Sources of Tension in Afghanistan and Pakistan: a Regional Perspective

Publication date:
Zahid Hussain

Policy Research Papers

December 2011

As the war in Afghanistan enters its eleventh year, there is no clear end in sight.

What started as a military intervention to punish the Taliban regime for hosting Al-Qaeda, which was responsible for the 9/11 terror­ist attacks, has escalated into a wider regional conflict, with Afghanistan now at the centre of a new “Great Game”. Pakistan, India, and Iran are vying for influence in the strife-torn country, as the West struggles to broker an endgame to the war in Afghanistan.

It is quite evident that the coalition forces are not on course for defeating the Taliban militarily, even with 150,000 troops installed in the country. Despite spending billions of dollars a year on military operations alone and ever-increasing allied casualties, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) forces have failed to prevent Taliban insurgents from controlling a large swath of Pashtun dominated eastern and southern Afghanistan.

The United States (US) and its allies have endorsed a plan for the Afghan government to take charge of security in the country by 2014. This optimism is premised on the assumption that the Afghan security forces would be ready to take over by that time, and that regional support will prop up Afghan stability. But the increasingly perilous situation on the ground gives little hope of achieving that objective. The expectation that a weak administration in Kabul will be able to transform Afghanistan into a stable state by 2014 and take