Scrutinizing Subverting Dynamics

PAKISTAN’S reluctance to comply with the United States misdirected directives in Afghanistan enraged the Trump administration. It is accusing, maligning and above all intimidating Pakistan at the international forums. Recently, it tabled a resolution against Pakistan at the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) meeting in Paris. Indeed, such coercing tactics obstruct the efforts for peace and stability in Afghanistan. And also undermine Pakistan’s ongoing operations against the transnational terrorist organizations.

The National Unity Government has gradually been losing its control in Afghanistan. The weakening writ of Kabul in the country is in the advantage of both Afghan Taliban and Daesh (IS). The increasing influence of Afghan Taliban is against the interest of the United States. It exposes Americans failure in the country. Therefore, it has been scapegoating Pakistan. Instead of succumbing to the Americans demands, the Pakistani officials asked the American counterparts to stop blaming them for their failure in Afghanistan. Speaking at the 54th Munich Security Conference in Germany, Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Bajwa reiterated Pakistan’s resolve to erase completely the transnational terrorist organizations sanctuaries. He apprised the audience about the heroic sacrifices of the Pakistanis in defeating al-Qaeda, Tehreek-e-Taliban and other outlawed militant groups. He stated: “Instead of blame game it is time for NATO to conduct and audit an introspection to find out the causes of this stalemate” in Afghanistan. The regrouping of Daesh in the country alarms all the neighbors of Afghanistan. Consequently, Russia, China and Pakistan are deliberating to combat the emerging threat of Daesh collectively in their neighborhood. They have started a trilateral dialogue process. On April 14, 2017, Russians had also convened 12 nations meeting for the restoration of peace in Afghanistan, in Moscow. The primary focus of the meeting was to prevent Daesh from spreading its tentacles in the war-torn Afghanistan. On February 20, 2018, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated in a press conference with his Pakistani counterpart Khawaja Asif, “We have confirmed Russia’s readiness to continue boosting Pakistan’s counterterrorism capacity, which is in the entire region’s interests.” Precisely, the Russians and Pakistanis have convergence of interest in denying space to Daesh in Afghanistan.

Increasing role of China and Russia in Afghanistan affairs seems unacceptable to the United States. The United States considers China and Russia its strategic peers and Afghanistan as a heartland of Eurasia. The United States ‘National Security Strategy 2017’ document declassified on December 18, 2017 revealed that: “China and Russia challenge American power, influence, and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity.” Presently, Pakistan is a strategic partner of China. On February 20, 2018, Islamabad and Moscow also agreed to form a commission for military cooperation. Perhaps, Islamabad’s increasing cooperation with Beijing and Moscow generates skepticism in Washington.

New Delhi always scapegoats Islamabad for its failure in the Indian Occupied Kashmir.

Since mid-1980s, New Delhi has been struggling to establish its authority in the valley. However, the Kashmiri freedom fighters have made the Indian civil law enforcement agencies as well as Army dysfunctional in the area. Instead of assessing the ground realities, the Americans are echoing Indians unsubstantiated allegations leveled against Pakistan. In fact, the Indians are trying to camouflage Kashmiris legitimate freedom movement with the propaganda of Jihad, etc. The international community has adopted an apathetic attitude towards the annihilation of Kashmiris, Palestinians, Rohingyas, Azeri’s, etc. The suffering of innocent Muslims obliges international community to protect them from brutal state terrorism. Unfortunately, the international community response is not encouraging. The indifferent behavior of the international community creates space for the radicalized militants to exploit the grievances of innocent victims for their own heinous agenda. On February 17, 2018, General Bajwa in his introductory speech on ‘Jihadism after Caliphate’ at Munich Security Conference pointed out that: “there is no denying of the fact that a powerful concept such as Jihad can be easily misused for propagating extremism and terrorism, particularly as many Muslims world over are not only feeling alienated, but disowned, targeted and devoid of positive expression.” Hence, for preventing the misuse of the concept of Jihad, the international community has to act proactively for the protection Kashmiris, Palestinians, Rohingyas, Azeri’s, etc. Otherwise, the narrative of the extremist militants’ groups continues misguiding the innocent Muslims world over.

Islamabad does not sponsor, nurture use terrorist groups against any country. Pakistani armed forces have successfully eliminated terrorist sanctuaries. Whereas, Tehreek-e-Taliban has sanctuaries in Afghanistan, from where it is coordinating attacks against Pakistan. Hence, it’s the responsibility of the United States, NATO and Afghanistan to destroy these sanctuaries.

The increasing anarchy within Afghanistan is alarming for all its neighbors and immensely intimidating for Pakistan. Therefore, Islamabad’s earnest desire is to restore peace and stability in the country.

However, its sincere efforts to improve its neighbor’s political and security situation seem unappealing both to Kabul and Washington. Despite “unsubstantiated” criticism from the Afghan national unity government and allegations by the Trump Administration, the government of Pakistan is endeavoring to engage constructively with both in an attempt to restore peace in Afghanistan. Recent developments do offer some optimism about the tangled relationship between the two countries.

Since its formation in 2014 the national unity government, led by President Ashraf Ghani, has struggled to establish its authority in Afghanistan. In reality, Afghan law-enforcement agencies, especially the army, are dysfunctional. Many provinces, especially eastern and southern, remain under the control of insurgents or warlords.

On February 13, 2018, Daniel R Coats, the US Director of National Intelligence, told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that analysts expect the overall situation in Afghanistan to “deteriorate modestly” in 2018 due to endless “political instability, sustained attacks by the Taliban-led insurgency, unsteady Afghan National Security Forces performance, and chronic financial shortfalls”. As a result, restoring peace and stability in the country, and organizing impartial parliamentary elections in July 2018 and a presidential election in 2019, will be herculean tasks for Ghani.

Meanwhile, the Afghan government and the Trump administration accuse Pakistan of providing safe haven to members of the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network, from where they can plan and execute attacks inside Afghanistan. Pakistani officials say they are doing their best to assure the Afghan government about their sincerity in curbing cross-border militancy.

The recent visit to Kabul by Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, offered some hope for the thawing of relations between the countries. He reiterated that the path to regional peace and stability passes through Afghanistan. Speaking at the Chiefs of Defense Conference on February 13, he tried to convince Afghan and American participants that Pakistan is not supporting militant groups. He said Pakistani armed forces had successfully conducted military operations and eliminated all terrorist sanctuaries from its soil. “However, residual signatures of terrorists who take advantage of the presence of 2.7million Afghan refugees and the absence of effective border security coordination, are also being traced and targeted through ongoing operation Raddul Fasaad,” he added.

Bajwa called on the Afghan government to reciprocate by eliminating anti-Pakistan militant sanctuaries in Afghanistan for the sake of peace and stability in the region.

His frank and honest appeal to Kabul is a step in the right direction. Without such reciprocity and the elimination of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan sanctuaries in Afghanistan, improving the tangled relationship between Islamabad and Kabul will be impossible. Importantly, the sharp downturn in relations between Pakistan and the United States negatively influences the affairs of Kabul and Islamabad. It creates more space for India to play a bigger role in Afghanistan, which Pakistan considers detrimental to its national security.

To balance this Indian and American influence in its neighborhood, Islamabad has been working to improve its relations with the Russians and Chinese. This has annoyed Washington and also undermines its positive role in Pakistani affairs. The United States is not prepared to compromise on its control in Afghanistan and so is apprehensive about the Russians and Chinese having a growing role in the country. Moreover, Washington is reluctant to engage the Afghan Taliban, given that a condition of such dialogue would be the complete withdrawal of foreign troops. Hence, the possibility of any meaningful dialogue to secure enduring peace and stability in Afghanistan seems slim, and maybe impossible until NATO and US troops leave Afghanistan. The reluctance of the Afghan Taliban to participate unconditionally in talks with the unity government also fuels the mistrust of Pakistan in Kabul and Washington.

To conclude, the continuing failure of Pakistan to improve its troubled relationship with Afghanistan is perilous for its security, and a destructive obstacle to its economic prosperity. Admittedly, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project is progressing despite the turmoil in the region. Perhaps it will receive a boost if the Pakistan-Afghanistan relationships ever settles down.

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About Dr. Zafar N Jaspal 13 Articles
The writer is Associate Professor, School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad & Member Advisory Board at ‘Mélange int’l Magazine’ and Center of Pakistan and International Relations (COPAIR).