US-led Countries’ Conflicting Interests Deteriorate Pakistan-Afghanistan Relations?

By Sajjad ShaukatUS Pak

Paying full attention to the Syrian crisis, Western media and their viewers have, perhaps, forgotten the South Asia where the conflicting interests of the US-led countries and entities like the secret agencies are deteriorating Pakistan-Afghanistan Relations which are equally essential for the regional and global interests of their countries like Syria.

Waging a prolonged war in Afghanistan, the US and other NATO countries have realized that after the withdrawal of foreign troops, Afghanistan would be thrown in an era of uncertainly and civil war. They realize the fact that there is a co-relationship of terrorism or stability in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Hence, US-led developed nations which also spent billions of dollars for the development of Afghanistan have repeatedly agreed that without Islamabad’s help, stability cannot be achieved there.

It is notable that on December 9, 2015, the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process Conference was held in Islamabad in which high-level representatives of regional and international organizations from over 30 countries, especially the US, China, India and Afghanistan participated. They pledged to support a stable, peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan which was not only in its own interest, but also vital to peace, stability and prosperity of the ‘Heart of Asia’ region as a whole as well as the West—it was collective responsibility to help Afghanistan in combating the challenges it is facing, as the participants said. In the joint declaration, they reaffirmed the respect for each other’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and reiterated their commitment to refrain from the threat or use of force against one another.

Meanwhile, with the help of Pakistan, a series of meetings were held in Islamabad and Kabul among the representatives of Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and the US to develop an understanding for the earliest possible resumption of stalled talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban with view to ending nearly 15 years of bloodshed in Afghanistan. For the purpose, a number of the trilateral meetings were also held among Pakistan, Afghanistan and the America.

On January 13, 2015, at least seven personnel of the Afghan security forces died during the suicide attack which targeted the Pakistani consulate in Jalalabad. The Islamic State group (ISIS, ISIL or Daesh) claimed responsibility for the terror assault which coincided with efforts to restart the suspended peace process with Taliban insurgents. Pakistani sources suggested that Indian secret agency RAW was behind this terror attack to thwart these peace talks.

Indian desperation in Afghanistan is increased in the backdrop of growing engagements of Islamabad, Kabul, Beijing and Washington. Therefore, by arranging terror-assaults in Pakistan and Afghanistan, New Delhi is also sabotaging the peace process between the Afghan officials and representatives of Tehreek-e-Taliban Afghanistan, which started in Murree, Pakistan, on July 8, 2015 through a meeting, hosted by Islamabad, and in it, Chinese and American representatives, also participated.

While, the US, China and Pakistan are jointly working to facilitate the process so as to bring peace both in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and the whole region. But, Washington is playing double game with Pakistan, because it is the only nuclear country in the Islamic World, which irritates America, India, Israel and some Western partners of the US. Hence, secret agents of American CIA, Israeli Mossad and Indian RAW which are well-penetrated in the ISIS, the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) are using the militants of these terrorist outfits to destabilize Tibetan regions of China, Iranian Sistan-Baluchistan, Pakistan’s province of Balochistan and Central Asia (Russian interests) by arranging the subversive activities to promote acrimonious sense of dissent, sectarian violence and to arouse sentiments of separatism. In this regard, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is their special target. Collectively or individually, these intelligence agencies are also assisting Jundullah (God’s soldiers)—the Sunni militant group which is active in Balochistan against Shias. Besides martyring several personnel of Pakistan’s security agencies in the province, these foreign-backed entities kidnapped and massacred many innocent people, including Chinese and Iranian nationals.

It is of particular attention that Indian role in Pakistan became naked after the arrest of Kulbhushan Yadav on March 24, 2016. Yadav openly admitted that he was the serving agent of Indian RAW in Balochistan province, and during his stay, he contacted various Baloch separatist leaders and insurgents to execute the task to damage the CPEC. Yadav confessed that he spied for India and was “assigned with the task to create unrest in Karachi and Balolchitan…to destabilize Pakistan…he was captured, while heading Iran.”

In case of Afghanistan, there are several groups of Al-Qaeda, ISIS and Taliban. Some of them are being used by CIA, Mossad and RAW to obtain the collective and individual designs of their countries against Pakistan and the Middle East. India and Israel which want to prolong the stay of the US-led NATO troops in Afghanistan which have become the center of covert activities, are exploiting their dual policy, especially of America against Pakistan, China and Iran. Particularly, terrorists of ISIS and TTP which are strategic assets of the CIA, RAW and Mossad have claimed responsibility for several terror attacks inside Pakistan, including the recent ones in Lahore (Children Park on Easter Sunday), Balochistan, Karachi and in Afghanistan. In some cases, Indian RAW which has well-established its network in Afghanistan, is also alone conducting subversive attacks in Pakistan. While in some cases, with the help of TTP and ISIS, Mossad and RAW are collectively arranging terror attacks in Afghanistan to create further lawlessness in that country because it suits their clandestine interests.

In the first week of May, credible online sources disclosed that Engineer Mohammad Khan, the 1st Advisor and a close friend of Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah has been arrested by Afghan forces/agencies for alleged links with the ISIS. Information strongly suggests that the ISIS has penetrated even in high ranking Afghan government officials as well.

It is noteworthy that those Taliban groups which are fighting against the occupying foreign for the liberation of their country know that ISIS is backed by the US-led countries. Hence, a number of times, they have attacked on the ISIS terrorists in Afghanistan.

In the recent years, when the US-led NATO forces felt that they were failing in coping with the stiff resistance of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the high officials and media of their countries started accusing Pakistan’s army and country’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of supporting the Afghan Taliban in order to pacify their public for the protracted war in that country, which still continues. India avail the opportunity and also accused Islamabad of cross-border terrorism in Afghanistan. But these anti-Pakistan entities forgot that from 2011 to 2013, some 200 to 400 heavily-armed insurgents from Afghanistan’s side entered Pakistan’s regions from time to time and targetted the security check posts and other infrastructure. In this respect, Pakistan’s civil and military leadership had lodged a strong protest with their counterparts in Afghanistan and NATO, saying that their forces were doing nothing to check the activities of the militants, based in the Afghan provinces of Kunar and Nuristan. Afghan government also refused to hand over Maulvi Fazlullah, leader of the TTP and other militants who had been conducting acts of terrorism in Pakistan. However, it was part of the US double game with Islamabad.

It is notable that when Pakistan’s Armed Forces broke the backbone of the militants through military operation Zarb-i-Azb which started on June 15, 2014 in North Waziristan Agency, and afterwards, extended to some other tribal agencies—killing thousands of insurgents including foreign terrorists, while, ISI and other law-enforcing agencies captured several terrorists in various regions of Pakistan, including suicide-jackets and weapons. What the US-led NATO countries could not do in Afghanistan in the last 14 years, Pakistan’s Armed Forces have done in one year. Taking note of the ground realities, the US and other Western countries have started appreciating the capabilities of Pakistan Army and other security agencies, and are, now, recognizing the sacrifices of the country against terrorism.

By utilizing the vicious circle of terrorism and the dual policy of America, some Western countries, Israel and India, Al-Qaeda, ISIS and TTP also employ double game. Besides working for CIA, Mossad and RAW, these terrorist outfits also motivate the common Muslims for suicide attacks and terror-related activities as part of Jihad. Otherwise, Jihad does not permit suicide assaults. Like other religions, Islam is a religion of peace and prohibits any sort of terrorism.

Nevertheless, still America and some of its NATO allies which prefer India over Pakistan are following conflicting policies. Sometimes, they recognize the fact that there is a co-relationship of stability in Pakistan and Afghanistan and sometimes, they back the propaganda of New Delhi and Kabul against Islamabad in relation to cross-border terrorism in Afghanistan. India which has invested billions of dollars in Afghanistan, signed a wide-ranging strategic agreement with that country on October 5, 2011 also includes to help train Afghan security forces, while assisting Kabul in diversified projects, is manipulating the ambivalent approach of the US-led Western countries so as to further strengthen its grip in Afghanistan.

Regarding Indian activities in Afghanistan the then NATO commander, Gen. McChrystal had pointed out: “Indian political and economic influence is increasing in Afghanistan…is likely to exacerbate regional tensions.” And the US Senator John McCain had reminded the Obama administration that encouraging India to take a more active role in Afghanistan, while simultaneously criticizing Pakistan could be a recipe for disaster.

If NATO withdraws its forces from Afghanistan in future, despite the presence of American or NATO troops on small scale, New Delhi which has been assisting the Northern Alliance (Minority groups) like the America and other Western powers against the Afghan freedom fighters will not be in a position to maintain its network due to successful guerrilla warfare of the Taliban. Afghanistan will be thrown in an era of uncertainty and civil war. In that drastic situation, the US-led foreign donors will not be able to sustain their economic aid in that lawless country.

In this respect, in the recent past, cordial relations were established between Pakistan and Afghanistan when Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had realized that Afghanistan and Pakistan were facing similar challenges of terrorism and would combat this threat collectively. But, it is misfortune that on direction of New Delhi and like the former regime of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan’s present rulers have also started accusing Pakistan of cross-border terrorism. In this connection, after hours of the Taliban captured Kunduz city, on September 28, 2015, during his address to the UNO General Assembly, Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah blamed Islamabad for carrying out cross-border attacks and destabilizing Afghanistan.

Differences exist between Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and President Ashraf Ghani, as the former wants cordial relations with New Delhi at the cost of Afghanistan and the latter prefers Islamabad.

Notably, the US and Indian trained Afghan troops could no retake Kunduz, and American military recaptured the city. Taking note of the unending resistance of the Taliban, President Barack Obama halted the withdrawal of American military forces from Afghanistan on October 15, 2016 by announcing that “the United States will keep thousands of troops in the country through the end of his term in 2017”, and it means that American and its allied forces will remain there for an indefinite period. Talking about the death of the Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Akhtar Mansour who was killed by the CIA-operated drone attack in Pakistan’s Balochistan, President Obama recognized on May 23, 2016 by saying that the Taliban were “specifically targeting the US personnel and troops inside Afghanistan.” After the incident, Taliban leaders also refused to participate in the US-sponsored talks with the Afghan government. Besides, Pakistan’s civil and military leadership also protested for the violation of international laws and Pakistan’s airspace by the American drone attack.

It is mentionable that on December 10, 2016, President Ghani accepted the resignation of Rahmatullah Nabil as director of the Afghan intelligence agency, National Dirctorrate of Security (NDS), after developing differences of the spymaster with him over Ghani’s move to attend the regional conference (Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process Conference) in Islamabad.

And, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and President Ghani also showed their determination that their countries would cooperate in fighting the threat of ISIS.

In fact, in collusion with Afghanistan’s NDS, Daesh and TTP, RAW still continues cross-border incursions in various regions of Pakistan. Indian nexus with the militant leaders like Hakimullah Masood and Maulvi Fazalullah has been proved by the recent revelation of the TTP militant Latifullah Mahsood who was captured in Pakistan, and he also admitted the role of external secret agencies regarding the incident of Army Public School Peshawar where several innocent children were massacred by the TTP—and exploitation of Baloch sub-nationalists, while, Indian high officials and media have always shifted the blame game of Afghanistan’s unrest towards Pakistan. It is a true reflection of Indian establishment which is intolerant to any improvement in the bilateral relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Nonetheless, the trust between Islamabad and Kubal has remained a sore point in the eyes of foreign enemies, especially India, which have been doing everything possible to create mistrust between the two neighbours. A lot of resources are being pumped in particularly by New Delhi to undermine the relationship between two brotherly countries to fulfill Indian nefarious agenda at the cost of the interests of Afghanistan’s public. For the last fifteen years, foreign-funded NGOs and media have been spearheading the sinister campaign to malign Pakistan for any ill inside Afghanistan, thereby estrange common Afghans against Pakistan.

It is worth-mentioning that Pakistan is the largest Muslim donor country to Afghanistan. Pakistan, itself is suffering from the economic fallout of ongoing war on terror in Afghanistan. Islamabad has, so far, spent over 385 Million $ for the development, education and infrastructure-building in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s present government has added over 500 Million $ more to this list for development in Afghanistan. Pakistan has funded different educational institutions inside Afghanistan such as Allama Iqbal Faculty of Arts-Kabul University, Sir Syed Post Graduate Faculty of Sciences- Nangarhar University, Liaqat Ali Khan Engineering University- Bulkh, Rahman Baba School-Kabul and Rahman Baba Hostel-Kabul. Afghan citizens are allowed to avail medical and education facilities in Pakistan at par with the Pakistani Citizens. Islamabad has helped Afghan government in developmental projects and roads infrastructure, including building of 75 kilometers Torkham-Jalalabad Road, additional carriage way on Torkham-Jalalabad Road, three internal roads in Jalalabad, digital radio link between Kabul and Peshawar. In addition, Pakistan has also given around 100 public transport buses and 200 trucks to the government of Afghanistan for the welfare of Afghan public.

Undoubtedly, Pakistan has rendered huge sacrifices for the people of Afghanistan, and had stood with the Afghans in Afghan Jihad against the former USSR and hosted record number of over 3 Million refugees for longest duration, despite its own weak economic condition.

However, Pakistan shares common geographical, historical, religious and cultural bonds with Afghanistan. America and its Western partners have repeatedly recognized that Pak-Afghan stability is inter-related, which is essential for their global and regional interests. Therefore, US-led developed nations which also spent billions of dollars for the development of Afghanistan have repeatedly agreed that without Islamabad’s help, stability cannot be achieved there. But, by following the conflicting interests, the US-led countries are deteriorating Pakistan-Afghanistan relations to obtain their covert aims, and are, thus, destabilizing South Asian security which is equally essential for them.

Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations

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