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Af-Pak policy: Prospects for regional stability

“The Af-Pak policy of Obama administration envisions many new things for the region, particularly Afghanistan, and there are a lot of ideas floating around Washington. But the problem with these new ideas is three-fold. First these ideas are mostly mutually incompatible and can’t be combined or are difficult to combine. Secondly, no body has a clear idea about what they need in detail to implement these ideas, and thirdly how the critical regional players including Pakistan can be forced into these possible provisional arrangements, not the solutions,” said Dr. Anatol Lieven, a professor at the Department of War Studies at King’s College, London while addressing a seminar on “Af-Pak Policy: Prospects for Regional Stability” organized by the Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) on August 19, 2009 at its premises.

He asserted that the role of the regional players, especially India and Pakistan, was very vital with regard to future scenarios for Afghanistan. Pakistan will not give up the quest to manipulate the control in Afghanistan due to ever growing Indian influence in almost all spheres of life in Afghanistan. It adds to the fears and insecurities of Pakistan. India’s involvement in Afghanistan is however not new and it is imperative to develop better understanding and mutual trust. “Under such circumstances, nonetheless, the possibility of an increased role of Indian and Pakistan in Afghanistan looks a distant policy and will involve diverse and long-term confidence building measures (CBMs),” he argued.

He maintained that US did not enjoy cordial relations with Russia and Iran, which increased the possibility of greater Chinese role in Afghanistan. China could play a major role in the reconstruction and rebuilding of Afghanistan but involving China into Afghanistan meant to give her a share for her participation. But the question is will China want to come into this ghastly mess, perhaps no.

Highlighting various hypothetical short-term and long-term post-election scenarios for Afghanistan he revealed these could include getting rid of the executive presidency in Afghanistan and moving to a prime ministerial system, empowering the political party system and giving participation to Taliban also, including regional powers to play a role in Afghanistan, creating a working military dictatorship in Afghanistan by empowering the Afghan National Army, and look for an honorable US exit strategy. With regard to US exit strategy, he however opined that the critical factor was timetable for the withdrawal from Afghanistan.