The Afghan Conundrum

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Javid Husain

The first rule of politics is, “Don’t invade Afghanistan.”1

British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan

*The article is an adapted version of the chapter on Afghanistan from the book, “Pakistan and a World in Disorder—A Grand Strategy for the Twenty-First Century” by the author, which was published by Palgrave Macmillan from New York in June, 2016.

The author is a former Ambassador of Pakistan.

Afghanistan has been the scene of incessant fighting since December 1979 when the Soviet Union invaded it to install the Babrak Karmal regime in pursuance of its strategic goals in the region. The Soviet invasion led to an epic struggle of the Afghan people for the liberation of their homeland from foreign occupation. The Afghan jihad, which was supported by most of the Muslim world, especially Pakistan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, as well as the West, was crowned with success with the Soviet military withdrawal from Afghanistan in February 1989 following the signing of the Geneva Accords. The puppet government, left behind by the Soviet Union under the leadership of Najibullah, finally fell in April 1992 under the pressure of continued attacks by the Afghan Mujahideen. However, the Afghan nightmare was far from over. Najibullah’s fall from power was followed by a civil war among the various Afghan Mujahideen groups despite some initial attempts to install agreed interim governments under the Peshawar Accord of 24 April 19922 and Islamabad Accord of 7 March 19933.

The Afghan parties were divided mainly on ethnic grounds between the Pashtuns and non-Pashtuns. The Afghan Pashtuns were initially led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and other Pashtun Commanders until the Taliban, supported mostly by the Pashtuns, emerged at the end of 1994 as a new potent factor in the struggle for power in Afghanistan.4 The non-Pashtuns consisting of Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras, Turkmen, and other Afghan communities organized themselves under the Northern Alliance led by Burhanuddin Rabbani and Commander Ahmad Shah Massoud.5

Pakistan-Iran Proxy War in Afghanistan

In the tussle for power between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance, Pakistan supported the former whereas Iran put its weight fully behind the latter. During the period from 1993 to 1996, the Northern Alliance was in power in Kabul. However, the Taliban, starting from Kandahar in 1994, were able to extend their rule gradually over most of Afghanistan after inflicting several military defeats on the Northern Alliance, which was restricted to Badakhshan province by August 1998. Regrettably, during the period from 1993 to 1996, when the Northern Alliance was in power in Kabul, Iran ignored overtures by Pakistan for encouraging national reconciliation and a political settlement between the two main opposing Afghan factions. After 1996, when the tables were turned against the Northern Alliance and the Taliban gained control of Kabul and most of Afghanistan, it was Pakistan that cold-shouldered proposals from Iran for encouraging a political settlement and the establishment of a broad-based government in Afghanistan. The resultant fighting and the power vacuum in Afghanistan enabled Al Qaeda, under the leadership of Osama bin Laden, to entrench itself in the country, leading ultimately to the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

Unfortunately, in the tussle for influence in Afghanistan between Tehran and Islamabad, the control on the formulation and execution of the operational Afghanistan policies in Iran and Pakistan was lost by their political leaders to their security and intelligence agencies. These agencies, because of their very nature, believed in over-insuring their perceived national interests instead of pursuing policies of mutual understanding and accommodation in settling their differences with the other side as should be the case between two friendly countries. Consequently, an attempt by Islamabad and Tehran in June-July 1998 to encourage and facilitate a peace settlement between the Afghan Taliban and the Northern Alliance came to naught because of bad faith by the

Afghan Taliban who launched a surprise military offensive against the Northern Alliance soon thereafter, capturing most of Afghanistan excepting parts of the Badakhshan province.

The killing of the Iranian Consulate officials in Mazar-e-Sharif after its capture by the Taliban in August 1998, despite earlier assurances for their security extended by the Taliban in response to a formal request from Tehran conveyed through Islamabad, brought Iran and Afghanistan to the brink of an armed conflict. Fortunately, wiser counsel prevailed in Tehran. The Iranian government instead of launching an attack against Afghanistan for which it had mobilized a large force on the border, remained content with protests against both the Afghan Taliban and Pakistan. These developments brought Pakistan-Iran relations to their nadir.

Pakistan paid a heavy price for its pro-Taliban policy of the 1990’s over and above the severe damage it caused to Pakistan-Iran relations. It was isolated internationally and regionally, as apart from Islamabad, only Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates recognized the Taliban government in Afghanistan. Even a close friend and strategic partner such as China refused to recognize the Taliban government. The Pakistan-Iran proxy war in Afghanistan pushed Iran closer to India which took full advantage of the opportunity to create misunderstandings and aggravate tensions between Islamabad and Tehran. Pakistan’s support to the Taliban, who espoused a retrogressive and obscurantist interpretation of Islam, tarnished its image throughout the world. Within Afghanistan, its pro-Taliban policy alienated it from most of the non-Pashtuns. Further, this policy encouraged religious extremism and the klashnikov culture in Pakistan from the aftereffects of which it is still suffering.

A policy that isolated Pakistan regionally and internationally besides alienating it from almost half of the population of Afghanistan was simply unsustainable in the long run. It was likely to crumble in the face of the slightest adverse turn of events. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 proved to be such an adverse change. Overnight, under the threat of the US ultimatum, Pakistan, under Pervez Musharraf, ceased to be an ardent supporter of the Afghan Taliban and instead became their opponent in alliance with the USA. While this may have saved Pakistan from the American wrath, it alienated it from the Afghan Taliban and many among the Pashtuns who live on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Thus, while Pakistan’s pro-Taliban policy of the 1990’s cost it the sympathy and support of the non-Pashtuns in Afghanistan, its U-turn after 9/11 made it lose the friendship of many of the Pashtuns in Afghanistan leaving it with few friends in that country.

When history is written, Pakistan’s Afghanistan policies covering the second half of the 1990’s will be judged to be among its worst foreign policy blunders which caused enormous damage to its own internal and external security, its economic well-being, its international image, Pakistan-Iran friendship, peace in Afghanistan, and the cause of regional peace and stability. Of course, as explained earlier, Iran played an equally unhelpful role in prolonging the conflict in Afghanistan for the sake of its own short-term and short-sighted policy goals. In the process, the long-term interests of both the countries suffered. As pointed out above, the continued fighting in Afghanistan enabled Al Qaeda under the leadership of Osama bin Laden to establish its roots in the country leading ultimately to the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the subsequent US invasion.

Iran cooperated with the US invading forces for the sake of overthrowing the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and ingratiating itself with the Americans. While Tehran succeeded in achieving the goal of replacing the Taliban government with a Northern Alliance-dominated government in Kabul, its hopes of improving relations with Washington were razed to the ground by US President Bush’s “axis of evil” speech of January, 2002. Instead of the Taliban, Iran now faced the threatening presence of the US military might in Afghanistan. A former Iranian Defense Minister, in a conversation with me at that time in Tehran where I was serving as the Pakistan ambassador, narrated an old Persian story of two brothers fighting over a walnut. When they could not reach an agreement on how to share it between the two of them, they sought the help of a passerby in settling their dispute. The passerby broke the walnut, ate its kernel, and divided its shell equally between the two brothers. He said that regrettably both Iran and Pakistan had behaved like the two brothers in fighting over Afghanistan.

US policy mistakes in Afghanistan

To the misfortune of the people of Afghanistan, the US, emboldened by the ease with which it was able to overthrow the Taliban regime in Kabul, set over-ambitious and unrealistic goals for its Afghan policies. The original aims of the US invasion of Afghanistan basically were threefold: (a) to defeat and dismantle Al Qaeda, which had launched the 9/11 attacks, (b) to impose a government of Washington’s choice on the Afghan people in place of the Taliban regime, which had provided sanctuary to Al Qaeda, and (c) to rebuild Afghanistan with a stable government and as “a better place in which to live.”6 America has achieved considerable success in degrading and defeating Al Qaeda. It was also able to replace, with relative ease, the Taliban government with a government of its choice after the Bonn Conference. However, following the withdrawal of most of its forces from Afghanistan at the end of their combat mission barring a residual force of about 8,400 American troops currently, the government that the USA is leaving behind is far from stable because of the challenge posed by the growing Taliban insurgency. The writ of the present Afghan government is limited basically to provincial capitals besides Kabul. Similarly, the US efforts to impose on Afghanistan its cultural preferences and values have fallen short of their goal. The same is true about the goal of rebuilding Afghanistan as “a better place to live in” primarily because of the continuing Taliban insurgency, but also because of the lack of economic progress and inadequate educational and health facilities.

The US decision to end its combat mission in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of the bulk of its forces from Afghanistan, which was announced by President Barack Obama on 28 December 2014, amounted to nothing less than the declaration of the US retreat from Afghanistan in an organized fashion. President Obama pointed out that the residual force after the departure of most of the American troops would “train, advise and assist Afghan forces and conduct counter-terrorism operations against the remnants of al Qaeda” under the two-year mission, “Resolute Support”.7 The strength of the force under the new 2-year mission, which was initially reported to be about 13,000 troops including 10,800 Americans, was to be brought down gradually so as to withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2016. According to a statement made by US Deputy Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinken in Washington in June 2015, the troop level would be brought down gradually so that by the end of 2016 it would “get down to a Kabul-centered, embassy-focused presence and whatever goes with that in terms of the security requirement.”8

The growing intensity of the Taliban insurgency later forced the US administration to slow down its planned military withdrawal from Afghanistan. In response to recommendations from his military commanders, President Obama initially decided to slash the level of American troops to 5,500 by the end of 2016 instead of bringing about the total US military withdrawal from Afghanistan by that time. But even this decision had to be revised later because of the strength of the Taliban insurgency. According to a decision announced by President Obama on 6 July 2016, the US would keep 8,400 American troops in Afghanistan till the end of 2016 besides about 3600 other NATO troops making a total of approximately 12,000 soldiers. Earlier in June, 2016, President Obama also gave new powers to US troops in Afghanistan, allowing them to participate in combat missions in support of Afghan security forces. He also authorized US air strikes against Taliban targets in Afghanistan as they saw fit.9

These decisions reflect the impact of the growing threat of the Taliban insurgency despite the setbacks suffered by them following the announcement of the death of Mullah Umar last year and the killing of his successor, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, by the Americans on 21 May this year. According to media reports, more than 5,000 local police and military troops were killed and over 14,000 were wounded in 2015 in Afghanistan at the hands of the Taliban. US Army General John Nicholson reportedly stated that the casualties were higher in 2016 compared to those in 2015.10 In addition, the Taliban forces are exerting increased pressure on the Afghan forces in different parts of the country, stretching them to their limits on multiple fronts. In August, 2016, Khan

Abad in North-Eastern Kunduz province was briefly captured by the Taliban before the Afghan government troops retook it. In the beginning of September, 2016, the Taliban insurgents were about to capture Tarin Kot, the capital of Uruzgan province. However, Afghan troops were able to push them back with great difficulty after receiving reinforcements.

The US retreat from Afghanistan is not surprising. Under the Bonn Agreement, the USA established a government in Kabul that was dominated by the elements of the Northern Alliance, thus alienating not only the Taliban but also most of the Pashtuns who constitute about half of the total Afghan population. Sherard Cowper-Coles, the British ambassador to Afghanistan from 2007 to 2009 recognized “that the Bonn settlement that had followed (the Taliban defeat) had been a victors’ peace from which the vanquished had been excluded; and that the constitution resulting from that settlement could last as long as the West was prepared to stay in Afghanistan to prop up the present disposition.”11 Well-known American scholar Vali Nasr points out, “Southern Pashtuns felt excluded from Karzai’s government. They viewed the December 2001 Bonn Agreement—the result of an internationally sponsored conference to decide the shape of Afghanistan’s constitution and government—as having favored their enemies, the Uzbeks, Tajiks, and Hazaras of the Norther Alliance. They felt that Karzai, though a Pashtun of the Durrani tribe himself, had never done much to address their concerns. Feeling disenfranchised, many had thrown their lot in with the Taliban.”12 It was, therefore, just a matter of time before the Taliban would regroup and pose a serious challenge to the US-imposed political dispensation in Afghanistan. This is precisely what happened in Afghanistan.

The fundamental strategic mistake committed by the US in Afghanistan was its failure to distinguish in practical terms between Al Qaeda, which was an international terrorist organization, and the Afghan Taliban, which despite their retrogressive and obscurantist ideology, were and remain an important political party, representative of a large number of the Pashtuns, in the Afghan political spectrum. It is only more recently that the American authorities have started saying that the Afghan Taliban are an “armed insurgency”, not a terrorist group.13 Unfortunately, for a long time after 9/11, the treatment meted out to the

Afghan Taliban by the USA was no different from that given to Al Qaeda, thus, blocking the chances of a political settlement in Afghanistan. Even now there is ambiguity in the US Afghanistan policy as shown by the assassination of the former Taliban leader, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, by the US forces in Pakistani territory on 21 May, 2016. The assassination was in total contradiction with the US suggestions to the Afghan Taliban to come to the negotiating table for reaching a political settlement with the Afghan government. It also undermined Pakistan’s position in encouraging the Afghan Taliban to commence a dialogue with the Kabul government. From the point of view of the goal of a political settlement in Afghanistan, it is difficult to think of a more stupid step than the assassination of Mullah Akhtar Mansour.

The Americans in the formulation of their policies also failed to realize that tribal and ethnic loyalties outweighed national loyalties in Afghanistan. If they had taken cognizance of this reality, they would have realized that a government in Afghanistan from which the Pashtuns, constituting about half of its population, felt alienated would not be sustainable in the long run. Washington also made the mistake of relying too heavily on the military dimension of its strategy to the neglect of the political dimension. In this effort, Washington failed miserably. It is only more recently that Washington has started recognizing the realities of the Afghan politics and exploring the possibilities of a political settlement in Afghanistan. American difficulties in Afghanistan were aggravated by Washington’s attempt to impose Western liberal values on the extremely conservative and religious Afghan society. In some cases, American military operations such as night raids into Afghan homes hurt the Afghan social and cultural sensitivities, further undermining the American cause.

US pressure on Pakistan

Since its invasion of Afghanistan, the US has kept Pakistan under intense pressure to deny the Afghan Taliban the alleged sanctuaries in its tribal areas on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Instead of recognizing the indigenous character of the armed conflict in Afghanistan because of the tussle for power between the Taliban/Pashtuns and the non-Pashtuns,and correcting its policy blunders, the US government and its military commanders have found it convenient to lay the whole blame for the setbacks suffered by them in fighting the Afghan Taliban, at Pakistan’s door-steps. Pakistan’s willingness in compliance with the US demands to take action against the remnants of the Afghan Taliban on its soil and its own Pashtun tribesmen to prevent them from going to the aid of their tribal brethren across the Durand line in the fight against the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops in accordance with their age-old tribal traditions, made them redirect their fury through terrorist attacks against targets all over Pakistan. This development ultimately gave birth to the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which has been responsible for innumerable acts of terrorism in Pakistan. According to the official announcements of the government of Pakistan, more than 50,000 civilians and military personnel have laid down their lives in the fight against TTP. In the process, Pakistan’s economy has also suffered an enormous damage amounting to over $100 billion, according to some estimates.14

The US pressure, thus, successfully transferred to Pakistan a significant part of the burden of their fight against the Afghan Taliban, which Washington had launched after 9/11 for its own purposes. This development definitely lightened the burden of the US task in Afghanistan. It is worth noting here that the Afghan Taliban regime had no direct link with the 9/11 terrorist attacks which had been planned and carried out by Al Qaeda. There is a growing body of international opinion which holds the view that the US invasion of Afghanistan in the aftermath of 9/11 was an over-reaction.15 Pakistan has paid a heavy price in blood and treasure for complying with the US demands as pointed out above. Ironically, instead of showing its gratitude to Pakistan for its help, the US has been complaining over the past decade that Pakistan has not done enough to control the Afghan Taliban and its supporters in its tribal areas. Washington has gone to the extent of reducing military and economic assistance to exert pressure on Pakistan instead of correcting its policy blunders in Afghanistan, which are primarily responsible for the setbacks it has suffered in the country and which have prolonged the armed conflict in the country and the sufferings of its people.

Post-2014 Afghan scenario

As expected, the present governmental structure in Afghanistan is facing a serious challenge from opposing forces led by the Taliban. It is illogical to expect that a system of government which could not be stabilized by about 130,000 Western troops at their peak, would be able to face successfully the challenge of the growing Taliban-led Afghan insurgency with the support of only about 12000 Western soldiers including 8,400 American troops. This is particularly so because of the high desertion rate of the Afghan forces built up with the Western support, the high cost of their maintenance estimated to be about five billion dollars annually, the inability of the Afghan government to sustain them on its own, and the low level of their efficiency because of inadequate training and motivation. The Afghan government’s narrow political base further aggravates its difficulties. The solution of the Afghan conundrum lies in a fair and equitable political settlement in which all the major ethnic communities and political groups get their due share in power and in running the affairs of the government. The fundamental cause of the continued armed conflict in Afghanistan and its solution lie within the country. It would not help to sidetrack the main issue and continue to blame Pakistan for the failures.

Professor Stephen Biddle in his article “Ending the War in Afghanistan” reached similar conclusions:

“Should current trends continue, US combat troops are likely to leave behind a grinding stalemate between the Afghan government and the Taliban. The Afghan National Security Forces can probably sustain this deadlock, but only as long as the US Congress pays the multibillion-dollar annual bills needed to keep them fighting. The war will thus become a contest in stamina between Congress and the Taliban. Unless Congress proves more patient than the Taliban……….., funding for ANSF will eventually shrink until Afghan forces can no longer hold their ground, and at that point, the country could easily descend into chaos. If it does, the war will be lost and US aims forfeited.”16

In view of the serious challenges that the West led by the US is facing to its supremacy from Russia in Ukraine and Syria, and from China in the Far East, and the problem of war weariness of the American people, Washington would loath to reverse the current trend and increase the commitment of its troops to Afghanistan in the foreseeable future. It would like to rely instead on financial and military assistance to the government of President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, the presence of its residual force in Afghanistan, continued pressure on Pakistan “to do more”, and diplomatic manoeuvres to sustain the Afghan government in Kabul in power. However, because of the fundamental flaws of the American Afghan policies, pointed out earlier, there is a big question mark on the success of this approach in stabilizing the present US-supported political dispensation in Afghanistan in the long run in the absence of a political settlement between the Kabul government and the Afghan Taliban.

Washington continues to exert pressure on Pakistan in connection with the issue of the Afghan Taliban while showing little recognition of the heavy price that Pakistan has already paid in complying with the US demands. The US Congress denied funding earlier this year for the sale of F-16 aircraft to Pakistan. Washington later in August withheld $300 million in military reimbursements to Islamabad over its alleged reluctance to act against the Haqqani network in its tribal areas. US Secretary of State Kerry during his recent visit to New Delhi announced that the US would launch trilateral talks with India and Afghanistan on peace and stability in Afghanistan and on denying sanctuaries to the Taliban, on the margins of the 71st session of the UN General Assembly in New York in September, 2016. This was a clear signal of disapproval to Pakistan and an indirect way of downgrading, if not discarding, the quadrilateral talks among US, China, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Having delivered this diplomatic blow to Pakistan, Kerry ironically advised Islamabad not to feel “isolated by this”.17

Pakistan and Post-2014 Afghanistan

The past experience clearly shows that durable peace in Afghanistan would remain elusive without national reconciliation and a political settlement among the various Afghan political groups, particularly the Afghan government and the Afghan Taliban. The commencement of an intra-Afghan dialogue is a must for the realization of this objective. The earlier the process of dialogue starts, the better it would be for peace and stability in Afghanistan as well as for regional peace and stability. This process must enjoy the support of major regional countries like Pakistan and Iran and great powers like the US, China and Russia. Pakistan and Iran must avoid their mistakes of 1990’s in dealing with Afghanistan and instead must genuinely cooperate with each other in promoting an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process without in any way interfering in Afghanistan’s internal affairs. A neutral status for Afghanistan would be helpful in securing regional and international support for the peace process in Afghanistan. Washington must realize that its initiative to commence a trilateral dialogue among Afghanistan, India and the US cannot achieve the goal of durable peace and stability in Afghanistan if in the process the legitimate interests of Pakistan and Iran, Afghanistan’s two most important neighbours, are sacrificed or if the cooperation of Pakistan, Iran and China in promoting peace in Afghanistan is lost.

The question, however, is whether the Afghan government and the Afghan Taliban are prepared to show the necessary flexibility for reaching a negotiated peace settlement in Afghanistan. From the Afghan government side, this would require its willingness to accept necessary changes in the Afghan constitution to accommodate the reasonable demands of the Afghan Taliban. At the same time, the Afghan Taliban would have to recognize that they alone are not in a position to rule over Afghanistan and that they would have to share power with other forces and parties in Afghanistan.

Our strategic goal vis-à-vis Afghanistan should be to develop friendly relations and extensive mutually beneficial cooperation with an independent and sovereign Afghanistan which is at peace within and with its neighbours. As for the Durand Line issue, we should develop our relations and cooperation with Afghanistan bilaterally and within the framework of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) in such a manner that borders cease to have any practical meaning for the purposes of trade and movement of people as has happened within the European Union. If we are able to develop regional cooperation within the framework of the ECO on these lines, its member states including Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey, Central Asian Republics, Azerbaijan and Pakistan would retain their territorial boundaries while ultimately allowing free movement of trade and people leading to fast economic growth and prosperity for all the peoples in the ECO region. Our handling of relations with Afghanistan and Iran, and, of course, other members of the ECO, should be informed by this strategic vision rather than by preoccupation with short-term and short-sighted tactical advantages as has been the case in the past.

But we wouldn’t be able to realize this strategic vision unless and until there is durable peace in Afghanistan. The events since 9/11 have conclusively shown that the civil war or the armed conflict in Afghanistan would come to an end only when both the Taliban and their opponents learn the lesson that neither of them alone can rule the country in conditions of durable peace. As pointed out above, the commencement of a dialogue between the present Afghan government and the Taliban is a must for national reconciliation and the establishment of a broad-based government in which the different political and ethnic groups are adequately represented so that they have the assurance of living in peace free from the monster of terrorism.

Obviously it is for the Afghans themselves to take the critical decision to engage in dialogue for the restoration of durable peace in their country. Pakistan, Afghanistan’s other neighbours and major powers can merely encourage them to do so as soon as possible. It is necessary that the peace process in Afghanistan should be Afghan-owned and Afghan-led. Outside powers should refrain from interfering in Afghanistan’s internal affairs while encouraging the Afghan peace process. Pakistan for its part should deny sanctuary to any Afghan group engaged in militancy and hostilities in Afghanistan. In return, the Afghan government should stop providing sanctuary to TTP and other Pakistani fugitives in Afghanistan.

The talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban for the restoration of peace in Afghanistan should ultimately lead to cessation of hostilities in Afghanistan, the establishment of a broad-based Afghan government, and the final departure of the remaining ISAF troops from the country. The process would have to be carefully choreographed. At the initial stages after the commencement of the peace talks, the Taliban would have to accept severe restrictions on their combat operations while Afghan and ISAF troops would have to show similar restraint in their anti-Taliban military operations. Once the talks have made some headway, the Afghan government and ISAF troops, on the one side, and the Taliban, on the other, should declare a formal cease-fire. After the Afghans reach an agreement on the establishment of a broad-based government with the inclusion of the Taliban in the Afghan government, the ISAF troops should finally depart from Afghanistan.

Considering the proclivity of the Afghans to reach for the gun instead of the negotiating table in settling disputes, it would take some time before they are persuaded to adopt the dialogue process for peace in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, efforts for the commencement of the dialogue must continue. Meanwhile, the danger is that some powers like India would try to fan the flames of war in Afghanistan and aggravate tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan to advance their hegemonic designs in the region. They may also be interested in blocking progress on CPEC. Both Pakistan and Afghanistan should beware of these moves to destabilize Afghanistan and the whole region.


  1. Sherard Cowper-Coles, Cables from Kabul (London: HarperCollins, 2011), p.xx
  2.     “Peshawar Accord”, International Conflict Research Institute (INCORE), 24 April 1992, as cited by UN Department of Political Affairs, UN Peacemaker, at
  3.   “Afghan Peace Accord (Islamabad Accord)”, International Conflict Research Institute (INCORE), 7 March 1993, at agreements/pdf/afgan 1.pdf
  4.       For background information on the genesis and growth of the Afghan Taliban, see Kamal Matinuddin, The Taliban Phenomenon—Afghanistan 1994-97 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999) and Ahmed Rashid, Taliban—Islam, Oil and the New Great Game in Central Asia (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000)
  5.     “Who are the Northern Alliance?” BBC News, 13 November 2001, at http://
  6.      James Dao, “A Nation Challenged: President Bush Sets Role for US in Afghan Rebuilding,” The New York Times, 18 April 2002, at http://www.nytimes. com/2002/04/18/world/a-nation-challenged-the-president-bush–sets-role-for-us-in-afghan-rebuilding.html.
  7.       The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, “Statement by the President (Barack Obama) on the End of the Combat Mission in Afghanistan”, press statement, 28 December 2014, at
  8.       “US says it cannot guarantee Afghan security in perpetuity”, the Dawn, 29 June,2015
  9.          “Obama expands US military commitment to Afghanistan”, the Dawn, 9 July2016
  10.    “Afghan forces’ casualties are rising: US general”, the Dawn, 11 July 2016
  11.    Sherard Cowper-Coles, Cables from Kabul, (London: HarperCollins, 2011), p.xxii
  12.        Vali Nasr, The Dispensable Nation—American Foreign Policy in Retreat (New York: Anchor, 2014), p. 20
  13.       Anwar Iqbal, “Afghan Taliban Armed Insurgents, Not Terrorists, says White House”, the Dawn, 31 January 2015, at
  14.        See statement by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif while addressing the Balochistan Development forum in Islamabad on 19 January 2015: Mehtab Haider, “Foreign Hand in Terror Activities Won’t Be Tolerated: PM”, the News, 20 January 2015
  15.       Louise Richardson, “US response to 9/11 was over-reaction”, the News, 4 June 2015
  16.            Stephen Biddle, “Ending the War in Afghanistan”, Foreign Affairs, September-October 2013 issue.
  17.   “Nawaz, Raheel told to deprive terrorists of havens: Kerry”, the News, 31 August, 2016.