 9, 2021. Justifying the decision of his Administration to put a full stop to war in Afghanistan, Biden sounded firm that with the terror threat now in many places, keeping thousands of troops grounded and concentrated in just one country draining billions of dollars annually makes little sense to him and other leaders of the world. Rightly so!

Exiting from Afghanistan is synonymous with putting a mammoth of security responsibilities on fragile shoulders of Afghanistan and those of regional countries, especially Pakistan. The US president asked the regional countries, Pakistan in particular, to do more to sustain Afghanistan. Ironically, the global leaders in step with the US has been blaming Pakistan, once a front-line non-NATO ally in Global War on Terror of supporting militants in Afghanistan, including Taliban. In contrast, Pakistan has been not only advocating but also facilitating US, Non-State Actors and Afghanistan to reach the deal and propel the exit strategy.

   What if the US doesn’t step out of Afghanistan? Mr. Biden is the fourth US president to command US military presence in Afghanistan. His actions reflect he would be last and would not pass the buck to the next US president. What is the US exit stratagem from Afghanistan? The US Secretary of State, Mr. Antony Blinken In clarified that the US was only withdrawing its military presence from Afghanistan and the US was not abandoning Afghanistan. He delineated the US exit approach while addressing the larger aim of establishing, preserving and maintaining peace, security, law enforcement and stability in Afghanistan post 9/11. It is a tall order, a grand aim to achieve following the withdrawal of the US and ISAF forces would have moved out of the war-ravaged country. The US, and other regional states, especially Pakistan must  remain profoundly engaged in  supporting Afghanistan in all dimensions of governance, including economy, socio-economic and infrastructural development, humanitarian assistance, consolidating Afghan security forces.

Effective diplomacy backed by concrete actions is the key. The US Secretary of the State qualified that the withdrawal plan has also forced the Biden administration to focus on diplomacy. He is quoted, “We’re trying to see if the Taliban will engage with the Afghan government to try to come to a political resolution of the conflict that’s been going on for so long”.

With regard to role of Pakistan in the post-US Afghanistan, Ex-US chief warrior Mr. Donald Trump also recognized the essentiality of Pakistan. The current US Chief Diplomat, Mr. Blinken also affirmed that the consistent support of Pakistan, especially due to Pakistan-Afghanistan bilateral ties and logistic convenience in terms of the shortest, all-season supply route to Afghanistan.

“Does not having to rely on Pakistan for a supply chain essentially change the dynamics, change what’s possible for you when it comes to influence in Afghanistan?” This is a question posed by a journalist to Mr. Blinken. Nevertheless, he squabbled that the Biden administration’s plan to withdraw all foreign troops by Sept 11 would be an eye-opener for all “free riders” in the neighborhood. This is the verbatim of his answer, “The decision has concentrated the minds of pretty much everyone inside and outside of Afghanistan and the region as well. For the last 20 years, they’ve been – to some extent – free riders on us, on NATO, on our partners.” He implied referring to a misplaced acuity in the West, the US in particular, about Pakistan, or may be other neighbors too that Afghanistan’s neighbors had been exploiting the US losses, both men and material, in Afghanistan “without making any contribution”. This is important enough not to be ignored by all neighbors, Pakistan in particular.

Mr. Blinken expounded on the US strategy that Afghanistan’s neighbors are to make a decision, Pakistan in particular, to gauge and fathom their interests while ascribing on the strategy of leveraging their politico-strategic influence in order to keep Afghanistan on a positive path. A tone of warning could be sensed as he uttered, “I don’t think a single neighbour of Afghanistan’s, starting with Pakistan, has an interest in the country winding up in a civil war, because that would produce a massive refugee flow [to Pakistan].” His statement also was directed on other state too while emphasizing that they should be concerned about the export of extremism, of drugs, etc. As the US views Pakistan through new great game and power politics in the world and the region, especially Pak-India rivalry and Pak-China strategic alliance, Pakistan needs to architect a much strategic and broad-based relationship with the US beyond security, war, and bullets.

There is much talk of duties of the US, the West or Afghan’s neighbors but the post-pull out Afghan stability should not be the mere responsibility of the US and its neighbors. The US exit ought to include ownership and assignment of responsibilities to Afghanistan the most after the US withdrawal and it should motivate both the Taliban and Afghan government to weigh their best options of governance domestic law enforcement, socio-economic prosperity, national development and national security in consonance with its own aspirations and that of its people. For this to be transpired to a pleasant reality,  all stakeholders are obligated to reassess the environment and ground realities, make new computations and chart courses afresh for the future that should lead Afghanistan to prosperity and peace or, God forbid, thrust it into another form of unrest and anarchy of a civil war. This is in not the interest of anyone – the World, the US, neighbors of Afghanistan Pakistan in particular, Taliban, Afghanistan, and more so for Afghani people. They deserve better life, peaceful and progressing, being an honorable community and state in the comity of nations.

The oft-stated US strategy for Afghanistan post its withdrawal is exerting much pressure on all its neighbours, particularly Pakistan. For the good score, Pakistan has been vigilant of the developments and turns and twists in Afghanistan; it has equipped Pakistan to reassess and reweigh its options that should not only stabilize Afghanistan, support international community but also keep its own national interests guarded. The longest war of the US and International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) is much likely to reach its end. Rightly so!

The writer, an international affairs analyst, regularly contributes on national security, foreign policy, international diplomacy and maritime affairs. He tweets @tee_shahid and connects at 


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