Pakistan’s Pyrrhic Victory in Afghanistan

Pakistan’s Pyrrhic Victory in Afghanistan

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Pakistan’s security establishment is cheering the Taliban’s recent military gains in Afghanistan. The country’s hard-liners have funneled support to the Taliban for decades, and they can now envision their allies firmly ensconced in Kabul. Pakistan got what it wished for—but will come to regret it. A Taliban takeover will leave Pakistan more vulnerable to extremism at home and potentially more isolated on the world stage.

The end of the United States’ 20-year war in Afghanistan also promises to mark a turning point in its relationship with Islamabad. Pakistan has long veiled its ambitions in Afghanistan to maintain relations with Washington, but that balancing act—seen in Washington as a double game—will prove impossible in the event that a reconstituted Islamic emirate is established in Kabul. This would not be the vindication that Pakistan’s military is expecting: the Taliban are less likely to defer to Pakistan in their moment of triumph, and the Americans are not likely to reconcile with the group over the long term. Pakistan’s nightmare scenario would be to find itself caught between an uncontrollable Taliban and international demands to rein them in.

The Taliban’s victory will have an equally