Update: In an interview to a private Pakistani TV channel on October 22 this year, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said that Kabul would never betray a ‘brother’, “if Pakistan is attacked by US or India.” He explained, “Pak-US tension did not have any impact on Kabul’s attitude towards Pakistan.” However, this shows a u-turn in Karzai’s stand which needs an appropriate analysis.
The remarks of President Karzai are in sharp contrast to Kabul’s past and recent allegations against Pakistan over cross-border terrorism, accusation that Pakistan was involved in killing Afghan peace envoy Burhanuddin Rabbani on September 20. On October 3, a statement from Afghanistan’s presidential palace said that evidence shows that Rabbani’s death “was plotted in Quetta and the person who carried out the suicide attack was a citizen of Pakistan.” Indirectly, in this regard, Kabul also accused Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). On the other side, Islamabad rejected allegations, saying that Pakistan or the ISI was not involved in the murder of Burhanuddin Rabban.
On October 4, in a televised address, Karzai condemned Pakistan’s double game on terrorism in Afghanistan, blaming that many Afghans are suspicious of Pakistan’s connections to the Taliban-led insurgency in their country. He elaborated, “Pakistan has not supported our efforts to bring peace and security to Afghanistan.” At the same time, Karzai urged Pakistan to use its influence in bringing the militants to direct peace talks.
Failing in making his own policy and taking his own stand, Karzai whose puppet regime was established by the US-led western countries after ousting the Taliban, has always followed the blame game of America and India against Pakistan. In 2008, frustrated in coping with the insurgents in his own country, Afghan President Hamid Karzai had threatened of targeting militant’s locations inside Pakistani territories. He had also advised the US-led NATO forces to invade Pakistan’s tribal areas.
By pursuing Indian approach, the Afghan Government had blamed the ISI in the July 2008 attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul. On October 8, 2009 when a large suicide bomb exploded near the Indian embassy there, both India and Afghanistan had again accused that ISI was behind the attack.
On May 2 this year, when Osama Bin Laden died in a US military raid, Afghan President Karzai alleged in the language of his foreign masters that other leadership of Al Qaeda has also taken shelter in Pakistan.
In the past few years, when Karzai felt that well-trained troops of the US and NATO, equipped with sophisticated weaponry have badly failed in crushing the continued resistance of the Afghan Taliban who have been fighting against the occupying forces, he started changing his stance to some extent. Confused in his goals, he also began to criticise the US for innocent casualties of Afghan people due to aerial bombardment and ground shelling. He also tried to contact Taliban leaders for a peace deal, calling the Taliban leader Mullah Omar his brother. But Taliban refused any dialogue until foreign troops leave Afghanistan. And when US announced that foreign troops would withdraw from Afghanistan upto 2014, Karzai was greatly depressed because survival of his government has totally depended upon the US-led forces.
As regards the question of security, on October 7, Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai told the BBC that the “failure to provide security to the Afghan people has been his government’s greatest shortcoming.” He openly remarked that it “is 10 years since the US invaded Afghanistan…NATO and the US must share the blame for failing to deal with the Taliban.” But he again accused Pakistan of supporting the militancy.
However, after acting upon an ambivalent policy, full of paradoxes, Karzai has suddenly taken a u-turn in his stand, revealing, “If ever there is a war between Pakistan and America, Afghanistan will side with Pakistan.” He further indicated about Islamabad, “Let us engage from a different platform, a platform in which the two brothers only progress towards a better future in peace and harmony.” Nevertheless, u-turn of Karzai’s stand is owing to a number of reasons.
In this context, since May 2, this year, tension existed between Pak-US relations, which was increased recently due to the hard statements of Admiral Mike Mullen (R) and some other US high officials who alleged that ISI was behind Haqqani network in connection with US embassy attack in Kabul. On the other side, Pakistan’s civil and military leadership rejected American coercive diplomacy, refusing to take military action in North Waziristan. In this backdrop, realising the ground realties and showing realistic approach, a positive shift has occurred in the US policy towards Pakistan, which was displayed during the latest trip of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Islamabad.
Ms. Clinton said on October 21, “Pakistan has a critical role to play in supporting Afghan reconciliation and ending the conflict.” She also clarified that there was no evidence that ISI was involved in attack on the US embassy in Kabul through Haqqani network. She also agreed with Islamabad’s stand that infiltration of militants from Afghanistan inside Pakistan should also be stopped, and US interests demand stability in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
In her return to Washington, on October 23, in a CNN interview, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, revealed that an improved level of mutual understanding has taken place with Pakistan. The US and Pakistan will work together for Afghan peace. She also pointed out, “US acknowledges the need to eliminate safe havens of terrorists in Afghanistan…who attack Pakistan.”
It is noteworthy that before visiting Islamabad, in Kabul, on October 20, Ms. Clinton emphasised Afghanistan’s distrustful leadership to keep up Taliban reconciliation efforts and boost counterterrorism co-operation with Pakistan as the Obama administration presses ahead with troop withdrawal plan.
Now, change in the US policy is quite opposite to the stand of Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Worried about his presidency, he knows that if the US-led NATO forces withdraw from Afghanistan, his regime will not survive due to stiff resistance of Afghan Taliban. Even India will not be in a position to maintain its network, and its investment-projects will also not succeed in wake of the successful guerrilla warfare of the Taliban.
It is mentionable that India and Afghanistan signed a strategic agreement on October 5 this year, deepening their security and economic ties. The deal will guarantee Afghanistan’s security as foreign troops begin withdrawing from the country, which will be completed in 2014. However, apparently, it is open strategic agreement, but secretly, India which has already spent billion of dollars in Afghanistan, wants to further strengthen its grip in that country not only to get strategic depth against Islamabad, but also to use the war-torn country in destabilising Pakistan. For this purpose, secret agencies like Indian RAW and Afghan Khad are in collusion and has been sending well-trained agents and militants in Pakistan, who not only attack the check posts of Pakistan’s security forces, but also commit other subversive acts in various places of Pakistan, besides supporting Baloch separatism.
Being unsuccessful in their objevtives, India and Afghan rulers, with the help of RAW and Khad could act upon dirty tricks to get especially American troops entangled in Afghanistan permanently. In this context, with the help of some so-called Muslims, these secret agencies could increase attacks inside Afghanistan, particularly targeting American soldiers with the sole aim to revive old blame game of the US against Islamabad and ISI in relation to cross-border-terrorism.
Although, President Karzai favours dialogue with the Afghan insurgents, yet America should remain alert that New Delhi and Kabul in connivance against Washington and Islamabad will try to fail the peace deals with the Taliban militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In this regard, they will also make ground to implicate Islamabad and ISI, re-creating a rift in Pak-US ties. Thus India and Karzai could entrap the US permanently in Afghanistan in order to achieve their secret designs by damaging American global and regional interests. In this intricate situation, while quoting a report, a Pakistan’s daily newspaper disclosed on October 24, “Pakistan has told the United States that it is ready to facilitate its talks with the Afghan Taliban, but cannot become a guarantor to the negotiating process.”
Nonetheless, u-turn in Karzai’s stand contains hidden agenda of India and Afghanistan against Pakistan and the United States.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations