Friday, 3 October 2014

Pakistan Welcomes Afghan US Bilateral Security Pact;

Pakistan Welcomes Afghan US Bilateral Security Pact; Analysts Uncertain
Oct. 2, 2014  By USMAN ANSARI   
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s civil and military leadership has welcomed the signing of the Afghan-US Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) and pledged support for the new Afghan government, but analysts are doubtful of the long-term regional security and stability.
Government officials have said a continued Western military presence in Afghanistan to train and support the Afghan military would be beneficial. This reverses the previous view that a long-term Western military presence in Afghanistan was destabilizing.
Gen Raheel Sharif, head of the Army, was quoted in Pakistani media as saying the deal was “a good move for durable peace in Afghanistan” during a Corps Commander’s meeting at the Army’s General Headquarters in Rawalpindi.
Officials hoped the continued Western military presence could help stop Afghanistan from sliding into a civil war. The agreement comes as Kabul’s new government has pledged not to allow Afghan territory to be used against its neighbors.
Analysts are unconvinced.
“I doubt it will make any difference at all to Pakistan,” said analyst, author and former Australian defense attache to Islamabad, Brian Cloughley. “The BSA is just a formal document required by the US to enable its forces and those of some other NATO countries to remain in country.”
His views are echoed by Salma Malik, assistant professor, in the Department of Defence & Strategic Studies, at Islamabad’s Quaid-i-Azam University.
“The BSA gives Pakistan a semblance of security that the ISAF[International Security Assistance Force] or at least the US forces continue their presence and commitment in the neighboring Afghanistan,” she said.
However, she questions the level of commitment.
“What we don’t take into account fully is that the US mentally packed its bags two to three years back and this is just a cleanup job, compounded by new emerging threats and problems which compel the US and Western powers to focus elsewhere.”
Claude Rakisits, nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center, however, is generally more supportive and says it disproves previous Pakistani fears.
“Pakistani academics, analysts and officials, civilian and military, have been asserting in the lead-up to 2014 that the US would once again leave Pakistan to its own devices as it had after the Soviets left Afghanistan in 1989,” he said.
“This was never going to be the case because the two situations are completely different in time [25 years] and the issues [terrorism was not present and Pakistan is now a nuclear-armed state],” he added.
Therefore, he believes “America’s continued presence in Afghanistan, albeit a limited one in numbers and in time, will be good news for bilateral relations between Islamabad and Washington.”
Despite the agreement and the new Afghan government, Cloughley says serious problems threaten even its short-term stability.
“Afghanistan is collapsing even further under the weight of Taliban assaults, while the warlords remain in the background for the moment, reaping the profits from drug production, kidnapping and general mayhem,” he said.
Even Rakisits concedes that in this regard the BSA may not deliver additional security for Pakistan.
“I seriously doubt that the presence of less than 10,000 US military personnel, the bulk of whom will be trainers and advisers to the Afghan military, will make much of a difference to Pakistan’s own security. The limited special forces personnel based in Afghanistan will be involved in hunting down al-Qaida terrorists rather than the TTP [Pakistani Taliban],” he said.
“The injection of $8 billion annually of military aid should help the Afghan security forces deal with the Afghan Taliban and hopefully the TTP when they cross over into Afghanistan. How effective the Afghan forces will be is, of course, another issue,” he said. “The Afghan Taliban have successfully conducted a number of attacks in Afghanistan recently, and this despite the presence of 40,000 ISAF troops still in the country.”
“So all in all, it is doubtful that the TTP and their fellow ideological travelers will feel under too much pressure from the Afghan military, which will have its own problems to deal with,” Rakisits added.
“One must not forget that the BSA is only a temporary and limited military assistance crutch for three years,” he said.
Ultimately, Afghan “stability, and therefore security” rests in the hands of the newly appointed government being able to work together and overcome Afghanistan’s numerous problems. However, he has little faith in this. Therefore, by extension, the longer-term security implications for Pakistan are also bleak. ■

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