Unproductive policy of one-sided concessions
Pakistan has been continuously advocating peace talks with Taliban and insisting upon finding a political solution, but Kabul regime and Washington preferred brute force in Afghanistan. Pakistan was also advised to follow suit and pressured to launch another major operation in North Waziristan (NW) and eliminate safe havens of Haqqani network. Pakistan has all along helped Hamid Karzai regime and at no stage added to its problems by playing one community against the other. On Karzai’s request, Pakistan has deferred repatriation of 3.1 million Afghan refugees and has taken the major brunt of war on terror as a frontline state. Karzai however failed to reciprocate Pakistan’s goodwill gestures and has preferred to dance to the tunes of USA and India. He has been callously leveling serious allegations against Pakistan and has always preferred India over Pakistan and allowed RAW to use Afghan soil for covert war against Pakistan in concert with Central Directorate of Security (CDS) and RAAM.
Karzai is a highly unpopular leader among the Afghan Pashtun community because he had sold his soul to America by agreeing to fight against his Pashtun countrymen? He allowed use of drones and other deadly aerial weapons by occupation forces to slaughter Afghan Pashtuns at will. He was rewarded for his treachery by getting him elected as President in 2004. To earn additional favors and secret funds, he permitted intelligence agencies of five countries to use Afghan soil for waging covert war against Pakistan. On the advice of USA, he allowed Indian influence to flood into each and every department of his country and later on signed partnership treaty with India.
He vitiated Pak-Afghan relations by singing Indian tutored song of cross border terrorism, alleging that Pak Army and ISI were in collusion with Taliban. He then sang the US theme of ‘safe havens’ and ‘do more’. He rejected Pakistan’s proposal of fencing or mining likely infiltration routes along the Pak-Afghan border but kept pressing Pakistan to stop the militants based in FATA from attacking targets inside Afghanistan. He corroborated US assertion that al-Qaeda’s top leadership including Osama bin Laden was based in South Waziristan, Haqqani network in NW and Mullah Omar’s Shura in Quetta.
In his bid to enhance his importance, he assured US officials that he, his foster brother Wali Karzai and other confidantes had close contacts with large number of Taliban leaders and that sooner than later he will either be able to isolate hardliners led by Mullah Omar or bring them on the negotiating table. Establishment of Afghan High Peace Council (AHPC) under Prof Burhanuddin Rabbani was a step in that direction. He made several offers of talks and power sharing to Mullah Omar but could make no headway. Mullah Omar’s number-two Mullah Baradar was probably sent by Karzai to Balochistan to convince key Taliban leaders to return to Kabul and attend Karzai’s Loya Jirga in Kabul in April 2011. His arrest in Karachi in January 2011 upset Karzai. That year, ISI had arranged a meeting between US officials and Siraj Haqqani in Dubai but the US instead of cashing on it lost the opportunity because it tried to create divisions between the Taliban.
To get Baradar, Karzai changed his abrasive stance to that of amiability and he was often heard describing Pakistan as inseparable twin brother of Afghanistan. His artificial love withered away when Baradar was not released and Kabul was attacked by Taliban on September 13, 2011 and Burhanuddin Rabbani murdered a week later. Both the US and Afghan leaders blamed ISI for the attacks. Karzai removed the mask of friendship and thereon remained cross with Pakistan. 2011-2012 saw heating up of western border on account of cross border terrorism of Fazlullah’s men in Dir, Mehmand, Bajaur and Chitral from safe havens of Kunar and Nuristan. Kabul regime was privy to May 2 and November 26, 2011 incidents. These were ploys to pressure Pakistan to launch an operation in NW.
Doha initiative after making some progress fizzled out and US-Taliban secret indirect parleys got disrupted in March 2012 because the US failed to abide by the terms of agreement concerning release of five prisoners from Gitmo. Anti-peace talks lobbies had a hand in upsetting peace process. Disruption of indirect talks perturbed Obama administration but pleased Karzai who had expressed his strong reservations over the proposed opening of Taliban office in Doha. He felt he had been bypassed and ignored. He laid conditions that anyone wishing to have parleys with the Taliban will have to go through AHPC and not directly. To ease up tension, Pakistan ceded to US advice and released 20 Taliban prisoners held in its custody in January 2013 as goodwill gesture. However, warmth of this goodwill cooled down when the released prisoners instead of reporting to Chairman AHPC Salahuddin Rabbani reported to Mullah Omar.
In April 2013, Karzai confessed having received regular cash payments from CIA. Secret funds were used by him to win over Taliban leaders and also to augment covert war against Pakistan. Without his blessing, fugitives Maulana Fazlullah and Maulvi Muhammad Faqir could not have been accommodated in safe havens of Kunar and Nuristan. Karzai undertook a visit to India in May 2013 and requested for military hardware to meet ANA’s shortfalls. He preferred India over Pakistan for training of Afghan military and is now seeking arms from India and not from Pakistan and yet has the audacity to make complaints against Pak’s military establishment. While signing Afghan-US strategic partnership agreement in May 2012, Karzai had consented to allow US military to retain nine military bases till 2024. However, for its authentication, Karzai will have to call a Loya Jirga as given in Afghan Constitution. Knowing that he will not be able to get approval, it is suspected that Afghan CDS is deliberately destabilizing Kabul by staging terror attacks in quick succession. This practice will continue to justify postponement of elections scheduled on April 5, 2014 and to hold small Jirga under emergency in which only likeminded representatives of various tribes will be invited to regularize the bilateral security arrangement.
Of late, Karzai is behaving grumpily. Except for India he is cross with everyone else. He is not altogether wrong in his apprehension that he is seen as a spent cartridge and Pakistan as a key country by USA. He was against Obama’s drawdown plan and felt highly disturbed when the US started seeking Pakistan military’s help to establish contacts with Taliban and to begin peace talks. To become popular, he made strong objections to civilian casualties by ISAF and asked the US to expedite handing over security to ANSF. He also pressed the US to expedite handing over control of Bagram prison to ANSF and rejected the idea of power sharing with Taliban by ethnically dividing Afghanistan.
Doha initiative was not to his liking particularly when he saw that he had no role to play in it. In sheer disgust he held Pak military and ISI responsible for his failure but felt relieved when Taliban opted out of peace talks. However, renewal of Doha process in June 2013 flabbergasted him and he sabotaged it by making hue and cry over flimsy issue of a plaque inscribed with ‘Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’ and Taliban flag hoisted on the political office. He described it as de facto recognition of parallel Taliban government. He reacted by suspending Afghan-US agreement on retention of military bases by US forces post 2014. Irritated Obama has hinted at withdrawing the entire force by end 2014. The suggestion of abandoning Afghanistan as in 1989 must have disconcerted both Karzai and India.
In its desire to forge friendly ties with all neighbors, the new government led by PML-N has embarked upon a policy of befriending India and Afghanistan irrespective of bitterness of the past and tantrums of Karzai, Afghan Army chief and other senior officials. Conciliation instead of confrontation and promotion of economics are the parameters of Nawaz’s foreign policy. Sartaj Aziz was sent on a specific mission to remove apprehensions of Karzai regime and to assure it that Pakistan will not play a partisan role but would help in promotion of peace talks with Afghan government and Taliban to ensure stability of Afghanistan and would support any government which the Afghans elected in 2014 elections. In other words, it was conveyed that Pakistan had no favorites and will not play one community against the other to further its personal interests. It can therefore be assumed that Pakistan would try to persuade the Taliban not to ignore incumbent government in Kabul as stakeholders in future peace talks. Pakistan may also agree to release more Taliban leaders held in its custody. Pakistan is continuing with its unproductive policy of appeasement and granting one-sided concessions with zero-sum results.
The writer is a retired Brig and a defence analyst. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org