Rethinking strategic depth . .

               The doctrine and notion of strategic depth has proved insufficient in addressing the complex security challenges faced by Pakistan and Afghanistan. Its unraveling highlights the urgent need for a paradigm shifts in regional policies. Embracing cooperation, diplomacy, and inclusivity will be essential in forging a peaceful and prosperous future for both nations. By learning from the failures of the doctrine of strategic depth, Pakistan and Afghanistan can chart a new path toward regional stability, respect for sovereignty, and the well-being of their people.

               Pakistan and Afghanistan should strengthen bilateral relations based on mutual respect, trust, and shared interests. Collaborative efforts to address common challenges, such as terrorism, border security, and economic development, will create a foundation for sustainable peace. Regional organizations, like the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), can provide platforms for dialogue and cooperation. Moreover, the international community should play a constructive role by supporting peace negotiations, facilitating humanitarian aid, and promoting inclusive governance in Afghanistan. A comprehensive and inclusive peace process, involving all Afghan stakeholders, is vital for ensuring stability and preventing the resurgence of extremism.

               The doctrine of ‘strategic depth’ has also neglected the wellbeing and aspirations of the Afghan people. The protracted conflicts and instability have resulted in a significant humanitarian crisis, with millions of Afghans displaced, suffering from poverty, and deprived of basic rights and services. The doctrine’s focus on geopolitical maneuvering has often come at the expense of human security and development.

               The comprehensive unraveling of the doctrine of strategic depth in the context of Pakistan and Afghanistan demands a critical reevaluation of regional policies. Both nations need to shift from a confrontational approach to a cooperative one, focusing on constructive engagement, diplomacy, and fostering a stable and prosperous region.

               The concept of strategic depth has played a significant role in shaping the foreign policies of Pakistan and Afghanistan for decades. For Pakistan, it meant establishing influence in Afghanistan to counter potential threats from the east. However, the recent events in the region have exposed the inherent weaknesses of this doctrine. The doctrine of ‘strategic depth’ appears to have unraveled comprehensively in the context of Pakistan and Afghanistan, highlighting the need for a reassessment of their regional policies and a search for more sustainable security solutions.

               For Pakistan, the doctrine of strategic depth was envisioned as a means to address security concerns stemming from its tumultuous eastern border. By cultivating influence in Afghanistan, Pakistan sought to create a friendly and compliant neighbor to serve as a buffer against external threats. However, this approach has not yielded the intended results. Instead, the pursuit of ‘strategic depth’ has contributed to regional instability, perpetuating violence and insurgencies on both sides of the border.

               Afghanistan, as the host country, has also faced the consequences of this doctrine. Its sovereignty has been compromised, as external interference has perpetuated internal divisions and undermined the legitimacy of successive Afghan governments. The doctrine’s emphasis on supporting certain factions within Afghanistan has fueled ethnic and political tensions, hindering the country’s progress toward stability and reconciliation.

               One of the most significant challenges facing both Pakistan and Afghanistan is terrorism. Despite the pursuit of ‘strategic depth,’ the region has become a breeding ground for various extremist groups. Instead of providing security, the doctrine has inadvertently contributed to the proliferation of terrorism and insurgency, which pose grave threats to the stability and development of both nations.

               Transnational terrorist organizations, such as the Taliban, have exploited the porous borders and internal divisions to establish safe havens and launch attacks not only within Pakistan and Afghanistan but also in neighboring countries and beyond. This highlights the inadequacy of the doctrine of ‘strategic depth’ in countering modern asymmetrical warfare and the need for a more nuanced and collaborative approach.

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