During the past two decades of the American led invasion of Afghanistan, there was a phobia from the neighboring countries in Afghanistan. This phobia from the neighboring countries was developed and instilled in Afghanistan by the foreign hands who were interfering in Afghanistan during the past two decades of conflict. Over the course of the last two decades that phobia from neighboring countries in Afghanistan has been the cause of lots problems between Afghanistan and its neighbors most importantly Pakistan.
After the takeover of the government in August of 2021 the current Afghan caretaker government inherited lots of problems from the previous republic. It was expected that after the take over of Afghanistan by the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan would improve. In the beginning, this relationship seemed good. When the IEA was mediating the talks between the TTP and Pakistan, it seemed that there was strong cooperation between the two sides, but the peace talks failed dramatically and Pakistan announced that it would no longer hold talks with the TTP. The attacks increased in Pakistan and the Pakistani side increased the pressure on the Afghan government. The Afghan government took some steps, but the Pakistani officials said again and again that the territory of Afghanistan is being used against Pakistan. Gradually, the tension between Afghanistan and Pakistan increased. In an unprecedented step, the interim government of Pakistan decided to expel millions of Afghan refugees, and with this, the atmosphere became even more tensed.
Why did the current problem started?
Talks between Pakistani officials and TTP were going well in Kabul. A member of the Afghan government who took part in the talks told me that "90 percent of the issues had been agreed upon", it was very close to reaching an agreement, but the Pakistani side backed out. Another important development was that change of military leadership in Pakistan when General Asim Munir became the head of Pakistan's army, he tended to fight the TTP instead of talking, the talks were canceled and the frequency of fighting increased. The problem started from here and then gradually increased. The Pakistani authorities wanted the Afghan government to take action against the TTP, stop them from operating, arrest them, imprison them and hand them over to Pakistan. These request were not accepted by the Afghan side because on one hand TTP has helped them against NATO and United States of America in the past years, and on the other hand, these action are against their values.
The most important thing is that the current Afghan government as a new government does not want to take the hostility of TTP and open another front against itself. They know that if they put more pressure on the TTP, there is a possibility that it will turn into ISKP-Daesh, because some of the important dead and current alive members of ISKP chapter of Daesh were members of the TTP. This is something that can cause great danger to the Afghan government.
An official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan told me that: “We are helping Pakistan in its security, but we won’t do anything that will threaten our own security and greater interests. Since we are helping Pakistan in its security and It is beneficial for us, but we are not ready to pay the price of Asim Munir's wrong policies. The demands of Pakistani side should be reasonable and in line with ground realities”.
So far, it seems that the Afghan government will not take military action against the TTP as per Pakistan's wishes; But this does not mean that the Afghan government will be in harmony with the actions of the TTP in Pakistan. The actions of the TTP and the far-fetched expectations of the Pakistani government have put the Afghan government in a difficult situation. This situation should be understood.
What can the Afghan government do for Pakistan?
One of Pakistan's requests was that the Afghan government should move the settlements of tribal refugees to a place far from away from the Durand Line. These are the refugees who have crossed into Afghanistan from the past military operations of Pakistan in the tribal areas.
The Afghan government accepted this request and moved the tribal refugees away as per the request of the Pakistani side but told the Pakistani side that the solution is to negotiate and make Peace with the TTP. At that time as per sources in Kabul, Pakistan side was told that peace is easy and cheap at the time, but if the fighting between Pakistan and TTP expands and relations between Pakistan and the Afghan government deteriorates further, this peace will be difficult and expensive. It is also important to note that that the Pakistani authorities gave different information to their people about the main demands of the TTP. This is exactly like the false information when they used to say in the past 20 years that "India has 12 consulates in Afghanistan." TTP will have some tough demands, but in the negotiations that took place in Kabul, TTP gave in some of their demands during the talks and only those demands remained which were not difficult for Pakistan to accept.
Their main demands were that Pakistani government should compensate the tribal areas for the destruction caused in the fighting, get their prisoners freed, the Pakistani government should withdraw the army from the tribal areas, and return the tribal laws that existed there. These are the demands that are easier and less costly for Pakistan to accept than remaining engaged in protracted war. It is something that the political and religious parties and the people of Pakistan should understand and have their own position on these.
A peaceful and negotiated solution to this problem will not only be an easy way for Pakistan, but it will also free the Afghan government from this problem. Considering the above reasons, the Afghan government will not take military action against the TTP and the Pakistani government can help the Afghan government in finding an alternative way for the solution of this problem. There is also an opinion among the Pakistani rulers that the TTP should be attacked inside the territory of Afghanistan. If this happens, the situation can be worse than imagined, because the Afghan government will show reaction and will have to retaliate in a similar fashion for the sake of its own reputation. But despite all these difficulties, the Afghan government is not in favor of conflict between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
A senior official of Afghan government told me that: “These problems will not be permanent. If we look at the accusations against the Afghan government and many other wrong actions of the Pakistani government including the forced expulsion of Afghan refugees, we consider all these to be the work of a certain circle, not the people and the entire government of Pakistan, and we hope that this situation will change and we have the strategic patience”.
On the other hand, if we look at the positions of the Pakistani people and politicians regarding the expulsion of Afghan refugees from Pakistan, it is understandable that current tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan are the result of the decisions of a certain circle within Pakistan. The solution is in discussions and engagement based on reasonable demands and ground realities. Exchange of harsh words and issuance of strong worded statements and accusations in media won’t yield any results and it will aggravate the current tensed situation between both the countries.