Future of Afghanistan
Following is a list of possible scenarios that lie ahead for Afghanistan:
- Scenario #1:
Taliban are unable to take Kabul, and the stalemate continues for another two years, resulting in a de facto war-induced division between roughly the Pashtun and the non-Pashtun. Bad scenario for Pakistan. We accrue all the negatives and none of the benefits. China’s CPEC is stalled, and the world pressure on Pakistan mounts.
- Scenario #2:
Kabul falls to Taliban rule. Same scenario as September 1996. Harsh rule, uncompromising towards women and education. Northern Alliance with Iranian and Indian help start chipping away at Taliban hegemony. A division within Taliban ranks with Haqqani’s separating. Uncertain future for Pakistan and the region. Refugees populate KPK, BLN is targeted, and CPEC slows down.
- Scenario #3:
Taliban and Afghan government reach a compromise and decide to share Kabul. Bloodshed and division of Afghanistan are avoided. Other ethnicities, though untrusting the Taliban, will work in their area of influence. Beneficial for Pakistan and the region.
In all the scenarios mentioned above, Pakistan must not incline towards one side. Rather, she should facilitate Afghans in sorting out their issues. Pakistan, China, Iran, Turkey, and Russia are collectively warning, guiding, and cautioning the Taliban of the possible consequences if a civil war breaks out. Depending on how they react, the regional countries can offer concessions in education, health, trade, and other economic and social activities.
In the short term, no political agreement between the Taliban and the Afghan government can be visualized. Taliban are not willing to come to the negotiating table unless they gain control of Kabul.
Predictions are that the Taliban will demand all foreign forces to leave Afghanistan. They will restore their rightful Government of Emirate Afghanistan, saying no to democracy, and enforce the Sharia law. The Northern Alliance will not be allowed to dictate any policies. In addition, if the Afghan government and the northern alliance bring an end to democracy and declare Sharia law, then the Taliban will join them. However, a compromise between the two parties seems unlikely at the moment.
Alternatively, if a compromise cannot be reached, Afghanistan will definitely fall back to the post-Jihad era. Iran, Russia, and India can be expected to rush in to support their proxies from a total collapse. As a result, violent and aggressive events will begin to unfold. While it is prudent to stay away from all internal wars, Pakistan will be forced into this turmoil. It will not be allowed to remain a fence sitter. Therefore, it is vital to reach a broad consensus with the regional players to avoid a civil war. Otherwise, an extremely difficult situation will arise, which may become impossible to tackle.