Effort to reset Pak-Afghan ties

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NEWS & VIEWS

Mohammad Jamil

AFGHAN President Ashraf Ghani has extended an invitation to Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to visit Kabul to initiate state to state comprehensive dialogue as part of a move to reset ties that have deteriorated between the two neighbors due to mistrust and misunderstandings. Ashraf Ghani made the offer on Saturday to visiting Pakistani National Security Adviser Nasser Khan Janjua in Kabul. Three weeks ago, Ashraf Ghani had expressed his desire to improve ties with Islamabad when he announced his peace talks overture to the Taliban. “This is to initiate state-to-state comprehensive dialogue,” Ghani said in a tweet after meeting Janjua at the presidential palace. A spokesman for the Afghan President, Dawa Khan Meenapal, said the focus of today’s meeting between Ashraf Ghani and Nasseer Khan Janjua was follow up of the former’s offer of an olive branch to the Taliban.
The visit of Pakistan’s National Security Advisor and Ghani’s offer to Abbasi came less than a week after the US Secretary of Defense James Mattis said during a visit to Kabul that there was no military solution to the Afghan war and that elements within the Taliban were interested in initiating peace talks with Kabul. So far the Taliban has refused to indicate whether the group will accept Ghani’s offer or turn it down as it has done several times in the past. But last month the Taiban had shown readiness to engage with the United States, which had toppled the Taliban government from power in late 2001 and whom it sees as the main adversary. At the same time the militants have stepped up their attacks and on Saturday in a suicide car attack one of the group’s bombers in Kabul killed several locals. Meanwhile, half-an-hour one-on-one meeting between PM Khaqan Abbassi and US Vice President Mike Pence ay latter’s residence at the US Naval Observatory near the Pakistan embassy in Washington. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence told Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi that his country should work more closely with the United States and do more to defeat the Taliban and other militants. Shahid Khaqan Abbasi assured Pence of Pakistan’s “sincere commitment” to the efforts to facilitate the peace process in Afghanistan while highlighting Pakistan’s successful efforts in combating terror within its own territory. Of course, Pakistan can try to persuade the Taliban to hold talks with the Afghan government, but does not have enough of leverage to force them to either talk with Afghan government or the US. The fact of the matter is that many Taliban commanders reportedly consider Pakistan as US ally for having allowed NATO forces to use its territory to invade Afghanistan.
Anyhow, Afghan government has realized that when more than 100000 US and NATO forces, and 250000 Afghan forces and Afghan police raised by them could not rein in the Taliban who continue to control large swathes of land in Afghanistan, how 15000 US military could defeat the Taliban. In fact, the US and its allies failed to understand that Afghans have always guarded their independence religiously, and throughout its recorded history no power could subjugate them except for a brief period as in case of British or later Soviet occupation. Much earlier, the result of three Anglo-Afghan wars was either defeat of the British Empire or at the most what it called a tactical victory. In 1970s, former Soviet Union had occupied Afghanistan, what was said, Afghan government had requested to send two battalions for personal security of Tarahki because he smelled conspiracy from Hafizullah Amin who was suspected of being an American agent.
After Hafizullah Amin overthrew Tarahki in a bloody coup and took over the charge, Soviet troops invaded Kabul on December 25th 1979, on order from Moscow to replace the radical Hafizullah Amin with the Soviet-endorsed Babrak Karmal as head of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. Anyhow, Soviet army had to face stiff resistance by Afghans, and the US on finding an opportunity to make Afghanistan Soviet Union’s ‘Vietnam’ tried to chanelize the Afghans’ energies and their passion for jihad. Using international media, jihadis from all over the world especially from Arab countries were inspired, motivated and funded by the US. Pakistan was indeed the frontline state against Communism. Yet, neocons continued to denigrate Pakistan. In his speeches during presidential elections frontrunner of Republican Party Donald Trump had termed Pakistan “a vital problem for the United States (US) because they have a thing called nuclear weapons”. The rest is history.
Pak-US relations have suffered serious setbacks due to misperceptions and distrust. Pakistan is often accused of selective military operation and taking action only against those terrorists who pose threat to Pakistan. Pakistan however claims to have conducted operations against all militant groups. In fact, since 1950s, Pakistan has been looking after American interests after it joined military pacts with the West. When US spy plane U-2 took off from Buda Ber near Peshawar and was shot down by Soviet Union in 1960, whose interest Pakistan had served if not the US? Yet Pakistan’s ally – the US – became ‘non-aligned’ during 1965 war between India and Pakistan. Once again, Pakistan became the frontline state after Soviet forces entered Afghanistan on the request of Afghan government in late 1970s, which was indeed done to serve interest of the US and the West, which was detrimental to national interest.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.

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