Tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan wax and wane, but seem to be worsening dramatically of late. Pakistani officials have expressed pessimism about the Karzai government’s peace efforts, and accused them of backing Pakistani Taliban factions in terror attacks.
Today, Afghanistan has fired back by accusing Pakistan of sabotaging the peace process with “impossible” preconditions. The demands reportedly center around Pakistan’s effort to secure a “strategic partnership” deal with Karzai’s government.
At its core, this is a dispute about India. Pakistan has long viewed Afghanistan as a “fallback” point in the event of an Indian invasion, and is livid at the Karzai government’s military ties with India, which it sees as an attempt to “surround them.”
When they promised to help Afghanistan with peace talks, the Pakistani government demanded the Afghans ditch the India ties in favor of comparable deals with Pakistan. After a decade of accusing Pakistan of being the “real problem” in the region, the Karzai government insists they can’t possibly do that, and that training deals like the ones with India would be unthinkable because any Afghan military officer who went to Pakistan for training would be a “suspected spy” when he returned home.
Pakistan has been open about deliberately sabotaging previous Afghan peace efforts, but the current situation seems less straightforward, with Pakistani officials hoping to negotiate a settlement that they can live with on their northern borders, which to them is going to either mean an India-free Afghanistan or one where the Taliban retain considerable influence in the southeast, since they would be a natural ally in a regional war. The choice seems to be pretty directly laid out for the Karzai government this time, but Afghan officials seem to hope to carve out a middle road where they can get Pakistan’s help without making concessions on either the Taliban or the Indians.