Zarb-e-Azb and Cross Border Attacks: A Case for Pak-Afghan Cooperation

army1By Iftikhar Hussain Jazib

Pakistan’s security institutions are successfully disrupting militant networks in Tribal areas during Operation Zarb-e-Azb. TTP and its affiliated terrorists groups are on run as their ammunition depots, communication networks, training and media facilities are destroyed by the arial bombardment of Pakistan Airforce. But cross border attacks from Afghanistan’s soil during operation Zarb-e-Azb once again highlighted Afghan government’s antagonistic approach towards Pakistan. Another worrisome development for Pakistan is Afghanistan’s political crisis after the Presidential run off elections which can reverse gains against Afghan Taliban during War on Terrorism. These developments are dangerous for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Hamid Karzai is proving CIA’s wrong choice for nation building in Afghanistan after Taliban’s fall. His refusal to sign Bilateral Security Agreement with USA has already perturbed international community as mandate of International Security Assistance Force is coming to end and NATO troops are scheduled to leave Afghanistan this year. Though Afghan National Army and Police are well trained yet they are not in a position to take full charge of security as Taliban are still a potent force in Afghanistan. The recent spate of suicide bombings across Afghanistan remind us that the Taliban militants are becoming increasingly active. Specially, the killing of a US Major General by an Afghan soldier shocked NATO and ISAF.

The current political impasse in Afghanistan is also outcome of President Karzai’s politics and policies. It has put Afghanistan’s stability at stake as fate of Bilateral Security Agreement with USA is uncertain. US Secretary of the State John Kerry had made two agreements between two contending candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani to help to solve crisis over presidential elections. But it has already painted a future picture of ethnically divided Afghanistan which faces a potent threat by the Afghan Taliban.

Hamid Karzai was also unable to get success in peace and reconciliation dialogue with Taliban. This critical issue also awaits new President’s attention and will determine destiny of the people of Afghanistan. However, the toughest challenges for next President are ripened corruption in Afghan institutions including police and Afghan National Army, drug cartels and powerful war lords. All of them are big challenges and good governance is essential for keeping Afghanistan on the path of democratic stability.

The most important issue is the continuation of international financial assistance as Afghanistan requires around 11 billion dollars to support its security forces and public sector development annually. But many analysts believe that in the current political situation of Afghanistan, it will face difficulties in this regard as well. In the absence of a President who is also seen as a national leader of Afghanistan, the donor countries are less likely to make significant financial contributions to Afghanistan’s development.

Historically, Pakistan had higher stakes in the stability and security of Afghanistan than any other state in the region. Therefore, it always tries to develop friendly relations with Kabul government. Pakistan and Afghanistan have common Pashtun culture, borders and historical heritage. Tribal and ethnic bounds are very strong across the Pak-Afghan border, Afghan transit trade arrangements and trade links across Central Asia made both countries mutually dependent. Unfortunately, notwithstanding these facts, the government of Afghanistan never extended preferential treatment to Pakistan in regional and international security environment in a reciprocal way.

Afghan Government’s recent tirade against Pakistan, its army and its national security institutions has harmed the interests of both the countries. In this year, it blamed ISI for every big and small attack inside Afghanistan. It was the hallmark of Hamid Karzai’s government to hide its failures by blaming Pakistan for everything. Where as on the contrary Pakistan’s approach was very friendly and cooperative towards Karzai’s government. He unjustly continued to accuse Pakistan for hosting Al-Qaeda and Taliban by providing them safe heavens. Moreover, Western leaders never shy away from exposing Karzai’s efforts to destabilize Pakistan through RAW in their public statements. Such overtures of Afghan government just hurt the interests of Pakistan and Afghanistan. We must realize that only a relationship based on mutual trust and respect can help in overcoming the woes of both the nations.

The governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan should promote the tendency of bilateral dialogue and forums to solve disputes as involvement of other countries or major powers can only exploit the differences between Pak-Afghan governments for their own vested interests. A bilateral relationship exclusive of major powers is neither possible due to the contemporary strategic environment nor affordable for Pakistan and Afghanistan. But the two countries could live with peaceful coexistence by avoiding antagonistic approaches, by respecting each other’s policies and interests and by developing trust and understanding on bilateral forums. At least, no third country should be allowed to exploit the differences between Pak-Afghan Governments.

We hope that the new government will realize this and Pak-Afghan relations will improve in the future.

The writer tweets @radiant_J_007

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