Breakthrough in Pak-Afghan Stalemate
During his recent visit to Pakistan, the newly-elected President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani said that his government and the people of Afghanistan desire to further strengthen bilateral relations with Pakistan in all areas of mutual interest. He elaborated, “We must overcome the past…we will not permit the past to destroy the future.”
The Afghan president who was accompanied by Afghan Defence Minister General Bismillah Muhammadi, Afghan Chief of General Staff General Sher Muhammad Karimi and other senior Afghan security officials also visited the General Headquarters and met Chief of Army Staff Gen. Raheel Sharif. In this regard, a press release from the Inter Service Public Relations said that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani lauded Pakistan’s efforts to combat terrorism and the sacrifices made by the nation. Pakistan’s proposal to offer security and defence cooperation and training opportunities to Afghanistan have been received positively. There also exists the realization of better economic cooperation, joint ventures in energy and trade corridors and increased investment in infrastructural development.
Being a well-rounded Afghan politician, President Ashraff Ghani realizes that the signing of the US-Afghanistan Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) has provided a sense of certainty—after the withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan—-though US President Barack Obama had stated that 9800 troops would remain in Afghanistan from December 2014 till the 2016 complete withdrawal deadline. But, Afghanistan will be thrown in era of uncertainly and civil war and Taliban who are fighting for liberation of their country could reemerge and could also topple the government at Kabul.
It is notable that unlike his predecessor, Hamid Karzai who established India’s anti-Pakistan network in Afghanistan, allowing Indian secret agency RAW to continue subversive activities in Pakistan with the support of Afghan intelligence-National Directorate of Security (NDS), Ashraff Ghani realizes that the future of Afghanistan’s prosperity and stability depend upon a formula to address Pakistan’s security concerns. This is the area where a major change seems to have appeared. Hence, his recognition to revisit the past and work together with Islamabad to defeat the odds which are not only internal, but have external sources as well.
Although a breakthrough has occurred in Pak-Afghan stalemate due to the optimistic message of the Afghan president, yet it needs to be implemented with pragmatic approach not only by new Afghan rulers but also by the US-led NATO powers which are keenly monitoring the transition Kabul is undergoing.
It is mentionable that during his first visit to the United States, Pakistan’s Chief of the Army Staff, Gen. Raheel Sharif held talks with the top US generals and officials. Sources suggest that during talks with US high military officials, Pakistan’s army chief straightforwardly pointed out interrelated regional problems including Pakistan’s sacrifices during war against terrorism, successes of the military operation, Zarb-i-Azb, Afghanistan factor, US blame game, Indian anti-Pakistan campaign and so on in order to remove obstacles in Pak-US relations.
In this regard, a report published by BBC Urdu said, “Gen. Raheel Sharif told the US top military officials that Pakistan’s operation against terrorists was affected by Indian troops’ continuous violation of ceasefire at the Line of Control (LoC) and Working Boundary (WB)…and statements issued by their leaders…Pakistan has deployed 140,000 troops on its Western borders after getting assurance that there would be peace with India on its Eastern borders which did not happen.”
While meeting Gen. Raheel, US top military officials praised operation, Zarb-i-Azb. But, a recent report of the US Department of Defence has revived old blame game against Pakistan, and allegedly said, “Afghan-and Indian-focused militants continue to operate from Pakistan territory to the detriment of Afghan and regional stability. Pakistan uses these proxy forces to hedge against Afghanistan and India…Taliban attacks are launched from sanctuaries in Pakistan’s tribal areas and Baluchistan.” The report ignored the fact that the Pakistani government has launched operation Zarb-i-Azb’ against militants in tribal North Waziristan region bordering Afghanistan, and it also includes Haqqani militants about whom America and Afghanistan’s former government of Karzai was accusing Pak Army and country’s spy agency ISI for alleged support regarding cross-border terrorism in Afghanistan. Now, the operation has been broadly welcomed internationally as well as in Washington which has also been a long-running demand from US and its allied forces in Afghanistan.
However, in the recent past, following the US blame game, Afghanistan’s former President Hamid Karzai openly accused Islamabad of sponsoring a series of terrorist attacks in Kabul, while from time to time, India has also raised similar allegations. While, America, India and Afghan government has neglected the fact that Afghan Taliban are fighting for the liberation of their country, and from Alexander, the Great to the intervention of the former Soviet Union, Afghanistan has proved graveyard of the foreign invaders.
Nevertheless, new Afghan regime must take cognizance of the fact that Afghanistan is responsible for terrorists’ penetration into Pakistan. Since April, 2011, some 200 to 400 heavily-armed militants from Afghanistan’s side entered Pakistan’s region, from time to time, and targeted the security check posts, civil and military infrastructure of the tribal areas. So far, these terrorists have killed several personnel of Pakistan’s security forces. Besides, Pakistan also indicated that Pakistani Taliban insurgency and leader of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Maulvi Fazlullah who are involved in a number of terror attacks in Pakistan and on the security forces are based in Kunar and Nuristan provinces in Afghanistan. But, the US-led forces in Afghanistan failed to hunt down these terrorists.
Besides, Indian RAW has well-established its network in Afghanistan, and with the tactical assistance of anti-Pakistan secret agencies, it is fully backing cross-border incursions including terror-activities in Balochistan and other regions of Pakistan.
Taking note of Indian negative approach, in the recent past, US Senator John McCain 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. In fact, India wants instability in Afghanistan, which favors its secret goals against Pakistan. But, Pakistan seeks stability in Afghanistan, which is not possible owing to Indian presence in that country. Therefore, Pakistan has legitimate concerns in Afghanistan.
Notably, in the recent years, a series of international conferences were held in order to bring stability and peace in Afghanistan. For this purpose, US-led developed nations also pledged billions of dollars for the development of Afghanistan. Besides, American top officials have repeatedly agreed that without the help of Islamabad, stability cannot be achieved in Afghanistan.
But, during his trip to India and Kabul, Panetta encouraged New Delhi on October 26, 2012, saying that India had vital role to play in Afghanistan and it would be helpful for peace and stability in the region, adding, “Our new defence policy hinges upon this strategy.”
India which has already invested billion 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. And the then President Karzai had also signed another agreement with New Delhi to obtain Indian arms and weapons. However, under the cover of these agreements, India has further been strengthening its grip in Afghanistan to get strategic depth against Islamabad, while America seeks to obtain multiple strategic designs by controlling the energy resources of Central Asia, and weakening Pakistan, China, Iran and Russia.
Nonetheless, first of all, US must show realistic approach by abandoning its blame game and twofold diplomacy in the region as well as against Pakistan. America should realize that unlike India, Pakistan shares common geographical, historical, religious and cultural bonds with Afghanistan, while stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan is interrelated, which is essential for American global and regional interests. So, if US does not rectify its ambivalent policy, the positive breakthrough in Pak-Afghan stalemate will confine to the verbal declaration only.
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