Since taking over of power by President Ashraf Ghani in Afghanistan in late September, 2014, there have been three rounds of talks between Afghan Government and Taliban. These talks were held at Doha-Qatar, Oslo-Norway and Urmuqi-China. All these talks were part of lager reconciliation process between Afghan Government and the dominantinsurgent opposition, the Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. President Ghani had strictly followed the policy of reconciliation with Taliban and other groups in his country. It was expected that, since talks with Taliban is underway, therefore, there would be no or negligible spring offensive in Afghanistan in 2015. But, unlike this wishful thinking of so many scholars, Afghan and Pakistani officials, Taliban launched massive attacks as part of their spring offensive-2015.
The most recent attack (June 23, 2015) was on Afghan Parliament, the most secure place in Kabul, after Presidential Palace. Although, the attack did not hurt the lawmakers, who were part of parliamentary session, yet it was a major offensive in capital and a severe blow to the NDS and Afghan security forces. Later, all seven attackers were killed by Afghan security forces. Before this attack, Taliban launched many other attacks in Kabul and other parts of the country, killing hundreds of innocent Afghans. Such attacks are indicative of the fact that, Taliban still maintain the capacity to fight against the Government forces in Afghanistan.
Pakistan condemned all such attacks and even warned the Taliban against attacking theAfghanistan. Despite the cordial relations between Afghan Government and Government of Pakistan, sequel to Parliament attack on June 23, 2015, the official spokesperson of the NDS, Haseeb Sediqi, accused Pakistan for hatching this attack in Peshawar. His allegation was in haste, without giving complete details. He just name Mr Bilal for supporting the attackers. It is worth mentioning that, there is a MoU, signed between ISI and NDS, about which, the spokesperson said that, “Our President and our ministry of foreign affairs have also declaredthat this MoU was on general principles and more operational details have to be discussed about this cooperation.”
Such statements and accusations are tantamount of spoiling the bilateral relations between two countries, which were reached after hectic efforts by both Governments and are as per the wishes of the people of both countries. How Pakistan and Pakistani intelligence agency can help the attackers in Kabul, once Pakistan is committed to help in the Afghan peace process and has made firm commitments with President Ashraf Ghani that, it will not allow its territory to be used against Afghanistan. Moreover, Pakistan feels that peace in Pakistan is directly related to peace in Afghanistan. Then the current level in the bilateral relations of both countries has come after over six decades. Pakistan cannot lose on its gains with Afghanistan.
Only peace and stability in Afghanistan would allow Pakistan to repatriate the 2.6 million Afghan refugees, back to that country. How can Pakistan fuel insurgency in Afghanistan, once it faces similar movement, the TTP in its own soil? The TTP militants also accept Mullah Omar as their Head. Whether TTP in Pakistan or Afghan Taliban in that country, both have similar agendas to follow. Both desire of taking over the power through terrorism and imposition of strict laws over masses, against the Islamic values and local customs. The biggest question is, whether, Afghan Taliban are under the command of Pakistan? Pakistan enjoy support of a very few Afghan Taliban, who showed willingness to talk to Afghan Government.
In the past, many of them did not accept the request of Pakistan, once Pakistan wanted them seriously to talk to Afghan Government. It is worth mentioning that some of the Taliban groups, which had series of talks with Afghan Government, as mentioned above, were persuaded by Pakistan. So there should have been lot of deliberations in Kabul, and in the Headquarters of NDS before pointing fingers towards Pakistan. This is true that NDS is reluctant to cooperate with Pakistan as wished by Afghan Government. There are many MPs in Afghan Parliament, who are against any cooperation with Pakistan. These lawmakers and some NDS officials are heavily influenced by India. Indian RAW has trained the officials of the NDS, thus it has to follow the agenda of its trainers. NDS needs to correct its perception about the state of Pakistan and ISI. In the contemporary environment, Pakistan cannot afford to support any militancy in Afghanistan. Pakistan cannot and will not spoil its relations with Afghanistan.
Indeed, Afghan Taliban are tricky and complicated people and are not unified as in the past. They are fragmented and follow their splinter groups under regional Amirs (heads). They are the real examples of the power politics. Currently, some of them are talking to Afghan Government, while others are staying away from peace process. According to some writers, Afghan Taliban follows the strategy of; fight-and-talk tactics, at least for the time being.” They want to test their militant muscles and potentials to fight the Afghan security forces during this spring offensive at least. If they find themselves strong enough, it is most likely that they go for offensive, abandoning dialogue process all together. In that case, the few groups now involved in talks may also disconnect the process and join back hardcore militants. In past few weeks Taliban captured two district; Chardara district in Kunduz Province and district, Yumgan in Badakshan province. Besides, they also killed district governor in Badakhshan province. These are quite significant successes. It was through day’s infighting that, Afghan security forces could regain the areas, lost to Taliban.
An important aspect, less talked among scholars is that, Indian policy throughout has been to prevent Pakistan from making inroads into Afghanistan. India would never like a cordial relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan. It tried to upset the current correlation between Pakistan and Afghanistan, but failed. It is quite possible that, Indian spying network (RAW) otherwise have a heavy presence in Afghanistan could have used Taliban (the way they use TTP against Pakistan) for this attack on Afghan Parliament, and propelled NDS to accuse Pakistan. It has similarity with what India stage managed an attack on its parliament in December 2001, which resulted into a year-long military mobilization between Pakistan and India.
Under these trying moments, Kabul and Islamabad need to analyze the rapidly changing international and regional scenario. Both have to weigh the gains and losses, arising from any mistrust. Both need to understand the Indian interests and its rapidly losing space inAfghanistan. Afghan Government must vigorously pursue a peace and reconciliation process with Taliban and other militants in Afghanistan. Pakistan Government must help the Afghan brethrens in striking a deal with Taliban, the main insurgent group. Both countries should avoid accusing each other and try to downplay the Indian conspiracies.
— The writer is International Relations analyst based in Islamabad.
Pak-Afghan Co-Relation & Indian Factor | Dr Muhammad Khan