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Prospects of Taliban-US peace talks by Brig Gen(R) Asif Haroon Raja

Prospects of Taliban-US peace talks

 

Asif Haroon Raja

 

17 years have gone by but so far there are little prospects for the longest war in Afghanistan to come to an end. Lilliputians have paralyzed the Gulliver and brought a standoff in the war. Neither side is in a position to defeat the other. Since time is on the side of the Taliban, a change is discernible in the jingoistic mindset of the US administration under Donald Trump over the last six months. Both the military and civil American leaders are talking of peace which is something new and unique since so far their outlook toward Afghanistan has been to derive an outcome of their choice by using excessive force. All these years, the successive regimes of George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Trump sought to defeat the Taliban on the battlefield, forcing them to surrender their arms, bring them to the negotiating table and then compel them to sign the US dictated peace treaty and arrive at a political settlement.

  

Governed by geo-economics interests, George Bush had initiated the war on terror after 9/11. After occupying Afghanistan in November 2001, ignoring demographic factor he installed Northern Alliance heavy regime and sidelined the majority Pashtuns. In May 2003, Iraq was occupied under trumped-up charges and a Shia regime installed. Torture dens like Bagram prison, Abu Gharaib and Guantanamo Bay functioned unchallenged. Bush used force throughout his 8-year rule and it was during his rule that the apparently defeated Taliban after regrouping had started striking the occupying forces and Afghan forces (ANSF) fiercely. Likewise, Iraqi resistance forces in league with Al-Qaeda gave a tough time to the invaders.  

 

Besides the two-front war, the US in collaboration with India and the puppet regime in Kabul had opened a third front against Pakistan which it had declared as an ally, a frontline state and non-NATO ally to fight terrorism. The US and its strategic allies had opted for a secret covert war against Pakistan to extract its nuclear teeth and make it a compliant state. When the militancy in Afghanistan was pushed into Pakistan in 2003/04, the latter had to deploy 100,000 security forces in FATA to combat foreign paid terrorists in FATA. Baluchistan was also heated up in the same timeframe. The troop numbers have now increased to about 200,000 in the northwest.

 

CIA spread its outreach to Eastern Europe and colour revolutions started in the Baltic States during Bush time. China-US and Russia-US rivalry picked up momentum. Blackwater was used in Iraq.

 

From 2004 onwards Indo-US-Afghan nexus embarked upon a coordinated and sustained vicious propaganda campaign against Pakistan to supplement covert operations through proxies. Major accusations were: Nuclear proliferation, unsafe nuclear program, Pak Army and ISI in cahoots with militant groups are rogue outfits, Al-Qaeda headquartered in South Waziristan. Later on, it was accused of not doing enough. Do more mantra was aimed at weakening Pakistan from within.      

 

Once Obama took over in January 2009, he closed the Iraq front and carried out two troop surges in 2009 under his Af-Pak policy in order to let ISAF under Gen McChrystal and ANSF to quell the Al-Qaeda and Taliban threat. ISAF strength rose to 1, 50,000. The proxy war in FATA and settled areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was stepped up forcing Pakistan to launch military operations in Malakand Division, Swat, Bajaur, South Waziristan and other agencies of FATA in 2009-10. Black Water was inducted in Pakistan in 2008/09 to fan terrorism in urban centres. Quetta Shura was added in the list of accusation in 2011. Pakistan was blamed for terrorism in Afghanistan and Kashmir.

 

Obama brought in drones to target militants in Afghanistan and Waziristan. He also opened fronts in Libya, Yemen, Syria, Tunisia, Egypt, Somalia, Niger, and Sudan through Arab Spring. ISIS phenomenon took birth in Iraq, Syria and other Middle East (ME) countries in his tenure. Regime change in Ukraine was masterminded by CIA, which impelled Russia to capture Crimea and to support resistance forces in Eastern Ukraine. Russian air force stepped into Syrian war in September 2015 during Obama time. The only de-escalating step taken by Obama regime was the nuclear deal with Iran in July 2015 which averted a warlike situation in the ME. 

 

When troop casualties of occupying forces in Afghanistan doubled in 2009 and 2010, Obama was forced to announce a drawdown plan starting July 2011 and ending it by December 2014. During this period, not only the Taliban remained aggressive and maintained a dominating edge in southern and eastern Afghanistan, the ISAF faced increased suicide and post-stress disorder cases as well as green over blue attacks. Occupying troops indulged in atrocities through night raids and air war.

 

As a result, Obama initiated a political prong in 2011 and resorted to the strategy of fight and talk and to divide the Taliban. Efforts were made to separate Haqqanis under Jalaluddin and his sons from Taliban under Mullah Omar and pitch former against the latter but failed. No worthwhile results accrued from backdoor parleys because of the insincerity of the US and its allies and the insistence of USA that talks should be between the Taliban and the Kabul government only. This was unacceptable to the Taliban who viewed the Karzai and later the Ghani regimes as collaborators and illegitimate.

 

In 2011, Raymond Davis incident, followed by US Navy Seals raid in Abbottabad and Apache helicopters attacks on military posts in Salala dipped Pak-US relations to the lowest ebb, forcing Pakistan to cut off military relations and close the NATO supply lines for 8 months. Washington had to apologize to normalize the relations.  

 

In June 2013, a political office of Taliban was set-up at Doha. When the drawdown was nearing completion, the Pentagon, CIA, Israel, India and Kabul regime prevailed upon Obama and forced him to sign another bilateral agreement with the unity regime in Kabul managed by John Kerry to leave behind a Resolute Support Group (RSG) of 5-6000 to provide training, technical assistance, counter-terrorism and air support to ANSF.

 

 

The security situation in Afghanistan began to deteriorate after the departure of the bulk of ISAF troops and the Taliban gained total control over 47% of the country’s districts from where they could strike targets in all parts of the country.

 

In June 2014, Operation Zarb-e-Azb was launched by Pak Army in North Waziristan which dismantled all the bases of foreign-sponsored TTP and other militant groups totalling over 60, flushing them out of FATA. Although the major demand of USA was fulfilled, it was, in reality, a setback for the schemers as far as their ulterior designs against Pakistan were concerned.

 

In 2015, quadrilateral peace talks were initiated by the US, China, Pakistan and Afghanistan and Pakistan were asked to use its influence and make the Taliban agree to talk. When Islamabad arranged the talks in July that year and scheduled another meeting in the same month which would have surely made a breakthrough, the spoilers in Afghanistan scuttled the peace process by announcing the death of Mullah Omar. They didn’t want to negotiate from a weaker wicket.

 

Pakistan made another attempt when the Taliban were under the leadership of Mullah Akhtar Mansour. But the latter was killed by a US drone in Baluchistan in May 2016, thereby demolishing the peace process.

 

The US wants the Taliban to compromise and accept the US-drafted democracy and constitution, share power as a junior partner, disallow use of Afghan territory by foreign terrorists and to maintain friendly relations with the USA. 

 

The Taliban under Haibatullah Akhundzada have continued with their offensive drive to free their homeland from foreign occupation, regain the seat of power they were deprived of, and restore Islamic system of governance.

 

Like Bush, Obama kept its tilt toward India and visited India twice skipping Pakistan. All big deals with India like civil nuclear agreement, strategic partnership, missile deal, logistics, strategic communications and maritime security agreements were signed with India during Obama’s tenure. The two US leaders have been instrumental in enhancing the presence and influence of India in Afghanistan.  

 

When Trump took over power in January 2017, the US was no more a great country. It had lost its prestige owing to failures in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, unipolarism had given way to multi-polarism, and the USA had become the most hated nation in the Muslim world because of its anti-Muslim agenda. Instead of taking steps to call off the war on terror, he sheathed the political prong, increased the troop level of RSG to 18000, and gave a signal for a fresh military push against the Taliban to shore up ANSF.

 

At the same time, while announcing his new Afghan policy in August 2017, he put the whole blame of instability in Afghanistan upon Pakistan, and not only accused it of providing safe havens to the HN and Afghan Taliban but also supporting them. Since then, Pakistan is on notice and there is no letup in his belligerence. Punitive steps have been taken to compel Pakistan to do more. These include disinformation campaign, threats, suspension of reimbursement of CSF, putting Pakistan in the grey list, suspending military training, and directing IMF not to provide loans for repaying loans to China or for CPEC, provoking India and Afghanistan to step up hostile acts against Pakistan.

 

Trump has earned the hostility of Russia, China, Turkey, Iran, North Korea, Mexico and Pakistan, and has made NATO and EU resentful.    

         

Over one year has lapsed but the US military and ANSF have failed to turn the tide in their favour. Taliban have now started fighting battles in provincial capitals Lashkargah, Ghazni, Farah, Zabul, Uruzgan and Kunduz. Kabul and Bagram have been attacked repeatedly. They now control about 65% of the territory. While the Taliban have expressed their desire to hold talks and that too with the US only, they are not desperate for talks. They know that the wind is blowing in their favour.

 

Ashraf Ghani has been offering unconditional talks since last February and reportedly offered them control over four provinces in southern Afghanistan. Without peace holding of parliamentary elections in coming October will be problematic.   

 

The US, on the other hand, is desperate for peace since the ANSF lacking in fighting spirit and rived in discipline problems cannot defeat or even contain the Taliban, and are in disarray. The unity government is tumbling due to inner rift, inefficiency, corruption and unpopularity. The RSG is fast losing heart and is feeling insecure. The general public has now started holding protest marches asking the foreign troops to quit. Home pressure is building on Trump asking him to exit from the quagmire of Afghanistan at the earliest since it has become a drain on country’s economy. The TTP created by Indo-US-Afghan nexus to defeat Pak military is in tatters. In anger, Fazlullah was killed in June 2018. India which has been made a leading player has abstained from helping in reversing the dipping fortunes of the USA in Afghanistan. The US has lost its leverage over Pakistan after closing the taps of military aid and training. Pakistan has refused to get intimidated and is veering towards China and Russia.

 

The prospects for peace talks brightened when a 3-day ceasefire was religiously implemented on the occasion of Eidul Fitr in June. The two warring opponents mingled and embraced each other and took selfies. The effectiveness of the truce during which the Taliban laid down their arms, and then resumed fighting after the truce signalled how much control the Taliban leaders have over their fighters. 

 

It was under such distressful circumstances that the US agreed to hold preliminary direct talks with Taliban at Doha for the first time on July 28 to find a way out for restoring peace. Its willingness indicates the urgency to end the conflict. This comedown is seen as a diplomatic victory for the Taliban. The latter is no more solely dependent upon Pakistan since Russia, China, Iran, Qatar are supporting them. Moscow had invited the Taliban, US and Kabul for peace talks, but the latter two declined. Increased interest of Russia in Afghan affairs is another factor which is impelling the USA to patch up with Taliban.   

 

The second direct talks are likely to be held this month, in which the issue of release of Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo Bay will be discussed to create an amiable atmosphere. The Taliban are showing flexibility in their stance by not insisting on occupying forces to withdraw first and then hold talks. They now want a firm timetable of withdrawal and do not agree to retention of even a single military base as desired by the USA. They would certainly seek a larger role in the future government.

 

One of the major reason for Russia and Iran to support the Taliban is the presence of Daesh (Khurasan) under Wilayat Khurasan (WK) who were brought and settled in Nangarhar and married with Jamaat-al-Ahrar by CIA-RAW in 2014 to fight the Taliban as well destabilize Pakistan. Russia and Iran are also opposed to the US-led reconciliation. Central Asian Republics (CARs) are also wary of Daesh who have an international agenda.

 

Having seen the fate of Syria at the hands of Daesh, the Taliban are also desirous of peace and are seeking the cooperation of other regional countries. They are suffering since 1978 and have learnt lessons and would not like to commit old mistakes and get isolated in the world comity. They also do not want the recurrence of 1991-94 like civil war, or Syria like conditions and like to have a peaceful transition of power. They have given an assurance that unlike al-Qaeda and Daesh, they have no international agenda. They opened communications with Russia, China and Iran which enabled them more avenues of arms supplies to continue with their freedom struggle with greater vigor. But the fact is that no one wants the US to pull out abruptly and ignites another civil war.

 

Notwithstanding the desire for peace by Haibatullah, it must not be overlooked that he has opponents within the Taliban movement who are opposed to him and to peace talks. Rahbari Shura and HN have little appetite for peace talks. Quetta Shura leaders particularly WK linked with HN oppose Haibatullah. It is owing to internal strife that Haibatullah wants to consolidate his position and negotiate from a position of strength after achieving major victories in the battlefield. He aims at capturing a provincial capital. It was with this end in view that big efforts were made to capture Kunduz and Lashkargah and lately Ghazni. While the Taliban have the capability to capture a city but do not have the capacity to retain it as had been seen in Kunduz.

 

The US was at ease as long as Kabul, provincial capitals, strategic communication lines and its eight military bases were safe. Attacks on Kabul and other capitals have unnerved the military forces. What is most worrisome for the US is that it is losing on all counts and finds itself in a nutcracker situation. It can neither afford to exit as a defeated superpower nor can it stay for long. It has lost the war but is not acknowledging it and badly wants a face-saving formula. It can exit only through Pakistan and not via the northern network which is no more available to ship out heavy baggage. The US is faring poorly on all other fronts including the domestic front where Trump has become highly unpopular. Both Pakistan and Taliban are defiant and holding their ground.

 

Judging from the mood of new Pakistan in which the civil-military leadership have come on one page, it cannot rule out the fast emerging possibility of Pakistan slipping out of its hands and shifting to Russo-Sino camp, which could be joined by Iran and Turkey, both antagonist to the USA. The US has realized that the ANSF has become a liability, and Ghani-Abdullah unity government is not delivering.

 

The only tangible factor which has handicapped the Taliban from capturing and retaining the captured cities is the air factor. The US fears the possibility of Russia giving surface-to-air missiles to the Taliban to counter air threat. Ever growing Russo-US rift over Syria and Ukraine is turning the possibility into a reality. That will be doomsday for the occupiers and collaborators.

 

Last but not the least, CPEC has come up as a hissing cobra for both USA and India, which would not only smash their global ambitions and isolate them, but also strengthen their foes China and Pakistan.     

 

While Indo-US-Afghan nexus had yet to absorb the shocks of near demise of TTP, and Pakistan’s decision to repatriate Afghan refugees, the trio got another shock when Pakistan undertook the construction of 830 km fence, and over 400 border forts, along some of the world’s harshest terrain – the Pak-Afghan border last year. Work is expected to be completed by 2019. Why would Pakistan exert such monumental effort, allocating thousands of troops and required logistics for this undertaking? Perhaps Pakistan grows weary of waiting for other ‘vested’ interests to fulfil their promises. It is strange that the US, the Afghan regime and India are objecting instead of assisting to prevent the alleged cross-border infiltration from both sides. Obviously, it would block the covert war.

Finding itself cornered with very little room to manoeuvre, it appears that Washington has now decided to make one last attempt to secure its mercantile interests in the region at a low cost. To this end, it has once again appointed former American ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad in the USA as a special envoy of Af-Pak region. He served as an ambassador in Kabul for 5 years during Karzai rule and he had great influence over Karzai and his administration. Being a Pashtun, he has had access to key areas and had developed a relationship with Mujahideen leaders including Hikmatyar during the occupation of Afghanistan by Soviet troops. He has an ill reputation of inflicting extreme torture and excesses upon the Afghan Pashtuns.

 

It seems another plan has been hatched as a last resort to re-enact the reign of terror in Afghanistan. After inducting Daesh, the US is actively considering to induct Black Water in Afghanistan and hand over security duties to it and kill key leaders of the Taliban. Eric Prince has already undertaken two visits to Kabul. Blackwater was initially inducted in Afghanistan during his last tenure and he had a big hand in the persecution and slaughter of militant Pashtuns.

 

Khalilzad and Blackwater coming together once again may not be a coincidence and possibly a repeat action could be in the offing. Khalilzad wants to regain contacts with old Mujahideen leaders and also help Hikmatyar in winning the election and in paving the way for the exit of US troops and formation of a new regime. He is likely to play a role in the next presidential election and possibly in bringing Karzai and his team back in the saddle.

 

From the above, it is evident that the US is not interested in peace since it wants to extract mineral resources of Afghanistan and Central Asia and to accomplish its agenda of denuclearizing Pakistan. India is also anti-peace since it wants to retain its presence to encircle Pakistan and to gain access to CARs through Pakistan’s land corridor. The Kabul government is also not keen since it knows it will crumble and ANSF will splinter soon after the exit of occupying forces.

 

Peace talks are a ruse to throw wool into the eyes of the world. Had the US been sincere in arriving at a viable political settlement, it should have accepted the basic demands of Taliban such as freeing of prisoners, putting them off the blacklist, allowing them freedom of movement, unfreezing their accounts, curtailing human rights abuses and making them a stakeholder. Peace talks could be a deception to widen the existing rift within the Taliban and exploit it by pitching WK against Haibatullah.

 

Similarly, the US should not have distrusted and maltreated Pakistan because, without its wholehearted cooperation, peace is not possible. It should have acknowledged its huge sacrifices in a war it didn’t ask for, nor did it initiate. It should have lauded the efforts of Pakistan, the only country in the region to turn the tide against militancy – despite heaviest odds. It should not have prioritized Indian interests in Afghanistan over ours and pressured Pakistan to grant land access to India for trade with Afghanistan/CARs.   

 

The US must not forget that in the war against the Soviets in the 1980s, America spent billions of dollars destroying the region but practically did nothing to rebuild much of the destroyed basic infrastructure, forcing millions of Afghan refugees to flee to Pakistan where, according to UNHCR reports, approximately 1.38 million registered and one million unregistered remain sheltered to this day. The US callously overlooks the human and financial sacrifices Pakistan has made, including 70,000 war-related civilians and security forces injured or killed; and a financial loss of $ 120 million. 

Stable, peaceful and friendly Afghanistan is vital for Pakistan since it frees Pakistan of twin threat to its security and plays a part in dictating our relations with the US and India. It is with this end in view that earnest efforts have been made to appease the US-installed regime in Kabul which have so far borne no fruit mainly due to the role of spoilers. FM Qureshi visited Kabul on Sept 15 with the hope of melting the ice. He seems satisfied saying the visit was ‘advantageous’.     

 

Taking a cue from the frivolous statement of the US Ambassador in Kabul, Pakistan should remain vigilant that in its enthusiasm to melt the ice, it shouldn’t barter away national interests. Any concession to India regarding trade corridor should be linked with the resolution of Kashmir dispute and end to clandestine operations against Pakistan by India. 

What should be understood by Ashraf Ghani and Dr. Abdullah is that the war is unwinnable, and the only way to end the war is through a negotiated settlement with the Taliban. Pakistan can play a constructive role in the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process and is in the best position to bring all sides together and work for a détente.

Pakistan’s efforts will be fruitful only if its sacrifices and good work are acknowledged and spoilers are kept aside. Except for India and Kabul regime and some hawks in US administration/Senate that have constantly poured scorn on Pakistan out of malice, the world comity including UNSC Monitoring Team, Global Terrorism Index and others have heaped praises.   

Pakistan will have to promote its counter-narrative cogently to convince the world that it played a lead role in the war on terror, was the biggest victim of terrorism, and has achieved the best results.

Pakistan should remain watchful of the designs of Indo-US-Afghan nexus, be prepared to take on the emerging threats of Daesh and Black Water, speed up fencing and return of refugees, deal effectively with internal enemies promoting foreign agenda and find ways and means to deal with the catastrophic effects of hybrid war attacking the homogeneity of the society.  

 

Factionalism within Taliban leadership and vested interests of the spoilers preclude the possibility of a big breakthrough in peace talks in 2018.

 

The writer is a retired Brigadier, a war veteran, defence analyst, columnist, author of five books, Vice Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, Director Measac Research Centre, takes part in TV talk shows and seminars. asifharoonraja@gmail.com

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Trump’s Hydra-headed National Security Strategy   General Mirza Aslam Beg Former COAS Pakistan

Trump’s Hydra-headed National Security Strategy

 

General Mirza Aslam Beg

Former Chief of Army Staff, Pakistan

friendscolumn@hotmail.com

 

 

“Trump’s Security Strategy is a farce because it has no National Security Strategy.  It has outbursts.” – Roger Cohen

 

Trump’s outbursts grow from his notion of America First, where he merges his existence with passion, that defines his National Security Policy:

Protect homeland way of life; promote American prosperity; persevere peace through strength; advance American influence in the world; build India as a counterweight to China.

Trump strategy flows from the above policy. It is a hydra-headed strategy, targeting Palestine, Afghanistan, Iran, China, North Korea and Pakistan in particular

Palestine. Trump celebrates the 100 years of Balfour Declaration of 1917, which is a public statement issued by the British government during World War I, announcing support for the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine, then an Ottoman region with a minority Jewish population. It read:

His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

 

              Thus Trump has wrecked the possibility of establishing the states of Palestine and Israel, bringing the whole of Middle East to a state of crisis and catastrophe. This would result in decimation and destruction of more Muslim countries like Crusade one, which began in 2001. This is now Crusade Two, “to advance American influence in the world through strength.” Therefore chances of peace in Palestine now are remote, because the Arab World has its interests diverted towards war in Syria, Iraq and Daēsh and is engaged in managing the ravages of Arab Spring, while America, who could negotiate peace, has taken sides with Israel.

Afghanistan.

America Lost the War in Afghanistan- Egged-On By Trump Business Partners in India -Trump Wants to Make Pakistan the Fall Guy for US Afghanistan Failures

 America lost the war in Afghanistan by the year 2010, when they sent Richard Armitage to me, seeking dialogue with Afghan Taliban, who were not ready to be cheated again, as in 1990 and demanded occupation forces withdrawal as the pre-condition for talks. Despite setbacks and a gradual erosion of authority, Trump continues to reinforce his defeat through various machinations such as indirect support to Daēsh in Afghanistan, thus creating very serious security dilemma to all the neighbouring countries. He is also threatening Pakistan, to contain and curb the rising power of the Afghan resistance, so that he could “build India as the counter-weight to China”, and establish Indian hegemony from Afghanistan to Bangladesh, under the Indo-Pacific Regime. The purpose is “to persevere peace through Strength.”

Iran. Since 1980, Iran has been demonized as a serious threat to the regional countries, yet Iran has emerged resilient and strong despite sanctions, embargoes and trade restrictions, compelling America to find peace with Iran, by signing the Nuclear Deal. Trump now calls this deal “the worst deal ever been negotiated” and is not ready to sign the waivers on Iran sanctions, and threatens that “the best way to lock-in the Iranian hard-liners for the two decades would be to tear up the deal.” Trump may tear-up the deal, yet he cannot shake-off the resolve and self-confidence of the Iranian people, to “struggle to persevere peace through strength.”

Trump Choose India as a Counter-weight to China

China. Trump has called China “the strategic competitor.” Instead of joining hands with China and follow their geo-economic strategy of peace through regional cooperation, he is trying to build-up the Indian counter-weight, against the rising military and economic power of China. The Indian Counter-weight, which could not contain and curb Pakistan from rising, now has been assigned the task to contain China, with “the United States locked and loaded”, in support of India. A withering superpower could do no better than this.

Trump’s Policy Focused on Containment of China

North Korea. With limited nuclear weapon delivery capability, North Korea has been able to deter America, despite possessing a stockpile of nuclear weapons, most efficient delivery system and a state of the art air defence capability. Yet America has failed to develop a strategy that could build up pressure on North Korea and is showing a kind of helplessness, expecting China to bring sanity to the North Korean leader. The state of helplessness in case of North Korea, as well as Afghanistan, exposes the hollowness of super-power America, trying to advance their influence in the world, through farce policy initiatives.

Iran-Afghanistan-China-Pakistan-Russia

Pakistan lies at the centre stage of the regional conflict syndrome. It has to tread carefully protecting its interests, through the support of the people, embodied in the elected parliament, and building blocks of regional support of Iran-Afghanistan-Pakistan, under the security partnership of China and Russia. Pakistani nation shares with Iran, the will to resist and reject, pressures and threats and continues to rise with the sublime dignity of the great civilizations with whom it shares common borders.

Pakistan – Heart of Asia

Pakistan is the Heart of Asia, as late Liaquat Ali Khan reminded the nation and we have to prove to be true to this great heritage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Superficial Emergency Session of the OIC

The Emergency Session of the OIC did not show any seriousness amongst the members of the states. Only a few heads of the State attended. There has been an erosion of unity amongst them, and the Arab world, in particular, has been in a state of disarray after the Arab Spring. Taking advantage of the regional anarchy, America and Israel have struck, which seriously “prejudices the civil and religious rights of the Muslims and other communities of Palestine”. The situation poses a big challenge to the entire Muslim World. Except for Turkey and Iran, none seem to be taking the matter seriously. The UN General Assembly has overwhelmingly voted against Trump’s Palestine Policy, and hopefully, it would put a check to Israel’s ambition of expanding at the cost of Arab territories for Greater Israel!

 

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Who is Behind Afghanistan’s Blame Game against Pakistan? by Sajjad Shaukat

Who is Behind Afghanistan’s Blame Game against Pakistan?
By Sajjad Shaukat

 

When any terror attack occurs in Afghanistan, Afghan government revives old blame game
against Pakistan.
On May 31, this year, a massive truck bombing of the Afghan capital’s diplomatic section killed
more than 150 people and injured hundreds of others, including foreigners. It was the deadliest
terror attack in the 16-year- old conflict.
Taliban denied responsibility for the terror attack. But, Afghanistan’s intelligence service
accused the Haqqani network by saying that a Taliban-affiliated group in Pakistan, carried out
the attack. Addressing the conference-the “Kabul Process on Peace and Security Cooperation”,
held in Kabul on June 6, 2017, which was attended by representatives from 26 countries and
international organizations, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani criticized Pakistan for a lack of
cooperation in promoting Afghan peace and alleged that Taliban insurgents are using sanctuaries
on Pakistani soil to wage the insurgency in Afghanistan.
In the same speech, President Ghani offered peace talks to the Afghan Taliban by reiterating his
preconditions such as recognition of the Afghan constitution, continuity of the reforms of
educating and advancing the rights of women, and renunciation of violence and linkages with
terrorist groups.
A Taliban spokesman rejected Ghani’s offer of a peace dialogue by stating that it is another
attempt to endorse and to prolong foreign occupation of Afghanistan.
However, during the same of the conference, a powerful bomb went off at a main mosque in the
western city of Herat, killing at least 10 people. Again, Taliban spokesman denied its
involvement in connection with the explosion.

 

 

On the other side, Pakistan’s special Corps Commander Conference took the stern notice of
Afghanistan’s allegations and threats and vowed to defend the country the with full forces.
According to the press release of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), issued on June 6,
2017, the “Special Corps Commanders Conference presided over by Chief of the Army Staff
General Qamar Javed Bajwa called for Afghanistan to introspect and not allege Pakistan of
sponsoring terrorism…the conference reviewed the security situation…Strongly condemning
the Kabul blast…meeting has expressed complete solidarity with Afghan government…instead
of blaming Pakistan, Afghanistan needs to look forward and identify the real issues…Armed
forces will defend the country from each challenge and will continue work to establish peace in
the region.”
ISPR statement further reported that the meeting reaffirming continued support to regional
peace and stability, the forum reiterated military’s resolve to defend the motherland against all
types of threat.

Nevertheless, we need to know that who is behind Afghanistan’s blame game against Pakistan
and why the same continues unabated in wake of terrorism-related assaults in Pakistan.
It mentionable that the armed forces of Pakistan have successfully broken the backbone of the
foreign-backed terrorists by the successful military operations Zarb-e- Azb and Radd-ul- Fasaad
which have also been extended to other parts of the country, including Balochistan. And
Pakistan’s primarily intelligence agency, ISI has broken the network of these terrorist groups by
capturing several militants, while thwarting a number of terror attempts.
Besides, since the government of the Balochistan province announced general pardon and
protection to the Baloch militants as part of reconciliation process, many insurgents and their
leaders have surrendered their arms and decided to work for the development of Pakistan and
peace has been restored in Balochistan.
Peace has also been restored in Karachi and other provinces of Pakistan, including the tribal
areas. But, recent blasts in Balochistan and other regions of the country show that the US-led
India, Afghanistan and Israel have again started acts of sabotage to destabilize Pakistan and to
damage the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)
In this regard, as part of the latest wave of terrorism, at least 35 people, including nine police
men were killed and several others injured in a suicide blast near Arfa Tower on Ferozpur Road
in Lahore on July 24, 2017.
On the same day, ISPR statement said that Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff Gen. Qamar Javed
Bajwa raised concerns with the visiting Commander Resolute Support Mission (RSM) and
US Forces in Afghanistan, General John W. Nicholson, over “the blame game perpetrated by
some quarters in Afghanistan and United States to undermine Pakistan’s contribution to the
war on terror.
The army chief elaborated, “This theme is being played at a time when policy review is
being undertaken in USA…despite provocations, Pakistan will continue to act positively as
we consider defeat of terrorism as national interest.”
The ISPR statement further pointed out that Nicholson reiterated his appreciation of
Pakistan Army’s professionalism and admiration for resilience of the people. Both agreed on
need for continuous engagement and coordination for peace and stability in the region.
Notably, a visiting United States (US) Congressional delegation led by Senator John McCain
was taken on a tour of South Waziristan by Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa on July 3, this year.
During their visit to South Waziristan, the delegation was briefed on recent measures taken for
the improvement of the fencing of the Pak-Afghan border and enhanced surveillance.
Speaking at the event, Senator McCain stressed the importance of continued cooperation
between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Senator Graham expressed his satisfaction with the progress
against the fight against terrorism by stating, “I cannot stress how impressed I am with what’s happened in the last two years. It speaks well of the Pakistani Army and the people in this
region”. Senator Whitehouse also lauded the military’s efforts in curbing terrorism.
As a matter of fact, the US and India do not want to see peace and prosperity in the region.
Sadly, Pakistan’s dominant role in Afghanistan’s peace process under the Quadrilateral
Coordination Group (QCG) has, deliberately, been sabotaged by killing of the Taliban leader
Mullah Akhtar Mansur in CIA-operated drone attack in Balochistan. After the incident, Afghan
Taliban leaders refused to participate in the US-sponsored talks with the Afghan government.
While, in the recent past, with the help of Pakistan, a series of meetings were held in Islamabad
and Kabul among the representatives of Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and the US to develop

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Pakistan’s Foreign Policy and Current Challenges By Asif Haroon Raja

Pakistan’s Foreign Policy and Current Challenges

Asif Haroon Raja

Overview

Pakistan has, since birth, been faced with one crisis after another. The tense geopolitical environment created by hostile India and unfriendly Afghanistan was the motivating factor which impelled our leaders to accord preference to security over developing institutions and strengthening the economy. Security concerns governed our foreign policy.

Pakistan joined Western pacts mainly to find an umbrella to mitigate its security concerns. But the US never became a trustworthy and sincere ally, as was the case of former the Soviet Union with India. The western pacts proved elusive when Pakistan was truncated in 1971.

India had been working upon East Bengal since 1948 with the aim of subverting the minds of Bengalis and poisoning their minds against people of West Pakistan through an orchestrated subversion plan. It wanted to disprove Two-Nation theory. India in collusion with the former-the Soviet Union and supported by several other countries hatched the gory plan of the dismemberment of Pakistan. After nine months insurgency, Indian military jumped in to cut Pakistan to size and create Bangladesh. Indira Gandhi chortled that Two-Nation theory had been sunk into the Bay of Bengal.

In the aftermath of 9/11, another international conspiracy was hatched to dismember Pakistan. This time the conspiracy was much larger in scope and more dangerous in intent. Pakistan was to be befriended and then cut into four quasi-states. In this, India is being supported by USA, Afghanistan, Britain, Israel and the West in general. The tools in use are TTP, BLA, BRA, BLF, MQM and segment of media bolstered by bloggers, foreign paid NGOs and international media. Daesh is the latest group added to their arsenal.   

The goals are to destabilize, de-Islamise, denuclearize and balkanize Pakistan using covert means and psychological operations.

 

 

 

 

 

Pakistan was made to fight terrorism on its soil, then accused of harboring terrorists in safe havens in FATA and aiding cross border terrorism in Afghanistan, occupied Kashmir and India, and then constantly pressed to do more. The terrorist groups in FATA, Baluchistan were funded, equipped and trained to fight and exhaust Pak security forces. MQM was funded and its militants trained in India to make Karachi lawless.

India and Afghanistan were projected as victims of terrorism and Pakistan as an incubator of terrorism. The covert war launched from Afghan soil in 2002 has incurred a loss of 60,000 fatalities, injuries to tens of thousands, destruction of property, $ 118 billion financial loss and immense social trauma.

Pakistan has come under a foreign debt of $70 billion.  

The US imposed War on Terror has heightened ethnicity, sectarianism, extremism, provincialism, political instability, economic fragility and moral degeneration of society as a whole.

As a result of these frailties, Pakistan which is a nuclear power with robust armed forces that are second to none has abundant resources and resilient manpower, it has become vulnerable to foreign coercion, manipulation, and aggression.

Of all the crisis faced by Pakistan in its 70 years history, the present one is perhaps the most dangerous, both in terms of its nature and its possible consequences. Without a doubt, Pakistan is in the vortex of grave dangers and the country today stands at the cusp of survival and disaster. The Titans that have marked Pakistan as a target are impatient to fragment it. 

Pakistan’s Foreign Policy

Having given the background and overall geopolitical environment, I shall now discuss the five stages through which Pakistan’s foreign policy has moved forward to confront multiple challenges.

Quaid-e-Azam MA Jinnah had spelled out Pakistan’s foreign policy soon after the birth of Pakistan in these words:

 “Our objective should be peace within and peace without. We want to live peacefully and maintain cordial and friendly relations with our immediate neighbors and with world at large. We have no aggressive designs against any one. We stand by the United Nations Charter and will gladly make our contribution to the peace and prosperity of the world.” 

Our foreign policy is one of the friendliness and goodwill towards all the nations of the world. We do not cherish aggressive designs against any country or nation. We believe in the principle of honesty and fair-play in national and international dealings and are prepared to make our contribution to the promotion of peace and prosperity among the nations of the world. Pakistan will never be found lacking in extending its material and moral support to the oppressed and suppressed peoples of the world and in upholding the principles of the United Nations Charter.” 
Pakistan opened diplomatic relations with all the countries of the world except Israel owing to Palestinian dispute.  Successive regimes made concerted efforts to normalize relations with India but failed because of unresolved Kashmir dispute and India not reconciling to the existence of Pakistan. In its desire to become the unchallenged big power of South Asia, India whipped up a frenzy against all its neighbors. It applied multiple pressures on Pakistan and went to war thrice so as to force Pakistan to accept its hegemony and become its vassal state.

Pakistan in search of security and recognition

Pakistan started its journey as a nonaligned nation and remained the member of Non-Aligned Movement from 1947 till 1954. In the first 15 years of Pakistan’s life, the founding leaders remained deeply engrossed in establishing credentials of Pakistan’s statehood in the face of massive propaganda of India that Pakistan was a monstrosity. It was described as a transient phenomenon and Indian economic wizards had given six months life to Pakistan. International recognition was sought and obtained in those agonizing years. 

In its formative years, Pakistan attached importance to relations with Muslim countries and championed Muslim causes. Its efforts to build Muslim unity couldn’t make any headway. It cultivated special ties with Iran, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia.

Pakistan joined Western pacts

Aggressive posturing of India, its expansionist designs and intentions to absorb Kashmir, together with Afghanistan’s enmity, former USSR’s heavy tilt towards India, deepening economic crisis in early 1950s, sense of isolation, and the UN and Commonwealth failing to resolve the Kashmir dispute were some of the reasons which impelled Pakistan to join the US created SEATO and Baghdad Pact/CENTO in 1954/55. Thereon, its foreign policy was governed by the US interests.

Pakistan became part of the US defensive arc stretching to Iran and Turkey to contain the spread of communism in South Asia and the Middle East. Pakistan did so despite the fact that it had no direct clash with USSR, and had to pay a heavy price for it. When Pakistan acted as a conduit in 1971 to bring China closer to the USA, it further antagonized Moscow and it decided to teach Pakistan a lesson.

Alignment with the USA however, helped Pakistan in improving its economy and defense capability phenomenally during the 10-year Ayub’s golden era.

Tilt towards China

After the Indo-Sino border clash in 1962, in the wake of Moscow, Washington and the West providing arms to India at the cost of disturbing the regional military balance, Ayub Khan started tilting towards China and Russia. This move was seen as an act of defiance by the USA and it decided to penalize him. The US discriminatory attitude was discernible in the 1965 War with India when it stopped extending economic and military assistance including the supply of spare parts, whereas Russia kept supplying arms to India.

It is believed that both ZA Bhutto and Sheikh Mujib were cultivated to trigger agitations in both the wings to bring down Ayub regime and then pave the way for the dismemberment of Pakistan in 1971.

Southwestern Asian Identity and policy of Bilateralism

After the 1971 tragedy, ZA Bhutto scrapped SEATO pact and membership of Commonwealth stating that those had proved worthless. He then tried to carve out Southwest Asian identity so as to draw economic strength and security from oil rich Arab States. This tilt towards the Gulf States brought in financial bonanza and job opportunities for Pakistan in the 1970s and also gave an opportunity to Pak military to make inroads into the GCC States. Saudi Arabia never hesitated to extend financial support to Pakistan in its testing times.

Another change in Pakistan’s foreign policy was affected by the Simla agreement in 1972 which led to the policy of bilateralism and non-alignment. Ceasefire line in Kashmir was renamed as LoC and Kashmir issue put on the back burner. India however, maintained its belligerent policy and carried out the nuclear test at Pokhran in August 1974, which impelled ZA Bhutto to go nuclear.

Afghan war (1980-1989)

Pakistan-US relations nosedived when Pakistan under Gen Ziaul Haq was put under sanctions in April 1979 by Carter regime on account of suspicion that it was pursuing nuclear program covertly. However, the Afghan war in the 1980s once again made Pakistan a close ally of USA and was bestowed with $3.5 billion assistance and F-16 jets.

Pakistan had to face Russo-Afghan-India nexus and Al-Zulfiqar terrorism (militant wing of PPP). The Afghan war brought Pakistan coolness in Pak-Iran relations but brought Afghanistan under Mujahideen very close to Pakistan. Both talked of providing strategic depth to each other.

Pakistan’s challenges in Post-cold war era

After the breakup of USSR in 1991 and end of Cold War era, Pakistan was faced with multiple foreign policy issues. The US abandoned Pakistan, imposed sanctions on it under Pressler Amendment and befriended India.

Pakistan was up against Indo-US-Israeli nexus geared toward destroying Kahuta plant.

The other issue was the fallout effects of the Afghan war in the form of Kalashnikov and drug cultures, the load of 3.5 million refugees, the radicalization of the society and sectarianism fomented by Iran and Saudi Arabia.

The other was the armed uprising in occupied Kashmir which forced India to pump in 750,000 security forces to quell the insurgency and to propagate that Pakistan was abetting it.

Pakistan had to bear with the domino effect of Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988).

And lastly, nuclear explosions by the two arch rivals in May 1998. Pakistan’s external climbed up. These challenges made the democratic era weak and uninspiring. Despite being repeatedly betrayed, Pakistan didn’t deem it fit to diversify its foreign policy and kept its hopes alive to get into the good books of USA.

Impact of 9/11

9/11 changed the global politics and Pakistan was once again befriended by the USA and made a coalition partner to fight the global war on terror as a frontline state. Pakistan for a second time shifted all its eggs in the basket of USA.

Between 2004 and 2008, Indo-Pak relations improved as a result of the peace treaty and resumption of dialogue, giving rise to optimism that core disputes will be resolved. Euphoria died down after the Mumbai attacks in November 2008 when India blamed Pakistan. Indo-Pak relations have hit rock bottom after Modi led BJP regime espousing Hindutva came to power in June 2014.

Ongoing fast changing global dynamics and ever growing strategic partnership between USA and India has impelled Pakistan policy makers to revisit the foreign policy and suitably modify it to meet the future challenges.

Pakistan’s current challenges

India has not reconciled to the existence of Pakistan and strives to reduce it to the status of a Satellite State.

India is a strategic partner of the US, Israel, Afghanistan and is the darling of the west. The trio is pursuing common objective of destroying Pakistan.

India is making concerted efforts to destabilize Pakistan through covert war, encircle Pakistan by consolidating its presence in Afghanistan, Central Asian Republics (CARs), building North-South Corridor linking Mumbai with Bandar Abbas; and connecting Chabahar with Afghanistan-CARs.

India is working hard to isolate Pakistan by tarnishing its image and spoiling its relations with Afghanistan, Iran, Gulf States and the US.

Kashmir is an internationally recognized dispute but India stubbornly maintains that it is its integral part well knowing that the Kashmiris hate Indians and want freedom at all cost.

To keep Pakistan on the defensive and force it to forget Kashmir, India is playing terrorism card, Baluchistan and Sindh cards, and water terrorism to bend Pakistan on its knees.

India’s Cold Start doctrine is aimed at offsetting Pakistan’s strategic nuclear doctrine and executing it at a time when the bulk of Pak forces had got pinned down in designated restive areas.

The upturn of Pakistan’s sunk economy and its image, control over energy crisis and terrorism coupled with development works and fast progressing CPEC have increased the anxieties of India. To give vent to its frustrations, it is carrying out unprovoked firing across the LoC and working boundary in Kashmir relentlessly.

For all practical purposes, Pakistan has fallen from the grace of USA and time is not far when it will be once again be ditched and put under harsh sanctions.

Indo-US-Israel agenda of disabling Pakistan’s nuclear program, or as a minimum curtailing its minimum deterrence capability remain unchanged.

Afghanistan under Hamid Karzai remained aligned with India and hostile to Pakistan. Afghan Unity government under Ghani-Abdullah is far worse.

Pak-Iran relations are frosty and practically, Iran is more close to India and Afghanistan.

Net outcome in 2017

Pakistan foreign policy makers are faced with perpetually hostile India, near hostile Afghanistan, and the changed attitude of the US. Washington has callously whipped Pakistan under its ‘do more’ policy and is now hurling warnings. It’s heavy tilt towards India is a matter of anxiety for Pakistan.

Iran nurtures grouses on account of Pakistan’s closeness with Saudi Arabia, and for sending Gen Raheel to Riyadh to head 41-member Sunni Muslim States Alliance.

Warmth in a relationship with the GCC States has diluted because of Pakistan not agreeing to send troops to Saudi Arabia to ward off the threat from Yemen. Saudi-Qatar tiff is another challenge faced by Pakistan since it cannot afford to take sides.

Pakistan has been deliberately kept politically unstable by making it play the game of ladder and snake so that it remains economically dependent. It was pulled down whenever it grew economically strong. That is why it has been lurching from one crisis to another in its 70 years checkered history.

Pakistan can ill-afford political disharmony and disunity at this critical juncture when black clouds are hovering over its horizon.

Geopolitical realities

Pakistan is faced with multiple threats of Indo-US-Afghan covert war, India’s Cold Start Doctrine, the US Af-Pak doctrine, and Hybrid war and all these threats have now become menacing.

The threat to its security has heightened after the signing of three Indo-US defense agreements in 2016 and the US openly expressing its enmity against Pakistan and love for India.

India is getting unnerved on account of high-intensity freedom struggle in occupied Kashmir, which is slipping out of its hands and is endangering the unity of India. India has no other choice except to keep persecuting the Kashmiris ruthlessly, keep the LoC on fire and to diplomatically place Pakistan on the back foot.

Muslim Pakistan, laced with nuclear/missile power and now getting economically strong due to CPEC is unacceptable to USA, India, and Israel. The trio may go to any extent to disrupt CPEC.

Pakistan is faced with the threat of two-front war from east and west, inauspicious southwestern backyard, vulnerable seacoast, not so friendly Gulf States, together with the internal war on terror and internal war on terror

Pakistan’s viable nuclear cum missile capability deters India from waging an open war.

Nuclear factor has compelled India to resort to indirect strategy to weaken Pakistan from within through unrelenting covert war, discredit and isolate it through propaganda and diplomacy, extract its nuclear teeth clandestinely, and then apply the military instrument through Cold Start doctrine.

Having tried out all possible means short of war, the only other option left with enemies of Pakistan is to create political chaos and logjam, paralyze the government machinery and then trigger civil war as in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. Many are suspecting a game plan behind the current political imbroglio.

The success of $21 trillion One-Road-One-belt projects of China hinges on successful completion of CPEC. In view of China’s ambition to become leading economic power and its heavy economic stakes in CPEC, it is bound to come to the aid of Pakistan whenever its security is threatened.

Pakistan is a target and not an ally of USA. Earlier Pakistan gets out of the enchantment of USA, better it will be.

Inferences

Any expectation of goodwill and empathy from India, Afghanistan under Ghani and USA, which in pursuit of their common objectives have been inflicting tens of thousands of cuts on the body of Pakistan and its people, will be foolhardy.

The newly appointed Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif in consultation with the new PM Khaqan Abbasi, CJCSC Gen Zubair Hayat, and Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa need to revisit the foreign policy at the earliest to make appropriate changes after correctly identifying friends and foes and accordingly diversifying the policy to meet the upcoming challenges.

Foreign policy instead of being defensive, apologetic and reactive, should be infused with dynamism and pro-activeness.

The change in foreign policy should not be abrupt, but gradual and orderly without violent fluctuations. The change should be akin to autumn changing into winter, or winter into spring.

While maintaining a working relationship with the USA, Pakistan should draw closer to China, Russia, Central Asia, SCO, and ASEAN.

Pakistan should work hard to bring Iran in the loop of China-Russia peace-talks initiative, possibly draw in Turkey and conjointly work to restore peace in war torn Afghanistan.

Pakistan must strive to establish a friendly regime in Kabul.

Surging Afghan Taliban and not the corrupt and inept unity government in Kabul toeing Indo-US agenda should be kept in the loop.

Pakistan should continue to play a mediatory role in the Iran-Saudi ideological rivalry and in Saudi-Qatar tiff to narrow down their differences and also allay the misperceptions of Gulf States on account of Yemen crisis. It will be unwise to call back Gen Raheel and detach Pakistan from 41-member Muslim Alliance.

CPEC should be made use of as a strong magnet by our foreign policy makers to attract as many nations from Central Asia, South Asia, Middle East, Africa and Europe to ward off Indian inspired threat of isolation.

Gwadar-Chahbahar economic rivalry should be converted into an opportunity to complement each other’s strength.

Kashmir is the jugular vein of Pakistan. Comprehensive and pragmatic Kashmir policy should be devised to keep the cause of Kashmir alive.

Conclusion. While many developing countries have raced ahead, Pakistan is still struggling and has neither become an Asian tiger or a secure country. Political parties are behaving irresponsibly and are advised to shun politics of agitation and division and promote the concept of “Unity in Diversity”. Strong and united home front is the best defense against internal and external challenges.

 

The writer is a retired Brig, a war veteran, defense and security analyst, columnist, author of five books. He is Director Measac Research Centre, Vice Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, Editor-in-chief “Better Morrow’ magazine, editor of website group ‘The Patriots’. asifharoonraja@gmail.com

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If US Betrays Pakistan’s Trust Again, Redress May Not Be Possible

America is preparing to leave Afghanistan at the mercy of a lame government and an army of questionable loyalty.

The search for “good” Taliban is on in Afghanistan; the U.S. has announced that no action is to be taken against those who are not a threat to the U.S., including Mullah Omar.

The United States has said that after Jan. 2, 2015, the U.S. Army will not take any action against Mullah Omar and other Taliban leaders in Afghanistan if they pose no direct threat to the United States. Addressing a press conference in Washington, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said that the U.S. will not operate against anyone simply on the basis of their being Taliban members. Nevertheless, he used the occasion to clarify that those who fight will not be spared by any means. Kirby emphasized that any Taliban who operate against the U.S. or against its Afghan partners will automatically fall within the scope of the U.S. military operation.

Addressing the final news conference for the year last Friday, President Barack Obama reassured the American public that he is committed to his promise to end the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan at the end of 2014. Obama said that in less than even two weeks, the U.S. mission that has continued in Afghanistan for more than 13 years will come to an end. However, Obama gave full permission to his troops to combat extremists in the event of their becoming direct threats to the U.S. or to Afghan forces.

After 9/11, America’s enemies in this region were al-Qaida and the Taliban. The U.S. and its allies needed Pakistan’s cooperation in confronting these enemies, cooperation which Pakistan provided. With this cooperation, and with the use of modern arms and trained armies, the U.S. and its allies totally crushed Afghanistan. Ammunition and iron rained down on the land of Afghanistan, and land forces also employed their talents and weaponry to the full extent. Thousands of al-Qaida members and Taliban were killed, and at the same time, hundreds of thousands of innocent citizens were also killed, including children, old people and women. In the words of America, it broke the back of al-Qaida.

The Taliban were removed from power but could not be eliminated. They still exist as a force in Afghanistan and some other countries, and the U.S. has even carried out direct, as well as indirect and secret, negotiations with them at times. Although the U.S. stayed in Afghanistan for 13 years with full pomp and power, it could not realize its desire to completely eliminate the Taliban; nor could it persuade the Taliban to cooperate with the Afghan government. Now that a big part of the U.S. Army will be leaving Afghanistan in about a week and a half, without coffins, the Americans are hoping that the Taliban who continued to confront them for 13 years will start behaving like good children and pledge allegiance to Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah. This is not simply an illusion or a misconception on the part of the U.S., but inane thinking. The Taliban maintain a hold in many areas of Afghanistan and influence in several others; they are simply lying in wait for the U.S. and its allies to leave Afghanistan — when they can implement their plan to occupy Kabul.

Despite the presence of tens of thousands of military experts and their operations, the governments of the previous Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, and current President Ashraf Ghani have remained weak in most areas other than in cities such as Kabul. At the beginning of the coming year, following evacuation of NATO forces from Afghanistan, the government of Ashraf Ghani will have to face severe problems despite having full or partial authority in different regions. Perhaps the U.S. and the Afghan administrations are relying on the 150,000 members of the [Afghan] National Guard. But these are the very U.S.-trained soldiers who carried out dozens of attacks on their American teachers. It is possible that tomorrow these U.S.-trained soldiers will be seen standing in support of the Taliban in the same way that the army of President Hafizullah Amin joined the Taliban following the Russian evacuation.

The U.S. defeated Russia with help from Pakistan; it then took the route home, leaving Afghanistan in a state of anarchy and leaving Pakistan suffering to this day from the ill effects of its actions. Had the U.S. restored peace in Afghanistan by establishing a strong government there, the hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees would not still be a weight on Pakistan after 35 years. As it did in the past, the U.S. is once again leaving Afghanistan without any planning. Pakistan today is in the grip of terrorism and lawlessness that is stronger than any it experienced in the past. Pakistani Taliban — products of the Afghan[istan] War — have turned the whole country into an ammunition pile.

On Dec. 16 these terrorists, carrying out the worst example of brutality and barbarity in human history, bathed hundreds of children in dust and blood at the Military Public School in Peshawar. According to the brutal terrorists, this was retaliation for operation Zarb-e-Azb, being conducted by the Pakistani army to eliminate the terrorists. Following this incident, the whole country united under the Nawaz Sharif government for the elimination of terrorists. The prime minister lifted restrictions on the death penalty to be effective immediately. So far there have been six executions, while gallows have been constructed in prisons for more.

After the Peshawar incident, the government immediately called a conference of parliamentary parties in an effort to form a working group that would reach a consensus regarding a strategy. Yesterday, this group agreed on eight recommendations including the establishment of military courts and repatriation of Afghan refugees. The prime minister was briefed about these recommendations and, in this context, has called a meeting of parliamentary parties to approve an action plan based on the working group’s recommendations. The meeting will be attended by political leaders, including Imran Khan.

Along with execution of terrorists, the Pakistani army is conducting rapid operations in which 200 terrorists were killed within a week and twice the number arrested. In the most recent action in Karachi, 13 terrorists belonging to al-Qaida and the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban were killed in confrontations; arms and suicide jackets were recovered from them. About 300 suspected terrorists were arrested in operations carried out in Mansehra and Islamabad.

Pakistan helped the U.S. with its heart and soul in the war against terrorism, as a result of which, the flames of warfare that were extinguished in Afghanistan have started flaring up in Pakistan. Until yesterday, the U.S. was placing pressure on Pakistan to take evenhanded action against those who posed a danger to Pakistan as well as those who did not pose a danger to Pakistan, without discrimination. Now the U.S. is in search of “good” Taliban in Afghanistan.

Whether the matter relates to Pakistan or to Afghanistan, “good” Taliban are those who give up arms. Taking the position that we will not confront those who are not confronting us is equivalent to deceiving oneself. This thinking is no different from saying that “you cannot use your weapons; but if your reservations lead you to wield arms, then we will also retaliate.” Prior to the U.S. invasion, the nature of the Taliban position in Afghanistan was no different from this; they had not hurt U.S. interests and even bin Laden had not stood up with his gun in Afghanistan. Still, the U.S. placed a price of $10 million on Mullah Omar’s head. In light of the U.S. statement today, how would the U.S. treat him if he makes an appearance at the beginning of next year, decorate him with garlands?

America is preparing to leave Afghanistan at the mercy of a lame government and an army (the [Afghan] National Guard) of questionable loyalty. Further, the fire of terrorism is blazing in Pakistan. Should the U.S. once again leave Pakistan without its friendship and support — as it has done in the past — then Pakistan will eventually emerge from the morass after it faces difficulty. However, its trust in the U.S. will be finished and it will not wish to cooperate with the U.S. ever again. It is possible that in only a few months following evacuation, the U.S. will be in need of Pakistan’s cooperation in Afghanistan.

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