NEWS & VIEWS
PAKISTAN delegation led by Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua visited Kabul on February 03, 2018, and had a meeting with Afghanistan officials. Pakistan proposed five joint working groups to ensure effective engagement for countering terrorism, intelligence sharing, military, economy, trade and transit interaction, refugee repatriation and connectivity. Pakistan urged Afghanistan to stop the blame game, and sought for its co-operation in combating terrorism. Afghanistan had earlier slammed Pakistan for the deadly attacks on its soil and accused it of harboring the Taliban. On Friday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in a televised speech to the nation had alleged that “the centre of Taliban terrorism is in Pakistan. Authorities in the neighboring country should show some concrete action to rid their territory of insurgents.” Instead of giving sermons to Pakistan, he should look at the recent BBC report stating that the Taliban has influence in 70 per cent of Afghan territory.
The question can be asked that when the Taliban control more territory than the Afghan government, do the Taliban need sanctuaries across the border or elsewhere. After the recent visit of high-level Afghan delegation led by the Afghan interior minister and NDS chief to Pakistan and meeting with Pakistani officials, both sides had radiated an aura of optimism that relations between the two neighbors would improve, and agreed that together they can effectively deal with terrorism. But once the members of the Afghan delegation were on Afghan soil they claimed that the recent devastating attacks in Kabul were planned and coordinated from alleged Afghan Taliban sanctuaries inside Pakistan. They may have raised the issue of Haqqani network in Pakistan, but Pakistan also brought their attention towards TTP elements ensconced in Kunar and Nooristan who launch attacks on Pakistani posts and villages near the border.
With the mounting pressure and attacks from Taliban in Kabul, President Donald Trump rejected the idea of talks with the Taliban until the balance of power in Afghanistan tilts back towards the state there and away from the insurgents. If the US and its allies with 150000 boots on the ground could not rein in the Taliban during 14 years, how they can expect that with 14000 army personnel would gain a position of strength. The Afghan government too has been inconsistent in the search for sustained dialogue with the Taliban. The Taliban’s insistence that they speak directly to the US is also part of the problem, but so is Kabul’s reluctance to hold talks with the Taliban. Pakistan, Russia, China and Iran wish to see peace and stability in Afghanistan, whereas the US, the Afghan government and even some commanders of the Taliban are opposed to it for different reasons.
In 2016, the Taliban had declared that it would not take part in peace talks brokered by representatives of Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, and the United States until the foreign occupation of the country ended. Apart from the differences within the Taliban or commanders, there are internal contradictions between Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Abdullah Abdullah, and also their differences with other allies of the government. The problem is that Afghan government and former Northern Alliance elements are opposed to any meaningful dialogue with the Taliban, which means that the US, Afghan government and India do not wish to see peace in Afghanistan. Late Ahmad Shah Massoud and Abdul Rashid Dostum had created the United Front (Northern Alliance) against the Taliban that were preparing offensives against the remaining areas under their control. Northern Alliance elements still wield tremendous influence over the Afghan government.
After 9/11, when the US and its allies invaded Afghanistan, the Northern Alliance supported the invasion and got the lion’s share in the Afghan government led by Hamid Karzai. Even today, President Ashraf Ghani is surrounded by elements from the former Northern Alliance, who do not wish for any reconciliation with the Taliban, because they will have to share power with them. On the other hand, the US is interested in the continuation of instability in Afghanistan to warrant its existence. While Washington verbally supported the negotiation process, in reality it aimed to derail it, as peace can diminish the American influence and increase the Russian and Chinese influence. The US has been accusing Pakistan of supporting the Taliban and providing safe havens particularly to Haqqani network. It openly blames that Pakistan plays a duplicitous role, whereas the US expects of Pakistan to do more but rewards India with a special role in Afghanistan.
Pakistan has a point when it says that TTP militants have been provided safe havens in eastern Afghanistan by RAW-NDS nexus, and are encouraged to launch attack on Pakistani check posts and villages. Following a string of deadly assaults in Kabul in January 2018, President Trump announced that Washington was not going to hold talks with the Taliban, which has been leading an armed rebellion since it was overthrown from power by US-led forces in 2001. According to BBC’s research, about 15 million people – half the population — are living in areas that are either controlled by the Taliban or areas from where the Taliban can regularly mount attacks. The extent to which the Taliban have pushed beyond their traditional southern stronghold into eastern, western and northern parts of the country is clearly visible from the BBC study and research. Finally, if Kabul is not safe, what to talk of other areas.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.
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