"Vice President Joe Biden, speaking at the Munich Security Conference earlier this year, emphatically rejected the idea of "spheres of influence" in the 21st-century global order. Yet a revival of this 19th-century concept for Afghanistan might be quite necessary -- with explicit zones for India and Pakistan in the north and south respectively, Afghan regions enjoying greater autonomy from the center, and binding provisions for ensuring a "neutral" central government in Kabul.
What the U.S. cannot do effectively within the timeline sketched out by the president -- and given limitations on the personnel and resources Obama is prepared to commit -- is to impose a central government on the country and get India and Pakistan to agree to whatever order we deem necessary in Kabul.
The success of the president's plan requires that Afghans actively take control over security to satisfy U.S. concerns about denying al-Qaida safe havens to train and plan. But without Pakistan's explicit support, the strategy of catching the Taliban and al-Qaida in a vise along the Afghan-Pakistan border fails. And while Obama neglected to mention India in his West Point address, India's ongoing and extensive reconstruction efforts are vital to the U.S. effort.
These roadblocks cannot be wished away, and factors outside America's control could spoil the best-laid plans in Washington. Rather than waiting for the inevitable complications to arise, the Obama administration would be well-advised to take a proactive approach in the days and weeks ahead to confront the realities that will likely give rise to them." Nikolas Gvosdev at World Politics Review
I like it but there are some questions:
Can the Pakistanis and the Indians agree on their respectable zones of influence?
Will the Pakistanis rely upon the Taliban to govern their zone of influence or is there another group which they can rely on?