By Sajjad Shaukat for VT
Afghanistan has witnessed scenes of civil war era on September 9, this year when hundreds of armed men drove in a convoy of dozens of vehicles fired thousand of bullets throughout Kabul, the capital of the country. The day was connected to 17 death anniversary of the former war lord Ahmed Shah Massoud-the anti-Soviet, anti-Taliban and the northern leaders, who was killed by Al Qaeda in 2001. Massoud is revered by his fellow Tajiks as the hero and leader of the Northern Alliance fighting the Taliban, but he is regarded by other Afghan groups as a war criminal involved in mass murder of opponents.
In a chaotic day of violence throughout Afghanistan, scores of police officers, soldiers and civilians were killed by insurgents who, in four separate attacks, overran a major military base, killed a police chief, destroyed a police post and bombed a memorial event. At least 7 people were killed when a motorcycle born suicide bomber targeted the convoy whereas more than 20 people have been injured as result of aerial firing by the demonstrators. The Islamic State group (Also known as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh) claimed responsibility for the attack.
The deadliest single episode was the destruction by Taliban militant of an army base in Baghlan Province, with at least 22 and as many as 40 security force members killed.
Commemoration of the day by the followers of Ahmed Shah Massoud was either to demonstrate power before next month’s parliamentary election or to challenge the Taliban about Massoud’s power. In both cases, the day was not good reflection of control of the Government. The day also challenged the claims of National Unity Government (NUG) of Afghanistan and of international community led by the US about peace and stability in Kabul. This very day tells us the story of today’s Afghanistan where law, peace and order situation was taunted by various militant groups which have accelerated unrest in Afghanistan.
Next day, a suicide bomber detonated explosives amid a crowd of protesters outside a police station near the Pakistan border in the Momandara district of Nangarhar province, killing about 68 people.
Last week, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis made an unexpected trip to Afghanistan as the US tries to make headway in the country after 17 years of war. Mattis touched down in the country amid a bloody month in the prolonged conflict.
According to a statement from the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan, Resolute Support, “One US service member was killed and another was wounded on September 3 in an apparent insider attack…one carried out by a member of the Afghan security forces…in eastern Afghanistan…Ghani [Ashraf Ghani, [President of Afghanistan] said that preventing these green-on-blue attacks was a top national priority.”
Days later, 20 people, including two journalists were killed in Kabul in twin bomb attacks on a wrestling club, and ISIS claimed responsibility for that attack.
A recent UN report said that the number of Afghan civilians killed in the first six months of this year has reached a record high.
Earlier this month, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo named veteran diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad as a newly-named State Department special envoy to Afghanistan. Khalilzad, Pompeo said, would be “full time focused on developing the opportunities to get the Afghans and the Taliban to come to reconciliation.”
It is notable that on August 10, this year, Taliban fighters attacked the Ghazni city of Afghanistan, killing at least 14 police officers and wounded dozens before the US-supported Afghan forces pushed them out of the city after a few days.
Afghan high officials revived the old blame game against Pakistan by accusing the security agencies of Pakistan regarding the Ghazni terror attack.
Indian media also availed the opportunity and manipulated the Taliban attack against Pakistan. In this regard, Indian business newspaper, The Economic Times allegedly wrote on August 23, 2018: “India-funded projects and programmes in Afghanistan face increased risk as Afghan officials have alleged that the recent attack launched by the Taliban in Ghazni involved presence of Pakistan Army and Pakistan’s intelligence agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in aid of the terrorist group.”
In fact, prior to Pompeo’s visit to Islamabad, both India and Afghanistan wanted to spoil positive development between Pakistan and the United States.
However, regarding Ghazni terror attack, the spokesman of the Foreign Office (FO) of Pakistan, Dr Muhammad Faisal said: “We have not received any evidence to back up these spurious accusations and reject these baseless allegations made by Afghan officials and others.”
In this regard, a few days after the US cancelled USD 300 million in military aid (The so-called Coalition Support Funds) to Islamabad, accusing the latter for failing to rein in the terror groups operating from its soil in Afghanistan, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the former CIA chiefwho along with the US Joint Chief of Staff Chairman General Joseph Dunford had arrived on an official visit to Islamabad met with Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Imran Khan, Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on September 5, 2018.
In a statement, Pakistan’s Foreign Office said that Qureshi highlighted that the priority of the new government was socio-economic development and for the success of people centered agenda and economic reforms, an enabling regional security environment was imperative. He said improving relations with neighbours was a priority, in an apparent reference to strained ties with India and Afghanistan, which often accuses Pakistan of providing safe havens to terrorists to conduct cross-border attacks. Qureshi also reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to continue efforts for promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan.
The statement elaborated: “The two sides agreed that present conditions in Afghanistan were conducive to intensifying efforts for a political settlement. They underscored the need for the Taliban to seize the opportunity for talks in response to the Afghan President Ghani’s offer for an unconditional dialogue…Mr Pompeo stated that US fully supported the reform agenda of Prime Minister Khan and wished the government success in its implementation…Mr Pompeo conveyed the US desire to work with Pakistan in furthering the shared objectives of peace and stability in Afghanistan.”
At the same time, reviving the US old blame game regarding cross-border terrorism, Pompeo emphasized upon Islamabad “to do more” at the meeting.
Like the previous diplomats of America, Mike Pompeo’s statement shows unrealistic and contradictory approach towards Islamabad, as Zionist-controlled elements control the foreign policy of the US. Overtly, American high officials remark that they seek stability in Pakistan, but covertly, they continue to destabilize it to obtain the illegitimate interests of Israel.
As regards the issue of Pak-Afghan Security, it is interrelated. In this respect, Pakistan and Afghanistan had entered into partnership for peace and stability in 2017 to avoid negative statements against each other. Occasional blames still surface from Afghanistan because of Kabul’s failure to control security situation inside the country, which is becoming worse from bad. Afghan officials are busy with infighting and often opt resignations form their jobs. The resignations from Defence Minister Tariq Shah Bahrami and Interior Minister Wais Barmak, as well as Masoom Stanekzai, head of the National Directorate of Security (NDS) were submitted on August 25, 2018, hours after National Security Adviser Hanif Atmar quitted. A TV quarrel between Interior Minister Wais Barmak and Kabul Deputy Police Chief Sadiq Muradi showed cracks, lack of coordination and stress level of Kabul administration. Both officials blamed each other for compromising security after rocket attacks near the presidential palace.
Nevertheless, Pakistan has asked Afghan regime to look inwards and avoid making false allegation for security failures in Afghanistan. Kabul also needs to ensure that their officials provide security to Pakistan’s diplomatic staff and missions in Afghanistan without interfering in their functioning. Recent actions of Governor of Nagarhar Hayatullah with regards to Pakistan consulate in Jalalabad also need Afghan corrective action. Islamabad has closed its consulate in Jalalabad, citing security concerns and undue intervention by Governor. Pakistan asked Kabul to refrain from interfering in the functioning of Pak Mission in Afghanistan, which is a blatant violation of Vienna Convention of the consular Relations 1963. Instead, Afghanistan should look inwards towards its own deplorable state of affairs in the country.
In this connection, Pakistan, on September 4, this year, urged Kabul to avoid statements and negative comments which would vitiate the existing positive spirit of cooperation in Pak-Afghan bilateral relations. Pakistan’s FO Spokesperson Dr Mohammed Faisal said: “Pakistan dismisses reported comments by deputy spokesperson of the Afghan Chief Executive Omid Meysam on September 3 . Pakistan is making untiring and sincere efforts to promote peace and stability in the region given its own serious stakes and security concerns, and not in return for any financial compensation…Improving internal security situation in Afghanistan, which is the source of regional and international terrorist threats, remains Afghan government’s exclusive responsibility together with its international partners. Pakistan has been whole heartedly supporting these efforts.”
Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani telephoned his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi and both the top diplomats pledged to settle differences amid the US pressure. The Afghan minister assured to providing fool-proof to Pakistani consulate in Jalalabad which was shut down amid threats.
It is mentionable that since the occupation of Afghanistan by the US-led NATO forces, the country has become center of the intelligence agencies such as CIA, RAW and Mossad which are in connivance to obtain the covert designs of the their countries and some Western countries against Russia, China and Pakistan, including Iran. Under the cover of fighting terrorism, these foreign agencies which are also in collaboration with Afghan NDS, support the militants of ISIS and Afghanistan-based Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), including their linked outfits which have been conducting terror-assaults in Afghanistan and Pakistan as part of the secret strategy of the US-led countries. Besides, these terrorist outfits are weakening Tibetan regions of China and Iranian Sistan-Baluchistan through subversive activities.
When any terror attack occurs in Afghanistan, Afghan government revives old blame game against Pakistan.
On May 31, 2017, 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 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. But, 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.
During the same 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 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.
It is noteworthy 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, in the recent past and during the election-campaign of 2019, blasts in Balochistan and other regions of the country showed that the US-led India, Afghanistan and Israel have again started acts of sabotage especially to destabilize Pakistan and to damage the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
As a matter of fact, the US and India do not want to see peace and prosperity in the region. Hence, 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 an understanding for the earliest possible resumption of stalled talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban with view to ending nearly 17 years of bloodshed in Afghanistan.
Outwardly, American top officials have been appreciating the capabilities of Pakistan’s security agencies against terrorism, but inwardly, they are not pleased in relation to the successes, achieved by the armed forces of Pakistan against the militants, because America is acting upon a dual strategy in relation to Islamabad—also due to the reason that Pakistan in the only nuclear country in the Islamic World, which irritates America and its allies-India and Israeli.
In fact, CIA, RAW and Mossad are particularly assisting the TTP which is hiding in Nuristan and Kunar provinces of Afghanistan and is behind many terror activities inside Pakistan, as the latter has also become center of the Great Game due to the ideal location of Balochistan. With the tactical support of CIA, especially, RAW is trying to damage Pak-China CPEC project.
Notably, there are many outfits of the Taliban. A majority of Taliban is fighting a war of liberation against the occupying forces. The US-led NATO has failed in their fight against the Afghan Taliban. Therefore, main purpose especially of America is to accuse Pakistan of cross-border terrorism in Afghanistan in order to pacify its public in connection with the endless war in that country.
As regards the terrorism-related incidents inside Afghanistan, India, Israel and the Afghan government want to prolong the stay of the US-led NATO forces in that country and are using the militant outfits like ISIS and TTP to create further unrest there, while shifting the blame game towards Islamabad.
In this respect, at a news conference in Kabul, on April 24, 2017, the US Defense Secretary James Mattis and Gen. John Nicholson, the American commander in Afghanistan supposedly stated that Russia was providing weapons to the Taliban. But, Moscow denied these false allegations. Particularly, the US is behind Afghanistan’s blame game against Pakistan in relation to terrorism.
It is of particular attention that a news item was published by all the leading dailies of Pakistan on October 8, 2017 regarding the statement of Afghanistan’s Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai who, while dismissing criticism of Moscow’s ties with the Taliban and echoing Russian claims of American support to the ISIS terrorists, told Voice of America (VOC) that the United States has links with terrorist ‘Islamic State’, also known as Daesh…Daesh a tool of US…After it [the US] dropped the [mother of all] bomb on Afghanistan, it did not eliminate Daesh…the terrorist group has been supplied weapons by the United States forces…The US Army helicopters and army bases are being used to provide assistance to ISIS terrorists…I do not differentiate at all between Daesh and America…Reports of American assistance to the terrorists are coming from all over the country.” (It also includes Karzai’s revelations to VOC of April 20, 2017 and Newsweek’s report of the same day).
It is worth-mentioning that from time to time, controversy arises between Afghanistan and Pakistan when Afghan officials refused to recognize the Durand Line which is the 2640 kilometer long and porous border, situated between both the countries. The issue again came to the limelight on June 12, 2016 when Afghan security forces started unprovoked firing at Torkham border crossing.
By ignoring the Durand Line, Afghanistan government tries to create ambiguity and fuss regarding the issue, as various governments of Afghanistan remained desirous to get access to the Arabian Sea through Pakistan’s province of Balochistan, where they are supporting insurgency with the assistance of US, India and Israel.
Creation of controversy by Kabul over Durand Line cannot be seen in isolation, as it is part of the double game of Washington and New Delhi and Tel Aviv which secretly back the Afghan politicians in this respect. Islamabad considers that peace in Afghanistan is a guarantee of peace in Pakistan and the region.
Nonetheless, the porous border between Pakistan and Afghanistan is frequently used by human and drug traffickers, criminals and terrorists. Their easy access through unguarded porous border provides opportunity to miscreants to cause havoc inside Pakistan and Afghanistan. For effective counter terrorism measures, strong border-control management is vital at Pak-Afghan border. But, Afghan rulers are using delaying tactics in this respect.
Taking note of the anti-Pakistan intruders, Pakistan’s army had decided to build a fence along the border and to control the border crossings. In this context, the strategic project of 1,100-kilometre-long trench with the cost of Rs14 billion which was initiated along Pak-Afghan border in Balochistan by Frontier Corps in 2013 has been completed. The next phase of the project has started, which is being extended to the entire long border with Afghanistan which had opposed this plan.
In his recent statement, FO spokesman stated that Pakistan was fencing the border with Afghanistan with the objective of restricting cross-border movement of both “men and material” as part of its counterterrorism efforts. He expressed the hope that the border fencing would help achieve long-term regional stability and improve relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
We may conclude that unrest in Afghanistan has accelerated due to the secret game of the US, India and Israel. US-led NATO powers must understand that there is a co-relationship of security in Afghanistan and Pakistan. These foreign powers must also note that security is a two-way traffic. It cannot be achieved by making Afghanistan and Pakistan insecure. Otherwise, NATO countries will remain entangled in Afghanistan, which will further increase the cost of war by increasing internal crises in these countries. While, endless war in Afghanistan is likely to give a setback to their economic interests on regional and international level by making these most developed countries insecure.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations