The army determines Pakistan’s national security threats, the Afghan and Kashmir policies, and challenges and decides how to deal with them.
The rise of Russia as a modern military and economic power, and its growing popularity in the Middle East and South Asia,has forced the US and its NATO allies to review their strategic priorities in South Asia. The US is in deep water due to its inconstant policiesand its military behaviour with the small and militarily weak Muslim states. Now, having feared Russian intervention in Afghanistan and its possible advance towards the Baltic States, Washington has decided to review its plan of withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan by 2016. Last week, US Defence Secretary Ash Carter arrived in Kabul in a state of anxiety, notknowingwhat to do and how to counter the exponentialRussian influence in the region.
The US’s inconsistent policies towards Pakistan and Afghanistan widen distances between the two states.On many issues, distrust was promoted by the Karzai and Musharraf regimes.Having realised their mistakes, in the end of 2014, President Ashraf Ghani and General Raheel Sharif started to work on the improvement of relations between the two countries but,unfortunately, the recent interview of the former president,General Musharraf, with a UK newspaper once again caused misunderstanding and distrust. Mr Musharraf admitted that when he was in power, the ISI had sought to undermine the government of Hamid Karzai because Karzai had “helped Indiastab Pakistan in the back”.
“In President Karzai’s times, yes, indeed, he was damaging Pakistan and therefore we were working against his interest. Obviously, we had to protect our own interest,” Musharraf said. However, he shamelessly admitted that his governmenthad been responsible for the killings of innocent Afghan men, women and children in the Inter-Services Intelligence’s(ISI’s) constituted suicide attacks. General Musharraf said that the ISI trained the Taliban after 2001 to undermine the Karzai government dominated by India’s supported non-Pashtuns. “Obviously we were looking for some groups to counter this Indian action against Pakistan,” he said.
This interview deeply disappointed Afghan politicians and members of civil society,who started asking whether Pakistan was playing a new game with their country.Though theAfghan president has categorically said that peace without Pakistan is impossible, Afghan parliamentarians and intellectual circles ask why the democratic government in Pakistan does not react to the efforts of the army and ISI, and why the army is doing the job of the civilian government? The silence of the Pakistani president, parliamentarians, politicians and the prime minister on the diplomatic role of the armed forces and ISI in Afghanistan hasraised serious questions about the military and civilian divide.
The recent political and military rapprochement between Afghanistan and Pakistan is being perceived as an incomplete and reluctant love story by diplomatic circles in Kabul. The Pakistan army has its own foreign policy, its own counterterrorism strategy, its own way of conflict resolution and does not share several of its diplomatic and military deals with the democratic government of the country. In Afghanistan, the unity government also does not share its hidden agenda and international engagements with parliament and politicians. This is perceived by experts to be akin to a secret diplomacy. In Pakistan, the army is building its own image while the role it plays in Afghan reconciliation cannot be identified in a few words. Key national policies are being dictated by the khakis, not by the elected government. The army determines Pakistan’s national security threats, the Afghan and Kashmir policies, and challenges and decides how to deal with them.
Last week, theAfghanistan Times on its editorial page asked the unity government to make it clear to the nation what its standpoint is over Pakistan’s covert support to the Haqqani network and Quetta Shura because, whenever there is any terror incident on the soil of Pakistan, their military general and Director General (DG) ISI rush to Kabul. President Ashraf Ghani still does not have the full support of politicians and jihadist commanders, and the performance of his government is in question. Afghan politicians raised important questions, including the rejection of an Indian arms offer without consulting parliament and the defence ministry, and rapprochement with Pakistan under an unknown agenda.
President Ghani put many important issues in the garbage can during the last four months. Since September 2014, no major breakthrough has been visible on the ground, particularly on the security front. He has failed to present a comprehensive security plan to parliament or his own cabinet. He never consulted politicians, former jihadist leaders, important military commanders and the governors of provinces on security and foreign policy issues. In Pakistan, the government is also helpless; while the Prime Minister (PM) and his cabinet ministers only issue statements and appreciate each other, the army chief controls the ISI and decides the annual defence expenditure, and all defence procurements. He also controls all senior level promotions and appointments. No doubt, Pakistan wants peace, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan but politicians and civil society in Afghanistan accuse the ISIof operational, intelligence and financial support to terrorist organisations like the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) and the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM).
No single ‘good’ Taliban commander has so for been arrested in the military operation in North Waziristan and FATA. Yes, the army has arrested a good number of innocent Pashtuns and continues to prosecute them in military courts. The inclusion of a few inactive Taliban in the Afghan cabinet cannot stabilise the country, as all active forces have joined Islamic State (IS). The Taliban leaders Pakistan advocates have no active role in any anti-Afghan insurgency. Finally, friendly relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan can improve many things in both the states. The efforts of General Raheel Sharif to stabilise Afghanistan are commendable.To further facilitate the peace process in Afghanistan, the democratic government of PM Nawaz Sharif must be given a chance to settle the issues of insurgency across the border through democratic means.