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Pakistan Reader# 105, 11 May 2020

Khalilzad meets Gen Bajwa: What is Pakistan’s Afghan Endgame?

Editorial

Finally, the Deep State would prefer a Taliban rule from Kabul, than a secular and liberal Afghanistan. This is a part of how the Deep State looks at even Pakistan internally

D. Suba Chandran
Professor
International Strategic and Security Studies Programme (ISSSP)
National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bangalore

On 8 May, Zalmay Khalilzad met Gen Bajwa in Islamabad, as a part of the US initiative to pursue the deal it has made with the Taliban in Doha earlier. What the US wants in Afghanistan, is clear; Trump wants to leave as early as possible, perhaps before the next Presidential elections and wants to leave chimaera of peace in Afghanistan between Taliban and the elected government. What does Pakistan want? More importantly, what does the Deep State in Pakistan wants in Afghanistan?

The fact that Khalilzad met Gen Bajwa shows who is in charge of Pakistan’s Afghan policy. Elected governments have abdicated their Afghan policy to the Deep State; or, the latter has usurped it from the former. And, perhaps, that is what the Deep State wants first; to be the deciding authority of Pakistan’s Afghan policy, than the Parliament. It would be a different discourse, why the Deep State is keen to take the lead.

In the context, what else does the Deep State wants in Afghanistan? It would want the US to leave as early as possible so that there are no foreign actors, who would cushion what it would want, and how it works with and work through the Taliban. Though Khalilzad has met the military leadership in Pakistan repeatedly over the US exit, there were numerous times, when the US and Pakistan forces were at each other. Successive US military leadership in Afghanistan have made this point.

An American exit in Afghanistan means, the ground is open for its play. An independent Kabul would be an anathema for Pakistan. With the spread of the Pashtun movement through the PTM not only in KP but also in rest of Pakistan, the Deep State sees it as a conspiracy from its western border. Perhaps, it suspects that there is a New Delhi-Kabul collusion, and the PTM is an expression. An independent and elected government in Kabul also means more space for India in Afghanistan; another anathema for Pakistan.

Finally, the Deep State would prefer a Taliban rule from Kabul, than a secular and liberal Afghanistan. This is a part of how the Deep State looks at even Pakistan internally. The Deep State fears that a liberal, secular and democratic Afghanistan would undermine its interests across both sides of the Durand.

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