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Implications of Probable Pak-Afghan Security Agreement

During the recent visit of Pakistan’s top military leadership to Afghanistan, the latest developments on Afghan Peace Process were the subject of discussion. The meeting placed special emphasis on the upcoming Intra-Afghan dialogue. Moreover, the meeting also discussed the prospects of setting up a seminal ‘security agreement’ between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s Army Chief General Qamar Bajwa and Head of the ISI Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed represented Pakistan’s delegation. The duo held meetings with Afghan leaders, in the presence of the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. The meeting included the head of National Reconciliation Council Mr Abdullah Abdullah and the Afghan Vice President Amarullah Saleh.

COAS Qamar Bajwa on Monday also met United Kingdom’s Chief of Defence Staff General Nicholas Patrick Carter. General Patrick was also present during the high-level exchange between Pak-Afghan stakeholders. Not only that, but he is also being attributed as a mediator between the Kabul government and Pakistan’s leadership, which has played a significant role in the Afghan Peace Process.

Similarly, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad stated that major powers such as the USA and UK are making efforts for what he labelled as ‘improving security cooperation’ between Afghanistan and Pakistan which could eventually result in the signing of a security agreement.

Moreover, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani when asked about a probable security agreement between Kabul and Islamabad remarked that it is ‘most certainly an important key’ but he also added that his “goal is the neutrality of Afghanistan.”

What Does a Security Agreement Signify?

Both Pakistan and Afghanistan have been at the forefront of the US-led war on terror. This resulted in unforgettable damages due to destruction that took its toll on their economies and societies in general.

For states likes Pakistan and Afghanistan that pursue their national interest in the context of security, security cooperation forms the brickwork that might lead to ‘geo economics’.

The policymakers in Pakistan proclaimed a shift in policymaking from geopolitics to geoeconomics at the Islamabad Security Dialogue. However, the on-ground security situation is the main determinant of any partnership endeavour. Particularly in the case of  Afghanistan.

Both states have combated militancy in their territories. Similarly, many times both countries have even called each other out for propagating cross-border militancy. Unfortunately, it was primarily due to the nature of the border Pakistan and Afghanistan share. The border helps the militants to cover their attacks and perpetrate acts of terrorism on these states.

That is why a security agreement would essentially enable joint border monitoring. It will quell any misunderstanding of ‘backing‘ any outfit which provides space to spoilers who misuse these narratives for their political aims.

Pakistan Army’s Inter-Services Public Relations on COAS visit stated that “matters of mutual interest, current developments in Afghan Peace Process, enhanced bilateral security and defence cooperation and need for effective border management between the two brotherly countries were discussed.”

What Opportunities Would Pak-Afghan Security Cooperation Hold?

Institutional understanding among states has been the pivot of interstate cooperation. It has enabled nations to cooperate even when frictions have existed. This interdependence and cooperation among state authorities can bring an end to any serious contentions that may previously exist.  In such a case, political spoilers cannot proceed with their agendas as they are discouraged by state authorities.

A joint security setup between Pak-Afghan authorities would be of seminal importance for the region. The Pak army and the law enforcement agencies stationed along Afghanistan have a cultural as well as religious homogeneity with their Afghan counterparts (the ANA).

Pakistan and Afghanistan have dealt with insurgency operations against radical outfits under the auspices of a mutual ally, the United States.

A security agreement might witness joint training between Pak-Afghan law enforcement agencies. To ensure efficient policing, new security check posts and towers can be erected. They will also improve coordination against not only terror but smuggling and criminal elements as well.

Having regional congruency, technical and military support to the 180,000 strong ANA from Pakistan would be more feasible. Pakistan has the capability of maintaining and refurbing sophisticated weaponry from tanks to aircraft. This can provide cost-effective solutions to Afghanistan. This would also deny space from other regional states that might want to take advantage of shortcomings of the ANA. Particularly for the purpose of initiating proxies from Afghan soil against Pakistan.

From Contenders to Defense Partners

Afghanistan has witnessed bifurcation due to decades of war. The ANA owes its shortcomings to the factionalism prevalent due to lack of government control. Warlords have maintained their private armies, often under the acquiescence of the Kabul government, the USA, or even the CIA. This visibly affected the image of ANA as ‘just another fighting force’ despite being the national force spearheading Afghan operations.

A central military force is necessary for keeping a country intact. Most importantly, a state centred around factionalism and tribalism requires it the most. With the withdrawal of the US, Afghan forces are already bearing the brunt.

Cooperation with Pakistan would not only bring institutional benefits but also improve ties with other groups, such as the Taliban. This could lead to an inclusive approach where Afghan armed groups come together to fight against a common aggressor, the ISKP.

Afghan security forces have been called out for being undertrained and having one of the highest deserting rates due to which its efficiency has been brought under question. This is the result of the current demoralizing situation. A situation that persists due to continuous militancy and administrative malpractices that have marred the army.

Presently, many Afghan army officers are sent to India for military training. In 2014 the number of Afghan officers in training in India was nearly 1100. This training for years has not levelled up the ANA at par with other regional armies.

Joint Training Programs

Pakistan would offer training programs to armies from many Muslim states such as Palestine, Jordan, Bangladesh, etc. Afghan security forces can pick up a lot from Pakistani LEAs that have successfully managed to bring down the cases of terrorism.

Joint training programs would allow a closer understanding of the respective strategic culture which has been absent till now. This understanding would eventually form the basis of security cooperation. However, this is possible only through a pursual of a greater program of trade between Central Asia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

Preventing Territory Misuse

Subsequently, the outfits that challenge the sovereignty of any of the states, the security agreement will postulate denial of territory to them.

Historically, many outfits took advantage of hostility in Afghanistan to set up their basis of operations with clandestine support from regional states such as India to launch attacks into Pakistan.

More recently, nationalist movements like the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) that pursue an active ethnic agenda against the state of Pakistan were found to have collusion in Afghanistan.

This has been a matter of concern for Islamabad which has serious reservations for the activism such groups have employed. Similar misgivings have raised from the Afghan side over the issue of the Afghan Taliban in Pakistan’s territory. A comprehensive security agreement would be a first step in curtailing elements that challenge the sovereignty of respective states.


The greater part of any hypothesis around ‘security agreement’ between Afghanistan and Pakistan are only speculations. It depends on the Kabul government as well as Islamabad how they follow up. Even after signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs), a lot of ground would remain uncovered. Not only that, previous records of mutual agreements in the Afghan game would be a worrisome matter as to how long any security agreement if achieved, will persist.

Aggressive statements by the Afghan National security advisor and President Ashraf Ghani casts doubts over the sincere intent to reach an agreement. Moreover, the structural inadequacies in the Afghan security setup need to be covered before any agreement could be implemented on an equal footing, especially in the context of other armed groups gearing up due to confusion surrounding Intra- Afghan dialogue.

Lastly, signing a security agreement would have its own consequences. It would have significant impacts on the strategic policymaking that Afghanistan and Pakistan have employed. It would again redefine the dynamics of regional peace where new actors might emerge and previous spoilers might be ousted. Who will be the guarantors of the agreement? Will the US continue its stay to ensure adherence to any agreement? All of this remains a question, the answer to which lies in the coming few weeks.


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