Afghan factor in Pak-US ties
DESPITE a determined and hectic effort of Pakistan, peace and stability is still not insight in Afghanistan. Even today, over 50% area of Afghanistan is under the influence of Taliban, who are running their parallel government with their own judicial and legislative system. Over the years, the Afghan Government has not been able to control the Taliban, despite maintaining over 350,000 Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). This is irony that, this huge number of ANSF still needs reinforcement of US forces, once attacked by Taliban. This is a clear indication that, there is a defector rule of Taliban over the troubled land of this country except Kabul and few surrounding areas.
Unfortunately, Afghanistan has been a troubled neighbour for Pakistan right from the inception of later as independent state in 1947. The post Soviet scenario (1980s) and particularly, the incident of 9/11 has increased the US stakes in Afghanistan. Pakistan was a frontline state, fighting Soviet invasion in 1980s and it again acted as frontline runner in the current phase, the US invasion of its neighbourhood. The outcomes of both phases of foreign invasions have been the same for Pakistan. Both foreign invasions brought instability in Pakistan, increased influx of Afghan refugees and above all, added accusations against Pakistan.
In today’s Pak-US relationship, the Afghan factor seems more prominent and dominant. United States has its strategic objectives, being taken care of with its presence in Afghanistan. For its long-term stay in Afghanistan, it needs pretext in the form of instability in that country with a favorable regime there. The US contention runs counter to the Pakistani narrative, which desires peace and stability in Afghanistan. In fact, the peace and stability in Afghanistan is a pre-requisite for peace and stability in Pakistan, which faces internal instability ever since US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
In the process, the US interests converged with the Indian interests in Afghanistan. India has been instrumental in the promotion of odd relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan since decades and its collaboration with the super power provided it an excellent opportunity to further single out the Pakistan. There has been convergence of US and Indian interests in Afghanistan after 2001 and both have been collaborating against Pakistan through the promotion of militancy in neighbouring FATA region and Balochistan Province of Pakistan. The Indian agenda of promoting trust deficit between Pakistan and Afghanistan has worked well in the post 2001 scenario.
In the garb of Afghan reconstruction, Indian spying network made inroads into the Afghan society and created a hate against Pakistan. This is despite the fact that, Pakistan has hosted over 4 million Afghan refugees over the decades and provided them all educational and medical facilities at par with the Pakistani Citizens. Pakistan also provided all out logistic assistance to Afghan masses and government. Indian investment of $2 billion for its strategic objectives in Afghanistan cannot undermine the services, Pakistan provided to Afghanistan for decades now.
Despite Poor Pakistani economy, it has provides, over $385 Million for the development, education and infrastructure building in Afghanistan. The current Government has further provided $500 Million for the development in Afghanistan.
Pakistan has funded different educational institutions inside Afghanistan such as Allama Iqbal Faculty of ArtsKabul University, Sir Syed Post Graduate Faculty of SciencesNangarhar University, Liaqat Ali Khan Engineering University- Bulkh, Rahman Baba School- Kabul and Rahman Baba Hostel- Kabul. Pakistan has helped Afghan government in developmental projects and roads infrastructure, including building of 75 kilometers Torkham-Jalalabad Road, additional carriageway on TorkhamJalalabad Road, three internal roads in Jalalabad, digital radio link between Kabul and Peshawar. In addition, Pakistan has also given around 100 public transport buses and 200 trucks to the government of Afghanistan for the welfare of Afghan public. Nevertheless, there is no acknowledgement of all these Pakistani sacrifices and assistance by successive Afghan governments.
In the bilateral Pak-US relationship, the Afghan factor has attained the central role. Pakistan was able to bring the Afghan Taliban on the negotiating table in July 2015 in Murree. It was NDS and Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, who sabotaged the process by declaring the death of Mullah Omar. Indeed, Pakistan knew that, but wanted the success of re-conciliation process without division among the Taliban factions. Mullah Akhtar Mansoor was the man at the helm of affairs for that round of peace talk. Killing of Mullah Akhtar Mansoor by US through a drone strike on May 21, 2016 was a major blow to the peace process in Afghanistan. It was only three days after the successful conclusion of the 5th Quadrilateral Cooperation Group meeting in Islamabad. This killing and subsequent US discriminatory actions against Pakistan in collaboration with India seems, initiation of a new turn in Pak-US bilateral relationship. Apart from the Kabul, New Delhi seems a new angle of Pak-US relationship.
Despite the success of Pakistan in Operation Zarb-i-Azb, where it indiscriminately acted against all terrorist groups, US demand that, Pakistan need to take action against Haqqani Network is misplaced and unfortunate. This indeed is to cover up the actions of RAW backed NDS, which is harbouring terrorism in Pakistan through TTP elements, taken refuge in Kunar and Nuristan provinces of Afghanistan. It is very strange, that, NDS rather securing its own country, promoting terrorism in Pakistan on behest of RAW.
The visiting US officials; Special US Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Amb. Richard Olson and Senior Adviser and Director for South Asian Affairs at the National Security Council Dr Peter Lavoy have been told in clear wording by Pakistan that, “Pakistan would no longer tolerate drone strikes on its soil” and any such action will jeopardise the Pak-US bilateral relationship. It is worth mentioning that, both civilian and military leadership were categorical in this regard. It is about time that, Pakistan has to act boldly and stop getting dictation from Washington. Kabul and New Delhi also need to be told in clear terms that, they should stop accusations against Pakistan and stop harbouring terrorism inside Pakistan through their spying networks. — The writer is International Relations analyst based in Islamabad.