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US Is Managing Relations Between Pakistan and Afghanistan

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Pir-Mohammad Mollazehi
Expert on Indian Subcontinent & Middle East Issues

Since Mohammad Ashraf Ghani became Afghanistan’s president in September 2014 and a national unity government was established with the help of and according to a plan supported by the United States, optimism increased about a final solution to the crisis in relations between Kabul and Islamabad. Many analysts hoped that Ashraf Ghani would be able to change the policies that Afghanistan followed toward Pakistan under former president, Hamed Karzai, and the two countries would be able to move toward normalization of relations. At that time, there were also hopes that following improvement in relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan, Islamabad would encourage the Taliban forces to engage in talks with the central government in Kabul and take steps toward restoration of peace in the country. Despite such optimism and hopes, four rounds of peace talks attended by Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States did not reach a conclusive result and four-sided negotiations failed to pave the way for direct talks between the Taliban and the central government in Afghanistan

The failure of those talks and futility of subsequent diplomatic efforts and extensive consultations conducted by the Afghan president, angered Ashraf Ghani and caused him to point the incriminating finger at Islamabad by introducing Pakistan as the main factor behind the failure of negotiations. In other words, Ashraf Ghani has finally reached the same conclusion that had been already reached by the Chief Executive of the national unity government, Abdullah Abdullah. Abdullah had said that Pakistan would do nothing to encourage the Taliban to engage in talks with the central government in Afghanistan. Therefore, one can claim that what Ashraf Ghani has said recently in this regard is quite different from his previous viewpoints and what he said before the talks.

Of course, many political, religious and media circles in Afghanistan also think like this and believe that the Taliban is actually used by Pakistan’s army and intelligence agency as a tool to achieve their goals in Afghanistan. However, accusations about Pakistani government being cooperating with the Taliban are nothing new because a review of how jihadist and extremist groups were formed would attest to this. Since the occupation of Afghanistan by the former Soviet Union, thousands of religious schools were established through heavy investment by Pakistan where jihadist forces were trained to fight the Soviet Union and establish a religious government in Afghanistan. The product of those schools was later seen in the form of two major terrorist groups, namely, the Taliban and al-Qaeda. At present, these schools are still active in Pakistan and this has raised sensitivity of both India and Afghanistan about this issue and has prompted them to introduce Pakistan as the cradle of regional terrorism.

The question, however, is why Pakistan is doing nothing in this regard? The answer to this question should be sought in duality in the political structure of Pakistan. The government of this country is not unwilling to fight radical groups and schools, but the Pakistani army looks upon these groups from a strategic viewpoint. Some of these schools, like the Haqqani network, are also closely related to Pakistan’s intelligence agency. On the other hand, the Haqqani network has close relations with the Taliban as well and not only most Taliban militants have been trained in such schools, but Sirajuddin Haqqani, a leader of the Haqqani group, was also appointed as the deputy to the new leader of the Taliban, Mullah Mansour, who rose to the position after the passing of his predecessor, Mullah Omar. Therefore, it seems that as long as these forces are fighting along the lines of Pakistan’s strategic goals, they will enjoy the support of Pakistan’s army and intelligence service.

In other words, Pakistan is pursuing three major goals, which include recognition of the Durand border line by the central government in Afghanistan, to see a proxy and subservient government in Kabul, and to facilitate trade relations between Pakistan and countries in Central Asia. So, as long as the government in Afghanistan has not accepted Pakistan’s demands, the Taliban will not end its fight in the country and Pakistan, on its part, will continue to support the Taliban. The government of Afghanistan has pinned great hope in cooperation of the US government in the fight against the Taliban, but Americans are playing their own game in Afghanistan. Many people may think that Americans actually want to annihilate terrorist groups such as the Taliban in Afghanistan, but this is an incorrect notion because what has been clear from the United States performance in past years is that what Americans want most is to manage developments in Afghanistan, including the fight against the Taliban.

In fact, the main demand and intention of the United States is to make sure that the Taliban would not be able to pose a serious challenge to the central government in Afghanistan and won’t be able to set up a central government of its own. On the other hand, the Americans don’t want the government of Afghanistan to have such a powerful army and military force that it would be able to either destroy the Taliban or make them accept peace with the government. This form of crisis management is Washington’s strategic policy and being aware of this issue, Pakistanis are continuing on the same path that they trod before. Of course, an additional point is that the United States cannot put too much pressure on Pakistan because in that case Islamabad may get inclined toward China or Russia and this is the last thing that the United States may want to see.

However, escalation of tensions between Kabul and Islamabad has led to certain worries about a possible war between these two countries. I, however, don’t believe in this because I believe that Afghanistan is not in a good position to wage such a war. The Pakistani army is much more powerful and better organized than the Afghan army. On the other hand, the initiative in this regard is not with Afghanistan and Pakistan, but with the United States and it is Washington, which can cause an escalation or a downturn in bilateral tensions between the two countries. As a result of these reasons, I believe that the tension between Pakistan and Afghanistan will never escalate to the level of a full-fledged war, though the possibility of limited conflicts and unrest cannot be totally ruled out.

Key WordsUS, Relations, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, Hamed Karzai, Peace Talks, Taliban, Abdullah Abdullah, Army, Intelligence Agency, Regional Terrorism, Mullah Mansour, Haqqani Network, Strategic Goals, Tension, War, Mollazehi

Source: Etemad Newspaper
http://etemadnewspaper.ir/
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

More By Pir-Mohammad Mollazehi:

*Regional Impact of Rouhani’s Pakistan Visit Outweighs its Effect on Bilateral Ties: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Regional-Impact-of-Rouhani-s-Pakistan-Visit-Outweighs-its-Effect-on-Bilateral-Ties.htm

*Afghanistan Peace Talks and Conflicting Goals: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Afghanistan-Peace-Talks-and-Conflicting-Goals.htm

*Dual Game of Daesh in Afghanistan: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Dual-Game-of-Daesh-in-Afghanistan.htm

*Photo Credit: Afghan Zariza

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