Time to Revise our Afghan Policy
By Asif Haroon Raja
Unprovoked Afghan Aggression
On May 5, 2017, Afghan border security forces carried out unprovoked firing across the Chaman border in Baluchistan on two Pakistani villages namely Kili Luqman and Kili Jahangir, martyring 11 Pakistani civilians including one Frontier Corps (FC) soldier and injuring 50 people. The merciless act was undertaken when national census teams accompanied by FC troops were busy carrying out national population census in the two Pakistani villages in Chaman area, about which Kabul was informed one week in advance. Kabul government had given full assurance of cooperation. The clearly demarcated border runs between the Pakistani villages and Afghan villages. The firers made use of houses of Afghan villages to fire at census teams and villagers and use Afghan villagers as human shields. The shelling continued for 10 hours.
As if this provocative act was not enough, Afghan forces repeated the offensive act across Torkham border in Khyber Agency by firing for one hour on two Pakistani posts. Pakistan has closed the Bab-e-Dosti Chaman border gate as well as Torkham gate and the situation is still tense.
This is the second time that Afghanistan has resorted to aggression in less than one year time. Last was on Torkham crossing point on June 13, 2016 in which one Major succumbed to injuries and 16 were injured in the whole night duel. Reason for unprovoked aggression was construction of border gate well inside Pak territory to check flow of terrorists. Pakistan had retaliated strongly by not only launching a tough counter military action but also closed the two major crossing points for a month.
Pakistan’s Counteraction. After the unprovoked firing, the aggression was fully responded by Pakistan forces causing huge loss on the Afghan side. To start with, civilians from affected villages and adjacent areas were evacuated. Troops were dispatched and Air Force was put on high alert. Pakistan responded effectively. About 7 posts of Afghan Border Police were destroyed and around 30 Afghan soldiers were killed and over 50 injured in counter fire by Pakistan Forces. Pakistan used heavy artillery to pound the Afghan posts. Baab-e-Dosti gate was closed. The counter fire was so devastating that Afghan forces had to wave frantically white flags and pleaded for cease fire. Before cease firing, one suspicious village on the Afghan side was taken under the control by the forward moving troops of Pakistan Armed Forces.
Reason behind Aggression
There are total of 288 crossing points along the 2640 km long Durand Line. Among them, Torkham and Chaman border crossings take major flow of road traffic. Other two important points are Spin Boldak in Balochistan and Angoor Adda in South Waziristan. All crossing points are in use of pedestrians and animal transport since villages are located on both sides of the border at each crossing site. In many cases the villages are divided, half this side and half across the border. These divided villages’ house majority of agents of NDS and RAW working as saboteurs, handlers and informers.
Registration of all residents of border villages would certainly help in identifying the intelligence and drug smuggling network operating on both sides of Chaman and Spin Boldak areas. It was therefore natural for the NDS and drug mafias to get upset over the planned population census and hence decided to disrupt it.
The two colluding partners NDS-RAW tasked notorious drug baron Gen Abdul Razaq Achakzai to undertake the disruption plan. He was more worried about the two villages in Chaman since his handlers were residing there and his smuggling route passed through these villages. He gladly accepted the responsibility. As per rough estimates, his drug smuggling network based in border villages and Afghan refugee camps earn a profit of $ 6 million annually.
NDS-RAW joint Plan
It has now been gathered that NDS and RAW had prepared this plan four days prior to the attack. RAW joined the show since it had failed to prevent population census process in the Azad Kashmir villages situated along the LoC on account of heightened uprising in Indian occupied Kashmir (IOK) and Indian forces breaking all records of barbarism against Kashmiris and the world focus on IOK. It decided to place its gun on the shoulders of Afghanistan and fire the gun to kill two birds in one go – avenge Indian Army’s helplessness and to further up the ante on western border.
For the planned attack, light weapons, artillery guns, ammunition and explosives were stored in the houses of the villages opposite the two target villages well before hand. Those houses were used as bunkers from where firing was done and residents were used as human shields to prevent the other side to retaliate with full force. However, Pak forces struck back at Afghan check posts in which the Militia men of Razaq were resting in peace.
Background of Lt Gen Razaq
It will be worthwhile to shed light on so-called Gen Abdul Razaq Achakzai. He was made police chief of Kandahar 6 years ago when Hamid Karzai was in power. Later on, he was given this post on permanent basis as well as the rank of Brig Gen by Karzai as a reward for the exploits of his private Militia against the Taliban. Like many others, this illiterate man who had spent his time in refugee camps before and during the Taliban rule, and he also worked in a shop, is now a Lt Gen. His fortunes soared after 9/11, when he offered his Militia to the Americans to fight the Taliban. His Militia took active part in 2010 operation in Kandahar. Most of his Militia men are trained from American private companies such as DynCorp and Black water. They received training from the American funded Black Water Centre established in Kandahar. He is infamous for mercilessly torturing Taliban captives and for carrying out extra judicial killings.
He is also a blue eyed boy of the US military and like Rashid Dostum maintains a private Militia. Like late Wali Muhammad Karzai, foster brother of Hamid Karzai, who was supervising drug trade of Afghanistan from Kandahar, Razaq has taken over the drug business. From Spin Boldak route alone, 40 maunds of opium is smuggled under his supervision every month. Once inside Baluchistan, his handlers transport the opium in jeeps and major part of it is handed over to Iranian Baloch.
Birdseye view of Pak-Afghan Turbulent Relationship
Despite being a landlocked country and mainly dependent upon Pakistan for its imports and exports, Afghanistan has all along remained an unfriendly country. Pakistan came closer to Afghanistan when it decided to support the Afghan Mujahideen against the occupying Soviet forces in 1980 and hosted well over 3 million Afghan refugees. Gen Ziaul Haq pursued an upright and correct Afghan policy and was instrumental in winning the hearts and minds of the Afghans. His sudden death under mysterious circumstances in August 1988 and the US deciding to abandon Afghanistan and Pakistan in 1989 led to power tussle between the seven Mujahedeen groups. Civil war erupted between the groups under Gulbadin Hikmatyar and Northern Alliance (NA) under Ahmad Shah Masood, which raged till the eruption of Taliban movement from Kandahar in 1994. They captured power in October 1996 and pushed NA to Panjsher Valley comprising about 9% of Afghan territory. NA patronized by Iran, India, US and the West became hostile towards Pakistan since it considered Pakistan responsible for its woes.
Pakistan and Afghanistan enjoyed best of relations during the five years rule of Taliban from 1996 till their ouster in November 2001 by the US led western forces and NA. During the Taliban rule, Pakistan’s western border had become safe in true sense. Poppy growing, arms trade and war lordism had ceased in Afghanistan. Both had pledged to provide strategic depth to each other in times of crisis. However, Pakistan was gifted the cancers of drugs and Kalashnikovs as well as sectarianism during and after the Afghan Jihad. The successive civilian governments in the 1990s did nothing to cure the perforating cancers which had militarized the society or to return the Afghan refugees.
Pakistan’s decision to ditch Taliban regime at the behest of Washington in September 2001 and to provide air bases from where the US bombers destroyed Afghanistan, and then providing logistics supply routes to NATO forces from Karachi seaport to Afghanistan via Chaman and Torkham shocked the Taliban. Having experienced the golden era of Gen Zia, they could never imagine that another Pakistani General would treacherously stab them in the back to win the affections of a super power. Pakistan also helped in netting runaway Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders and handing them over to CIA for onwards transfer to Guantanamo Bay Prison. Since then Pakistan’s Afghan policy has remained in confusion and in doldrums thereby accumulating distrust and widening the distance between the two countries.
The hey days of brotherly and blood relations have now become history and today Afghan government as well as the people of Afghanistan have become averse to Pakistan. Indian psychological operators have penetrated in each and every government department and have succeeded in influencing the minds of Afghans. Their minds have been systematically brainwashed to hate Pakistan and to see India as their friend and benefactor. Afghan society had been Sovietized by the former USSR during its 10-year occupation and now India has Indianized Afghan society.
Afghans have been told repeatedly that Pakistan is a betrayer; it had first betrayed NA and then the Taliban; and that it’s an enemy of Afghanistan and wants to make it its colony. In actuality, Afghanistan for all practical purposes has become a colony of India. The two have become strategic partners, and RAW-NDS backed by USA are working against Pakistan in unison since 2002. In fact, RAAM and NDS were established by RAW. All what Pakistan had done for Afghanistan in its testing times has been washed down the drain.
While NA has not forgotten and forgiven Pakistan for its support to the Taliban, The Taliban have out of expediency overlooked Pakistan’s betrayal and has thus far not picked up arms against Pak security forces or indulged in acts of terrorism in Pakistan. They have confined their resistance war against the occupying forces and the collaborators inside Afghanistan and have let the TTP to bleed Pakistan. The US, NATO, Afghan government and India have been persistently trying to create a wedge between the Taliban and Pakistan security forces and pitch them against each other.
The US to some extent achieved this objective after it forced Pakistan to launch an operation in North Waziristan in June 2014 and flush out Pak-friendly so-called Haqqani network (HN), then playing up death of Mulla Omar in July 2015 to scuttle Afghan peace talks, then pressing it to force the Taliban to lay down arms and come to negotiating table, or else fight the HN and so-called Quetta Shura, and then droning Mulla Mansour on May 22, 2016 when he was about to join peace process, and then abruptly discarding Pakistan from Quadrilateral peace talks forum and adding India.
While Pakistan exerted pressure on the Taliban to agree to talks, it couldn’t win any concession for them from Washington and Kabul. Pakistan’s efforts to convince the Taliban to accept the US dictated peace agreement and the US tailored constitution has not been well received among the rank and file of Taliban. They view it as another betrayal to please USA and to earn its kudos. For them, it amounts to disregarding their huge sacrifices and abandoning liberation movement at a time when victory is in sight, merely to share power as a junior partner.
This is naturally unacceptable to the Taliban under Haibatullah, since they have sacrificed their three generations and have gained control over 60% of Afghan territory and restricted the writ of inept, corrupt and unpopular ruling regime of Ashraf Ghani to Kabul only, entirely dependent upon $8.1 billion annual foreign aid.
While Trump has acknowledged that terrorism “cannot be defeated with any sort of finality”, he has given his nod to induct of 3-5000 additional troops to beef up US 8400 troops in Afghanistan in coming June. It amounts to reinforcing the failure. As had happened after the two troop surges in 2009, casualty rate of occupiers and collaborators as well as of civilians will jump up. Overall security situation will worsen and may trigger another round of civil war as had happened in 1991.
The situation is getting ripe for such a gory scenario in the wake of enhanced economic stakes of China and its concerns about ETIM; Russia’s deepening interest in the affairs of Afghanistan in order to ward off the emerging threat of Daesh, and to gain access to warm waters; Iran wanting to retain and possibly expand its sphere of influence in Western and Central Afghanistan; Uzbekistan concerns about IMU; landlocked Central Asian States quest to join CPEC and have peaceful Afghanistan; Qatar desiring to retain its diplomatic clout over Taliban owing to their political office in Doha; and USA and India having no intention to abandon Afghanistan.
As can be seen, there are too many external players having their fingers in the pie of Afghanistan. Pakistan has suffered the most because of continuous instability in Afghanistan since 1978 and none can match its sacrifices. It shares 60% of border with Afghanistan. And yet Pakistan is the only country which is being repeatedly pressed to stay out of Afghanistan. On one hand it is coerced to make the Taliban agree to talk, and in the same breath it is told to sever ties with them.
Sadly, our leaders with feet of clay and devoid of clear cut Afghan policy, have been ceding to wrongful demands of USA and its puppet regime in Kabul, well knowing that Afghan soil has been and still is in use for cross border terrorism to destabilize Pakistan. They obsequiously sing the tutored song that Afghan peace process should be Afghan owned and Afghan led, and it will only assist the peace process. How can this formula work when the biggest stakeholders Taliban are kept out of the loop. Russia has now taken the initiative and demanded their inclusion in future peace talks. But why we are shy of taking them on board when all other stakeholders are secretly in contact with them?
1. The string-puppet regime in Kabul is wholly sold to USA and India and so is NDS to CIA and RAW.
2. Whatever actions taken by Ashraf Ghani and Dr. Abdullah or NDS are dictated by USA and India. Friday attacks were directed by India and had the approval of USA.
3. Song of cross border terrorism by Pakistan sung by Karzai regime and now by Ghani regime was composed by India; it’s the same song which India sings with regard to IOK.
4. By virtue of heavy presence and influence of India in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s western border have become insecure and cannot be termed as friendly or neutral.
5. Pakistan is faced with a twin threat both from eastern and western borders.
6. This threat will remain viable as long as Northern Alliance remain in power and the US and India are present in Afghanistan.
7. India will keep using Afghanistan as a launching pad for cross border terrorism as long as USA stays there.
8. Afghan unity government installed by USA is unnatural, highly unpopular, bunch of collaborators and illegal, and has no right to decide the future course of Afghanistan and to oppress the great majority of Afghan Pashtuns and keep them out of power.
1. Pakistan will have to reconfigure its force goals and deploy its troops and radars to grapple with the twin threat.
2. It has become all the more essential to effectively seal the western border through fencing, towers/pickets and floodlights at the earliest.
3. Population census of all border villages must be completed expeditiously and saboteurs/drug pushers taken to task.
4. All the 288 crossing points including the main points of Angoor Adda, Torkham, Chaman and Spin Boldak that are in use of terrorists, saboteurs and smugglers need to be fully guarded.
5. The two main crossing points of Chaman and Torkham should be kept closed for next three months if not more, irrespective of hue and cry made by vested groups and USA whose supply routes for increased numbers of troops would also get affected. This time we must remain firm and treat Afghanistan as India treats Nepal or Bangladesh.
6. Pakistan should recall its ambassador in Kabul and give a marching order to Afghan ambassador in Islamabad.
7. No further contact should be made with illegal unity regime in Kabul.
8. Return of Afghan refugees must be accelerated.
9. Operation Raddul Fasaad should intensify its combing operations to nab handlers, facilitators, financiers and to demolish sleeping cells in all urban centres.
10. Joint Intelligence Directorate must become fully operational and stretch its tentacles to the eastern, western and southern vulnerable border belts.
11. Armed drones should be used to target hideouts of Fazlullah and Khalid Khurasani.
12. A case should be taken up in the UN about the aggression of Afghan forces in Chaman and Torkham and told that it was a combined Indo-Afghan attack.
13. India should be warned that all attacks and terror attacks emanating from Afghanistan are wholly Indian sponsored and it should refrain from it or else be prepared for the consequences.
14. Pakistan should stop relying on USA and hoping that it will rein in Kabul or New Delhi since it is the chief master mind behind the Pakistan specific covert war.
15. Instead, Pakistan should now rely more on China and Russia and with the help of the two, involve SCO and possibly Iran and Turkey in Afghan peace process and should boldly propose Taliban as stakeholders.
16. The emerging alliance should exert pressure on USA to quit Afghanistan.
17. Pakistan must immediately revise its foreign and defence policies related to Afghanistan, which are entirely based on one-sided policy of appeasement and make it more aggressive and dynamic.
18. Offensive defence is the only way to ward off such like offensive acts by a landlocked state.
The writer is a retired Brig , war veteran, defence and security analyst, author of five books, Vice Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, Director Measac Research Centre. Takes part in TV talk shows, delivers talks and take part in seminars. firstname.lastname@example.org