The government of Afghanistan has recently stepped up its efforts to sign security deals with the international and regional powers. In line with this policy, Kabul has signed strategic pacts with the governments of the United States, Germany, France, Britain, China, Russia, and India. Deals with Iran and Pakistan are also expected to be signed in the near future.
Political analysts say that Afghan President Hamid Karzai wants to sign the deals in order to consolidate his grip on power and enlist other governments in the campaign to contain the Taliban. In other words, he believes the threat of the Taliban would be greatly reduced if the strategic objectives of regional and international powers were realized in Afghanistan.
However, Kabul will have great difficulty hammering out a deal with Pakistan, which is regarded as one of the main supporters of the Taliban and its operations in Afghanistan. Islamabad has repeatedly denied that it has any contact with the group and has refused to accept the conditions set by Kabul for signing the security deal. Kabul’s main condition is that Pakistan should stop supporting the Taliban and should encourage the group to engage in national peace negotiations.
Pakistan is also opposed to any deal that would facilitate the presence of India in Afghanistan. Over the years, Islamabad has viewed Afghanistan as its backyard -- or its strategic depth in the parlance of the military men -- and it will adamantly resist India’s efforts to increase its influence in the country.
However, working out a security deal with Iran will be much easier for Kabul since Iran’s only condition is the withdrawal of the U.S.-led occupation forces from the country. According to recent security estimates, the U.S. withdrawal in 2014 would pave the way for the resurgence of the Taliban and the rise of other ethnically based militia groups, especially Pashtun militias. Strategic cooperation with Iran would help the Afghan government establish an ethnic balance in the country and prevent the Taliban from uniting with other Pashtun insurgents in a military campaign against the central government.
Over the past few years, the Afghan government has bandied about the idea of sharing power with the Taliban. Their reasoning is that incorporating the Taliban into the government is arguably the only way to end the Afghan conflict. However, Afghan officials are well aware of the fact that any power-sharing deal would have to be endorsed by the regional powers, such as Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Thus, by engaging in strategic cooperation with the major international and regional powers, the Afghan government would be taking a big step in the direction of guaranteeing peace and security in the country.
Pirmohammad Mollazehi is an expert on Pakistan and Afghanistan based in Tehran.
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