If nothing changes, US President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan by September 11 may prove costly to all parties, particularly the regional countries, and especially to Pakistan, which has found itself in something of a soup now that the Taliban have announced that they will not be going to the Istanbul conference, which was a follow-up to the recent conference in Moscow. Another problem is the Taliban have finally abandoned the Qatar talks, which means that there is no progress on the question that is uppermost on the minds of all interested parties: what will be the political settlement of a future stable Afghanistan? Without an answer to this question it is possible that there will be a replay of the 1989 Soviet departure from Afghanistan: not only was the country over-run, but the President the USSR left behind, Najibullaah, was strung from the nearest lamp post.
One of the most disturbing developments for Pakistan is the alliance that has been struck between the Taliban and the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The TTP has been at war with the Pakistan Army in Waziristan, and has only just recently expanded its sights to China, whose ambassador it attacked when it attacked a Quetta hotel. If it is forming an alliance with the Taliban, it indicates that the latter is also going to take on board its fights. The Taliban seem to be positioning themselves now that they believe the USA is going to withdraw; the TTP will provide additional fighters for the expected final struggle. It should not escape notice that, unlike 1989, the anti-occupation resistance is not divided, and therefore, the Karzai government needs an agreement if it is to have any chance of surviving.
The impression that Pakistan has some sort of ability to compel the Taliban to make peace is false, and no one should be allowed to continue with that delusion. At this point, Pakistan should concert measures with all other interested parties, such as Turkey, Russia, China and even the USA, with a view to getting the intra-Afghan talks moving again. After all, if they do not resolve matters amongst themselves, they will merely be making the country vulnerable to a future intervention. That the Afghan people cannot afford. And nor can Pakistan.