Pakistan Fears World Will Abandon Afghanistan

A Taliban soldier walks on a street in Kabul, Afghanistan, September 17, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

The world particularly the west may abandon Afghanistan and the war-torn country may descend into a new cycle of uncertainty, according to the internal assessment of Pakistan that pushed Islamabad to redouble its diplomatic efforts aimed at making sure that the international community must not repeat the mistakes of the past.

Official sources familiar with the internal assessment told The Express Tribune that Pakistan is genuinely worried that the world leaders may soon forget Afghanistan and leave the country on its own.

Next six to 12 months are seen as crucial for Afghanistan as this would not only determine the sustainability of Taliban regime but also how far the international community lives up to its commitment of staying engaged with Kabul.

A western diplomat also shared Pakistan assessment saying the world particularly the US may lose interest in Afghanistan.

Also read: With war over, economic crisis puts lives of millions of Afghans in jeopardy

“It is because of these fears that Pakistan has been making efforts to ensure that mistakes of the past are not repeated,” a source who deals with the Afghan situation revealed.

The source said the country’s civil and military leadership in their interactions with relevant countries have been repeatedly telling them about the danger of world abandoning Afghanistan.

Pakistan fears if the world once again abandons Afghanistan the country would slip into another cycle of instability, encouraging the terrorist groups to regroup and pose threat not only to the region but beyond.

“The neighboring countries including Pakistan will bear the brunt of new wave of Afghan refugees,” cautioned another official, who added that neighboring countries were no more capable of dealing with influx of more refugees.

“This refugee problem will affect Europe too,” the official said. Therefore, Pakistan feels that it is all the more important that the world remains engaged with Afghanistan in order to prevent the nightmare scenario.

Also read: US urged to help prevent humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan

Prime Minister Imran Khan at a recent event in Islamabad also spoke about the nightmare if the world failed to prevent the economic collapse and humanitarian crises in Afghanistan.

Pakistan in particular has been urging the US to unfreeze the foreign assets of Afghanistan. The US withheld $9.5 billion of the Afghan Central Bank after Taliban took control of Kabul in August.

Qatar, another key interlocutor for Afghanistan, as well as China, Russia and Iran are also in favour of Afghan Taliban to be given access to the country’s foreign assets.

This would be one of the main agenda items when Pakistan hosts extraordinary meeting of foreign ministers of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on December 19. This is the only second extraordinary session of OIC Council of Foreign Ministers on Afghanistan.

The first meeting was held 41 years ago when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. But significance of the upcoming OIC meeting can be judged from the fact that permanent members of UN Security Council as well as Germany, Japan and representatives of international financial institutions are being invited.

Also read: Crisis in Afghanistan

A Foreign Office official said Pakistan was getting “good response” from the countries for the OIC meeting.

Pakistan is hoping the OIC gathering will help the international community understand the gravity of the situation in Afghanistan.

However, Islamabad fears the US, a principle player, seems to have little or no appetite for further spending in Afghanistan. Similarly, countries like China and Russia are cautious and feel they bear no responsibility of clearing the mess the US has left behind in Afghanistan.

Given this scenario, Pakistan is working with oil rich Gulf countries for possible financial assistance. It was because of this reason that Saudi Arabia once again seemed to be in the limelight for Afghanistan. Riyadh until now has little or no role in the Afghan peace efforts as Qatar took over that part.

However, it was Saudi Arabia, which proposed the idea of OIC meeting. Also Saudi Arabia reopened its diplomatic mission in Kabul. Pakistan is said to have played a key role in bringing Saudi Arabia back in Afghan affairs.

Also read: Afghan families go back to making carpets as economy unravels

Pakistan feels that together Saudi Arabia, Qatar and UAE could extend financial assistance to Afghanistan to keep the country’s economy afloat.

With Saudi-US ties remaining strained, Riyadh fears the crucial intelligence the US gathers from Afghanistan may not be available for the Kingdom. Hence, it is looking for alternatives and one of the options is to seek Pakistan’s help for this purpose.

This developing scenario compels Saudi Arabia to work closely with Pakistan on Afghanistan.
But Pakistan is still hoping that the key stakeholders including the US would not abandon Afghanistan because it is in the interest of all that the war-torn country remains stable and economically viable country.

Against this backdrop, Pakistan has high expectations from the upcoming OIC meeting.