Although most of Afghanistan's neighbors believe that the fall of the Taliban has stabilized the region, some experts believe that some neighboring governments are attempting to manipulate Afghanistan's factions to their advantage, even though six of Afghanistan's neighbors signed a non-interference pledge (Kabul Declaration) on December 23, 2002. In November 2005, Afghanistan joined the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), and Afghanistan has observer status in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which is discussed below.
Pakistan/Pakistan-Afghanistan Border (33)
As Pakistan's government has changed composition over the past year, U.S. commanders--in pointed criticism since May 2008--see Pakistan as increasingly unhelpful to U.S. efforts to stabilize Afghanistan. Some expert see Pakistani and Afghan Taliban militants increasingly merging and pooling their efforts against governments in both countries. The current situation contrasts with that during 2001-2006, when the Bush Administration praised President Pervez Musharraf for Pakistani accomplishments against Al Qaeda, including the arrest of over 700 Al Qaeda figures, some of them senior, since the September 11 attacks. (34) After the attacks, Pakistan provided the United States with access to Pakistani airspace, some ports, and some airfields for OEF. Others say Musharraf acted against Al Qaeda only because of its threat to him; for example, he stepped up Pakistani military activities in the tribal areas of Pakistan only after the December 2003 assassination attempts against him by that organization.
On the Taliban, Pakistan has consistently faced Afghan criticism. Afghan leaders resent Pakistan as the most public defender of the Taliban movement when it was in power and they suspect it wants to have the option to restore a Taliban-like regime. (Pakistan was one of only three countries to formally recognize it as the legitimate government: Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are the others.) Pakistan viewed the Taliban as providing Pakistan strategic depth against rival India, and it remains wary that any Afghan government might fall under the influence of India, which Pakistan says is using its diplomatic facilities in Afghanistan to train and recruit anti-Pakistan insurgents, and is using its reconstruction funds to build influence there. Pakistan ended its public support for the Taliban after the September 11, 2001, attacks. Efforts by Afghanistan and Pakistan to build post-Taliban relations never fully recovered from March 2006, when Afghan leaders stepped up accusations that Pakistan was allowing Taliban remnants, including Mullah Umar, to operating there. In a press interview on February 2, 2007, Musharraf tacitly acknowledged that some senior Taliban leaders might be able to operate from Pakistan but strongly denied that any Pakistani intelligence agencies were deliberately assisting the Taliban. Karzai visited Pakistan on December 27, 2007, to discuss the Taliban safehaven issue and other bilateral issues, and reports said his meeting with Musharraf was highly productive, resulting in re-dedication to joint action against militants. While in Pakistan, Karzai met with Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto just hours before she was assassinated …