Finally, Pakistan has long kept what it calls “a buffer zone” in place in Afghanistan by hosting and funding the Haqqanis and other Taliban leaders/forces. It has done this partially to achieve “strategic heft” against India, but primarily because it has not wanted Afghanistan to become stable and develop ahead of it. In light of Afghanistan’s sizable deposits of oil and gas and rare earth minerals, Pakistani leaders primarily in its security forces have aimed to keep Afghanistan unstable. But now that Pakistan will almost certainly develop sooner than its northern neighbor due precisely to CPEC, it stands to benefit from a stable Afghanistan—not only from the diplomatic kudos it will receive for ending its Taliban support, but being energy-poor it needs oil and electricity from energy-rich Central Asia to transit in grid and pipeline networks across Afghanistan. The Afghans are particularly savvy at promoting energy and transport infrastructure projects with the Central Asians, which bodes well for Pakistan.
For good or for ill, a host of external nation states believe they have their own national-security interests at stake in Afghanistan, and intervene there regularly whether invited or uninvited. But each of them now share, for the first time in history, joint interests in a stable Afghanistan. Unfortunately, this deep strategic interest is often overridden by what the international community perceives as the short-term interests of Russia and Iran. Their presence antagonizes the United States and vice-versa, as does Pakistan and India circumventing one another. But with some creative diplomacy a considerable amount can be achieved, as cooperating to engender the stabilization of Afghanistan will serve all of their deeper strategic interests—not to mention the interests of the Afghan people.
Dr. Jeffrey A. Stacey is a national security and global development consultant. Author of Integrating Europe by Oxford University Press, Stacey is a former State Department official who resides in Washington, D.C.