How Ghani’s appeasement towards Pakistan has worsened the situation inside Afghanistan

The May 31 Kabul truck bomb attack, the worst since 2001, shows that Pakistan won’t change its support for terrorism inside Afghanistan unless there is a strategic shift in US policy towards Pakistan

Written by Aimal Faizi | Updated: June 9, 2017 7:22 am
Ashraf Ghani, Kabul attacks, Afghanistan president, world news Afghan President Ashraf Ghani prays during a peace and security cooperation conference in Kabul, Afghanistan June 6, 2017.EUTERS/Omar Sobhani

Afghan president Ashraf Ghani referred to Pakistan nine times in his 36-minute speech at the Kabul Process conference on June 6, a one-day meeting between the Afghan government and representatives of 27 countries and international organizations charged with restarting a peace process in this violence-torn country. While Ghani’s central demand was to urge the world community to act on its “promise” to fight terrorism and help Afghans in responding to the threat of terror, he stressed on Islamabad’s disinclination to genuinely commit itself to peace in Afghanistan.

He desperately urged Pakistan, once again, “to propose its agenda and a mechanism” for joint political efforts which can “lead to peace” in Afghanistan. But wasn’t this the right time and occasion for Ghani to share his own spy agency’s intelligence, that the Haqqani terror network, with “the direct guidance and assistance from Pakistan”, had carried out the recent massive bomb attack in Kabul, which killed over 150 Afghans and injured hundreds more?

Question is, does the Afghan government have accurate, actionable and relevant intelligence in this regard? In fact, does Washington have the specific intelligence or not to conclude whether Pakistan was involved in the May 31st deadly terrorist attack in Kabul? But Ghani seemed to let Pakistan off the hook. Instead of stating that “we cannot figure out what is it that Pakistan wants” or asking what it takes “to convince Pakistan that a stable Afghanistan helps them and helps our region”, the President must realize that all Afghans want is to urge Washington and the international community to fix or capture the Haqqani Network and the Taliban leaderships in Pakistan.

Begging for peace and cooperation from Islamabad means that the Afghan president, a steadfast US ally, is desperate and has failed to push for a shift in Washington’s strategic thinking vis-a-vis Pakistan.

Offering an olive branch to Pakistan

On November 14, 2014, shortly after assuming the presidency, in an effort to appease Islamabad, Ghani visited the General Headquarters of the Pakistan Army in Rawalpindi. His message to the Generals was, “Afghanistan wants to bolster security and defence ties with Pakistan”.

Over the next few weeks, a series of closed-door meetings were held between Afghanistan’s National Security Advisor, Mr Hanif Atmar, and Pakistan’s military and spy agency chiefs in Kabul as well as outside the country — in UK, UAE, China and Saudi Arabia.

President Ghani met the Pakistan military and spy chiefs in Kabul and Saudi Arabia, while Atmar met them in Kabul, UK, UAE and China. When the President and his NSA met them in Kabul on November 10, 2014, the Afghan leaders even asked their own intelligence agency’s head, Mr Rahmatullah Nabil, to wait outside as the “the ISI chief did not want him to be in the meeting”.

President Ghani established a hotline with the erstwhile Pakistan army chief, General Raheel Sharif and his NSA. Atmar set up another hotline with Lt. Gen. Rizwan Akhtar Baig, the then director-general of the ISI. In this new chapter of apparently warm relations, Afghan cadets were sent for military training to Pakistan. The Afghan president allowed Pakistani intelligence officers to interrogate prisoners in Afghan prisons. Under the name of “joint military operations”, Pakistani forces were given Kabul’s consent to conduct selective operations in different parts of Afghanistan.

Ghani went even further. He even described Pakistani state-supported terrorism in Afghanistan as a “proxy war” between India and Pakistan. Then in May 2015, Ghani authorized the inking of a secret intelligence cooperation agreement between Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

All President Ghani wanted and hoped for in return was the genuine start of peace talks with the Taliban and a change in the Pakistan military’s mindset, so that Afghanistan could bring an end to the war and the violence that has ripped this country apart for nearly four decades.

Speaking at the Kabul Process conference on June 6, President Ghani gave voice to his efforts. “From the day I took office, I went far out on a limb to offer an olive branch to Pakistan. But it has not been taken.”

Indeed, with a green light from the Americans and the British, Ghani’s policy of appeasement and offer of “an olive branch to Pakistan” not only resulted in the deterioration of the security situation in the country and the region, but also distanced many Afghans from the
National Unity Government and widened the war in the country.

Fighting Pakistan in Afghanistan

But as Kabul’s efforts to cultivate a genuine friendship and true cooperation with Islamabad failed, Ashraf Ghani waged an intensifying military campaign in Afghanistan, against an enemy whose sanctuary, training ground, supportive system and network were in Pakistan.

In his public statements, he stated that Pakistan is in a state of “undeclared war” with Afghanistan. But, in line with US military
strategy in Afghanistan, Ghani ordered Afghan security and defense forces to apply an unprecedented level of force against the Taliban.
Within a year, tens of thousands of military operations were conducted by Afghan security forces inside the country. US forces were also given a free hand in conducting their own military campaign, to fight a threat which nevertheless had its origin outside Afghanistan.

Drone strikes, house searches and the illegal detention of Afghans by US forces soon became the order of the day — Ghani signed a decree to allow detention without trials of terror suspects. It is worthwhile to point out here that none of these measures by US forces had earlier been authorized by former Afghan president Hamid Karzai.

Yet, waging more war within Afghanistan proved counterproductive to the rapidly deteriorating security situation in the country. Washington and Kabul’s nearsighted war policy gave birth to new terrorist brands such Daesh or ISIS in Afghanistan.

Soon the province of Kunduz and several other important districts repeatedly fell to the Taliban and foreign-backed terrorists. But simultaneously, the number of foreign fighters increased from 200 to 11,000 fighters in these past two years – these figures have been given by President Ghani himself. Meanwhile, civilian casualties and the death rate of Afghan security forces rose to an all
time high.

Trying Pakistan again

Fast-forward two and half years. Ashraf Ghani now says his “top priority must go to finding an effective way to build a different relationship with Pakistan.” He told the participants of the Kabul Process conference: “We want to be able to trust Pakistan.” The Afghans feel as if they have been struck by thunder. As if the experience of the last two and a half years hasn’t been enough. But if the President is still looking for answers to “what is it that Pakistan wants” from Afghanistan, he is simply playing with people’s emotions.

Mr President, perhaps I can tell you what Pakistan wants! Pakistan wants to control Afghanistan’s foreign policy, especially with regard to India. It wants the recognition of the Durand line by the Afghans and an Islamabad-centric government in Kabul. But here is something else, Mr President ! All of this is a dream which will never come true!

We should clearly call upon the region and the world to tackle the political dimensions of terrorism and end support to states who sponsor terrorism. Today, the Frankenstein’s monster – the terrorist and extremist outfits in Afghanistan — are as much a creation of the US as it is of the Pakistan. The Pakistani military establishment continues to serve the US in securing its strategic interests in south and central Asia.

In pursuit of their strategic and geopolitical agendas, foreign states continue to use terrorist groups in Afghanistan and the region. But the truth is that there will be no change in Pakistan’s double-sided policy towards Afghanistan, unless there is a strategic shift in Washington’s policy in dealing with Islamabad and in its dealing with Pakistan-sponsored terrorism at the same time.

Aimal Faizi is a former spokesperson to ex-Afghan president Hamid Karzai

For all the latest Opinion News, download Indian Express App

  1. P
    Pagrri Sanbhaal
    Jun 9, 2017 at 1:14 am
    IE have some shame.Not s single newspaper in India is trustworthy and unbiased.Learn from DAWN.This auther is a puppy of Drug lord Karzai who is a stooge of RAW stead of giving space to some unbiased auther you ppl are still indulged in needless pak bashing.Have some shame and courage to counter your own hindu talibans of India.
    Reply
    1. E
      Employ Ment
      Jun 8, 2017 at 11:51 pm
      💲💲मुफ्त रोजगार योजना💲💲 ✔मोदी जी द्वारा चलाए गए डिजिटल इन्डिया से जुड़े और कमाए हर महीने 15,000 - 50,000 रुपए ✔अब कोई नही रहेगा बेरोज़गार और नही करेगा कोई बेरोज़गार आत्महत्या ✔क्योंकि अब आ गई है 21वीं सदी की सबसे बड़ी रोज़गार क्रांति ✔हमारा सपना पूरे भारत को ही नही पूरी दुनिया को डिजिटल इंडिया से जोड़ना 💲सबका साथ सबका विकास💲 ➡शुरुवात कैसे करे ✔C.h.a.m.p`C.a.s.h को प्ले स्टोर से इन्स्टल करे, और साइन अप करे, $1 डॉलर बोनस स्पौन्सर ID: 468942 ➡चैलेंज को पूरा करे ➡और इंकम करनी शुरू करे 👇🏻इसे जरूर नोट कर ले👇🏻 स्पौन्सर ID: 468942 ........................ Jhsgdijdihdgsj
      Reply
      1. R
        ramesh ahuja
        Jun 8, 2017 at 9:33 pm
        Pkstn terrorist has called 2 Chinese in Baluchistan, hafeezvsayeed should be hanged.He claims responsibility.
        Reply
        1. S
          Shiv
          Jun 8, 2017 at 7:43 pm
          @Eshan Habib @ Zahir Shah - Just read the article once again, IE has only published the article written by respectable person who was spokes person of Hamid Karzai Ex-president, he might to privy to many dirty politics of Porkistan, altogether it's talk about Islamic terrorism and kill ing thousands of Afghan, the poor people have no peace, Porkistan want Puppet Govt viz. Taliban, but listen carefully, the terrorism the Porkistan breed to destabilise Afghan is going to back fire you, "Barbathi" to Porkis is certain and imminent, there is a old saying in Tamil that those who are wielding sward will certainly die with that, its a matter of time
          Reply
          1. R
            ramesh ahuja
            Jun 8, 2017 at 8:14 pm
            The pkstn is always in denial mode . Is JINNAH father of Pkstn in some years will be NOOOOOO Shaheed HAFIZ SAYEED cup will come out soon.
            Reply
          2. E
            Ehsan Habib
            Jun 8, 2017 at 6:53 pm
            Indian express please do read the international press too sometimes. ISIS has accepted the responsibility for Kabul attack and all, of course India excluding, have taken kid word as it is. You are lying to your self. Stop it.
            Reply
            1. Z
              Zahir Shah
              Jun 8, 2017 at 3:56 pm
              Not Haqqani network but ISIS has claim the responsibility. The seems to be sleeping in the pact of lies room of the Indian Express
              Reply
              1. S
                sk
                Jun 8, 2017 at 2:38 pm
                Such clarity of thought as shown by this author is rare, it take guts to call spade a spade
                Reply
                1. R
                  ramesh ahuja
                  Jun 8, 2017 at 11:47 am
                  The only solution bomb pkstn, they have attacked IRAN in disguise of ISIS, check hafeez sayeed tweets, inshaa Allah mujahedeen did good job.
                  Reply
                  1. Load More Comments