Looks like the Pakistanis are getting into the Afghan “infrastructure development” business. And I’m putting that in “quotes” because if Islamabad’s involved in “development” in Afghanistan, it’s going to be “great news” for “people” like the “ISI.” And a contributing factor to destabilizing the graveyard of normalized relations.
Anytime Pakistan gets involved in Afghanistan, we’d do well to ask what’s in it for Islamabad. Most of the time the answer is, “Whatever’s going to piss off New Delhi.” Because it’s still game on in the proxy war between the two nuclear powers.
And since both nations take a longer view of the festivities than most Western countries, Islamabad’s foray into funding Afghan infrastructure is just another round in the Great Game.
What the Pakistanis want is more people like Zabit Khan, an Afghan student at International Islamic University Islamabad (IIUI), who spoke highly of his time at the university, and had nothing but good things to say about the aid money Pakistan is pumping into its neighbor.
Even though that money is only about $500 million USD, that’s no chump change coming across the Durand Line.
That cash is going to pay for some roadwork, 45 ambulances, a hospital, a lot of scholarships, and 300 buses and trucks. All of which is non-military aid, as Islambad is serious about extending its influence beyond the machinations of the ISI. Even though the two actions are aimed at lessening Indian influence in Afghanistan.
See, Pakistani aid is the carrot, and the Pakistani intelligence services are the stick. Implied in the equation is that the continued flow of stabilizing funds to Kabul is tied to some kind of peace agreement, which then means Islamabad would ease off on the stick. Provided, of course, that Ghani continues to lean toward Pakistan and away from India.
Complicating this are things like New Delhi’s donation of Russian gunships to the Afghan Air Force (AAF). Those are visible symbols of real support against the insurgency that Islamabad can’t compete with, no matter how many free eye camps it holds in Nangarhar. (No, I don’t know what an “eye camp” is. If one of you knows, let me know. Leave a comment. Whatever.)
Which leaves Islamabad looking ahead to a time when the Afghans manage to defeat the insurgency more or less on their own.
It’s at that point when Pak-educated students will have taken on their new jobs. Jobs that they can use to influence the Afghan government. Influence that Pakistan is banking on will head toward Islamabad and away from New Delhi.
Because if you’re Pakistan, you’re OK with the road to Afghan stability being paved with rupees. Just so long as those rupees come from Islamabad.
Also published on Medium.