Find­ing so­lu­tion to Afghan con­flict

Pakistan Observer - - OPINION - Ma­lik M Ashraf Email:ashrafazim2000@ya­

IN the back­drop of dron­ing the Af ghan Tal­iban leader Mul­lah Man­soor Akhtar on the Pak­istani soil and the strain that the in­ci­dent put on re­la­tions be­tween the two coun­tries, the US Spe­cial Rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Pak­istan and Afghanistan Richard Ol­son and Chair­man US Se­nate Arms Ser­vices Com­mit­tee Sen­a­tor John McCain along with a con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion, came to Pak­istan in an os­ten­si­ble move to res­ur­rects the ties be­tween the two coun­tries. They have held talks with the civil­ian and mil­i­tary lead­er­ship where the fo­cus of dis­cus­sion in­vari­ably was re­gional se­cu­rity and peace in Afghanistan, repa­tri­a­tion of Afghan refugees and over­all re­la­tions be­tween the two coun­tries.

The Pak­istani side un­der­lined its fo­cus on ef­fec­tive bor­der man­age­ment on the Afghanistan-Pak­istan bor­der with a view to en­hanc­ing se­cu­rity and counter-ter­ror­ism ef­forts and also the need for repa­tri­a­tion of the Afghan refugees. Pak­istan also re­it­er­ated its com­mit­ment to the Quadri­lat­eral Co­or­di­na­tion Group (QCG) as an ef­fec­tive fo­rum to fa­cil­i­tate the Afghanowned and Afghan-led rec­on­cil­i­a­tion process. The Chief of the Army Staff Gen­eral Ra­heel Sharif talk­ing to Sen­a­tor John McCain un­der­lined the need to check un­law­ful move­ments on the Pak-Afghan bor­der. He said a sta­ble Afghanistan was in Pak­istan’s in­ter­est and the re­la­tion­ship be­tween both coun­tries held the key to re­gional peace and se­cu­rity. Both the vis­it­ing dig­ni­taries more or less agreed with the Pak­istani po­si­tion on these is­sues and Sen­a­tor McCain in par­tic­u­lar was very ap­pre­cia­tive of Pak­istan’s role in com­bat­ing ter­ror­ism and the suc­cess of op­er­a­tion Zarb-i-Azb af­ter vis­it­ing Mi­ran Shah. But the irony is that in spite of the ac­knowl­edge­ment of the need for bor­der man­age­ment to check the wave of across the bor­der ter­ror­ism, noth­ing worth­while has been done. It is worth men­tion­ing that dur­ing al­most all in­ter­ac­tions be­tween the Afghan and Pak­istan au­thor­i­ties and the in­tel­li­gence out­fits of the two coun­tries, the is­sue of bor­der man­age­ment has re­mained on top of the agenda. In the back­drop of the APS at­tack the in­tel­li­gence agencies con­cluded an agree­ment for ex­change of in­for­ma­tion and co­op­er­a­tion in re­gards to ef­fec­tive bor­der man­age­ment. Even be­fore the com­mence­ment of op­er­a­tion Zarb-iAzb the Afghan au­thor­i­ties were taken into con­fi­dence with the re­quest to take care of the bor­der so that no ter­ror­ist from North Waziris­tan could es­cape to Afghanistan. Re­gret­tably that co­op­er­a­tion was never ex­tended, with the re­sult that the op­er­a­tives of TTP launched more at­tacks on Pak­istan soil while sit­ting in Afghanistan, like the one on Bacha Khan Univer­sity.

In this re­gard the en­tire blame can­not be hurled at the Afghan gov­ern­ment. The US which has a mil­i­tary pres­ence in Afghanistan and has a great in­flu­ence on the Afghan gov­ern­ment failed to ei­ther per­suade the Afghan gov­ern­ment to ex­tend nec­es­sary co­op­er­a­tion to Pak­istan in this re­gard or de­lib­er­ately avoided the fi­nal­iza­tion of such an ar­range­ment. The USA un­for­tu­nately has been pur­su­ing a pol­icy in Afghanistan which is in con­flict with the ground re­al­i­ties in that coun­try and the re­sult is be­fore us. Afghanistan re­mains as con­flict-rid­den as it was when the US and NATO forces launched their blitzkrieg. Re­port­edly Sen­a­tor John McCain, ac­cord­ing to a pri­vate TV chan­nel, has said that the re­spon­si­bil­ity of trou­ble in Afghanistan and fail­ure to re­solve it did not lie with Pak­istan or Pres­i­dent Ashraf Ghani but with the wrong and failed poli­cies of Pres­i­dent Obama.

As rightly pointed out by Pak­istan gov­ern­ment and the COAS, re­gional se­cu­rity and peace in Afghanistan de­pends on peace in both the coun­tries. The ge­o­graph­i­cal re­al­i­ties can­not be changed. There can be no peace in Pak­istan un­til Afghanistan re­turns to nor­malcy and vice versa. There is a need for sin­cere ef­forts on the part of all the stake­hold­ers to adopt a strat­egy and mech­a­nism which con­trib­utes to bring­ing real peace in the re­gion and an ef­fec­tive check on the phe­nom­e­non of ter­ror­ism. The QCG prob­a­bly is the best fo­rum cur­rently avail­able to make some head­way to­wards that end, provided the USA first of all plays a me­di­a­tory role in help­ing the Afghan gov­ern­ment and Pak­istan to re­solve their dif­fer­ences and mis­giv­ings about each other and make the for­mer re­al­ize that no so­lu­tion to the Afghan co­nun­drum was pos­si­ble or con­ceiv­able with­out ac­tive in­volve­ment and co­op­er­a­tion of Pak­istan. The US also needs to trust Pak­istan’s cre­den­tials as an hon­est and com­mit­ted part­ner in pro­mot­ing peace in Afghanistan and stop ac­cus­ing it of du­plic­i­tous role that it has been do­ing in­vari­ably.

Un­der the pre­vail­ing cir­cum­stances, Pak­istan would be last coun­try to wish con­tin­u­a­tion of con­flict in Afghanistan. Peace in Afghanistan was ab­so­lutely es­sen­tial for peace in Pak­istan, im­ple­ment­ing its new nar­ra­tive of build­ing re­gional link­ages for shared eco­nomic pros­per­ity, re­al­iza­tion of CPEC and repa­tri­a­tion of 3 mil­lion Afghan refugees. The US also needs to re­visit its pol­icy of as­sign­ing greater role to In­dia in Afghanistan and the con­sid­er­a­tion of per­ma­nent de­ploy­ment of US troops in Afghanistan like Korea, Ja­pan and Ger­many, as is be­ing cur­rently con­tem­plated in cer­tain cir­cles in the US ad­min­is­tra­tion. The top most de­mand of Tal­iban is exit of US troops from Afghanistan. The US can strengthen the QCG mech­a­nism by ac­cept­ing the re­al­ity that it can­not force a so­lu­tion of its own choice in Afghanistan. — The writer is free­lance colum­nist based in Islamabad.

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