Pakistan’s stand corroborated

  0 comments   |     by Malik Muhammad Ashraf

The Afghan rulers need to understand that Pakistan had probably the biggest stake in peace and stability in Afghanistan and would be the last country to even entertain the thought of destabilizing it.

The US finally seems to have accepted the Pakistani claims that the operation Zarb-e-Azb was an indiscriminate effort against the terrorist outfits.
The US top commander in Afghanistan, General John F Campbell in a written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee said “Senior Pakistani military officers have repeatedly declared that they can no long discriminate between ‘good and bad’ terrorists.

They appear to be taking meaningful actions to back up their words”.
This corroboration coming from a US commander leading the military campaign in Afghanistan is indeed a major plus in boosting Pakistan’s credibility in the eyes of the international community. It also strongly negates Afghanistan’s perception of Pakistan having to do anything with the escalation in military confrontation within Afghanistan.

General Campbell also made a pertinent point in regards to indispensability of Pakistan in regards to peace in Afghanistan. Noting that considerable obstacles existed between Pakistan and Afghanistan which were likely to persist past 2016, he felt that the common threat of violent extremism could still serve as a catalyst to improve cooperation between the two countries. According to him before nudging reconciliation with Taliban, rapprochement between Pakistan and Afghanistan has to occur first and the fight against terrorism and terrorist outfits needed concerted Pak-Afghan efforts. What he said more or less conforms to the Pakistani view on resolving the conflict. Pakistan, it may be pertinent to mention, regards the Taliban offensive against the Afghan government as an act of terrorism and it was unequivocally stated by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during his visit to Afghanistan when the Taliban had announced to launch it.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in his address to UN also emphasized the desirability of this cooperation and reiterated Pakistan’s resolve and commitment in facilitating rapprochement between Taliban and the Afghan government undeterred by the set back that it has received due to developments in the wake of revelation of Mullah Omar’s death and intensification of fighting in the country. It is indeed an irrefutable reality that Afghanistan and Pakistan both need each other to establish peace and beating back the threat posed by terrorism and religious extremism.

In my view US can and must try to remove misunderstanding between Pakistan and Afghanistan by convincing the Afghan government about non-discriminatory actions against terrorist by Pakistan and non-involvement of the latter in what was going on in Afghanistan at present. The US and NATO must also put pressure on India to refrain RAW from sponsoring across the border attacks, like the Badabher (an air force base) episode. Simultaneously, Pakistan must also re-establish interaction with Afghanistan at the highest level to remove the haze that has cast its evil shadow on the hard-orchestrated bonhomie between the two countries, in the wake of the recent developments.

The General in his submission to the Armed Service Committee also called for a review of the envisaged plan of draw-down of US troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2016, which seems to have gone awry in the wake of the Taliban capture of Kunduz and attacks in Badakhshan province. He urged the US administration to consider boosting its military presence in Afghanistan after 2016 if it intended to repel resurgence of Taliban. He maintained that the tenuous security situation might require a reversal of the drawdown.
German foreign minister Ursula Von der Leyen also hinted about this possibility in Brussels on the eve of the meeting of NATO defence ministers saying “I will appeal today that we do not organize the withdrawal from Afghanistan according to a rigid timetable but we analyze the situation.
The developments in Kunduz show that we have to walk on the way we have walked together with Afghans”. The NATO meeting, reportedly, has also given a nod for review of the draw-down policy and remaining engaged in Afghanistan beyond 2016.

The Kunduz episode has indeed exposed the vulnerabilities of the Afghan government and the ability of the Afghan security forces to withstand the Taliban onslaught. The recapture of Kunduz could not have been possible without the help of NATO forces and airstrikes by US war planes.
It indicates that the situation on the ground is not conducive to the withdrawal of the US forces, as it might undo the entire effort to bring stability to Afghanistan besides frittering away more than US$ 100 billion in international aid that Afghanistan has received during well over a decade. But the dilemma is that the decision by US to extend the date of drawdown and stay on in Afghanistan might escalate the military confrontation in Afghanistan in view of the avowed position of the Taliban not to enter into negotiations with the Afghan government until the foreign forces left the country.

The other option of intra-Afghan dialogue after the departure of foreign troops also seems fraught with dangers. Pulling out of US troops without having resolved the conflict has the potential of pushing Afghanistan into factional fighting of the yester years; a scenario which might not only scuttle chances of peace at a foreseeable future but could also destabilize the entire region. Therefore under the prevailing circumstances there is a need to work on two parallel tracks.

One is to keep the Taliban at bay through presence of US troops in Afghanistan beyond 2016 and bolster the capability of the Afghan forces and the other is to facilitate the engagement of the two sides in a dialogue with the help of Pakistan and the regional powers like China for an Afghan-led and Afghan owned solution to the decades old confrontation in the country. Pakistan’s role admittedly is of pivotal importance in this regard. The negotiated solution with the help of Pakistan and China and also supported by US has the advantage of ensuring durability through the guarantees that they could provide for both sides sticking to the agreements reached between the two sides.

The Afghan rulers need to understand that Pakistan had probably the biggest stake in peace and stability in Afghanistan and would be the last country to even entertain the thought of destabilizing it. Stability and peace in Afghanistan means peace and stability in Pakistan. Both the countries have suffered tremendously at the hands of the terrorists and do have a strong common cause in this regard. The scourge of terrorism and other lurking dangers make it absolutely imperative for the two countries to forge impregnable unity against these threats.

Malik Muhammad Ashraf is a senior journalist, columnist and writes for leading English dailies including The News and The Nation.

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