US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who visited Islamabad on October 20 this year, succeeded in reducing the heat in Pak-US relationship, but she emphasised on Pakistan to “remove safe havens of militants in FATA and the continuing threats across the border to Afghans.” But on October 23, during a CNN interview, Ms. Clinton first time remarked, “US acknowledges the need to eliminate safe havens of terrorists in Afghanistan…who attack Pakistan.”
In fact, within the last few years of fighting, when the US-led NATO forces felt that they are failing in coping with the stiff resistance of Afghan Taliban, they started a blame game against Pakistan. While raising various accusations, especially US top civil and military officials, sometimes said that white terrorists’ training camps are located in Pakistan’s FATA region, sometimes blamed that level of militancy increased in Afghanistan owing to the insurgents who entered Afghanistan from Pakistan’s tribal areas where safe havens of militants exist and sometimes accusing Pak Army and ISI of close ties with the militants. These high officials also presumed that a 9/11-type plot to attack the American homeland is being prepared in the safe havens of Pakistan’s FATA.
In the recent past, tension increased in Pak-US relations, when US Admiral Mike Mullen (R) accused that the Haqqani network-based in North Waziristan, is waging a ‘proxy war’ in Afghanistan with the assistance ISI, calling Haqqani network’s “acts as a veritable arm” of ISI, blaming for a recent assault on the US embassy in Kabul. Before him, on September 14, 2011, the US Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta warned that the US would retaliate against militants based in Pakistan, alleging that they “are killing our forces in Afghanistan…they escape back into what are safe havens in Pakistan.”
However, US high officials have continued their blame game against Islamabad more openly. In this respect, on October 6, even US President Barack Obama alleged Pakistan in relation to Afghanistan, saying that there were “some connections” between Pakistan’s intelligence services and extremists. Quite contrarily, during her trip to Pakistan Ms. Clinton had clarified that the US had “no evidence” that ISI was involved in attack on the US embassy in Kabul through Haqqani network. Notably, from time to time, President Obama has repeatedly blamed Pakistan for cross-border terrorism in Afghanistan and location of militants’ safe havens in Pak tribal areas.
Nevertheless, in wake of Pak-US controversy, question arises as to where are the safe havens of the militants? and which country is responsible for cross-border terrorism.
In this connection, on October 17, ISPR spokesman Major-General Athar Abbas disclosed regarding insurgents’ infiltration in Pakistan, saying, “The attacks in which terrorists loyal to Maulvi Fazlullah, (leader of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan) who fled to Afghanistan during Swat military operation, killed about 100 members of Pakistan’s security forces.” He explained, “Pakistani Taliban insurgency is based in Kunar and Nuristan provinces in Afghanistan…we have given locations and information about these groups to the US-led forces” which had failed to hunt down a spate of cross-border raids.
As a matter of fact, all the Taliban insurgents who escaped to Afghanistan due to Pak military operations regrouped and set up their hideouts in that country.
It is notable that since April this year heavily-armed insurgents from Afghanistan’s side entered Pakistan’s region intermittently, targeting the security check posts and other infrastructure. On October 9, hundreds of insurgents attacked the Kakar checkpost in Upper Dir. During the assault, around 15 insurgents were killed and a soldier also lost his life. On August 27, some 300 militants attacked seven paramilitary check posts in Pakistan’s district of Chitral, killing more than 30 personnel of the security forces. In one of such major attacks, on June 1, more than 500 armed militants who entered Upper Dir area killed more than 30 police and paramilitary soldiers. Police said that well-trained terrorists who targetted a check post, also destroyed two schools and several houses with rocket and gunfire attacks, while killing a number of innocent people. On June 3, 400 militants besieged the Pakistani area. Sources suggested that after a three-day gun battle, Pakistani security forces killed 71 Afghan Taliban.
Despite the previous reaction shown by Islamabad, calling for a ‘stern action’ by Afghan and US-led NATO troops to crackdown on militants’ hideouts in Afghanistan, the cross-border penetration has continued in Pakistan.
Here question also arises as to why the US-led NATO forces do not stop the Taliban insurgents when they enter Pakistani territory? Even then, they fail in this respect, next question is as to why these foreign forces do not attack the Al Qaeda or Afghan Taliban, while fighting with Pak security forces continues for several hours?
It is unbelievable that aggression against Pakistan is possible without active connivance of the US-led forces because they have modern surveillance system to monitor movement on every inch of the soil. The way the Afghan insurgents are challenging a highly professional Pak Army, crossing border is enough to prove that secret agencies such as American CIA, Indian RAW and Israeli Mossad which have well-established their collective network in Afghanistan are fully backing these incursions with a view to increasing pressure on Pakistan. They also want to destabilise Pakistan. For this purpose, in Afghanistan’s Kunar and Nooristan provinces, with the help of these foreign secret agencies, their affiliated militant groups are penetrated into the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan which have set up safe havens in Afghanistan to conduct attack inside Pakistan. Besides, a religious Madrassa in Wakhan-Afghanistan is functioning under the patronage of Indian officials, which is being used for brainwashing of very young boys who are Afghans, Uzbeks, Tajiks and Caucasians. They learn Pashto and traditions of Pathans. Posing as volunteers, they have joined the Taliban activists to fight against Pakistan’s security forces. In this context, India’s several secret training camps are also present in Afghanistan from where highly trained militants, equipped with sophisticated weapons are being sent to Pakistan’s various places so as to commit subversive acts regularly.
It is mentionable that Afghanistan shares a common border with the Central Asian Republics. And all the foreign militants enter Pakistan through Afghanistan which has become a gateway. So, as to why US and NATO forces do not capture these foreign terrorists when they enter Afghanistan.
In this respect, on July 17, 2008, USA Today wrote, “Afghanistan has been drawing a fresh influx of jihadi fighters from Turkey, Central Asia, Chechnya and the Middle East, one more sign that al-Qaeda is becoming the most active front of the war on terror”.
During the Swat and Malakand military operations, ISPR spokesman, Maj-Gen. Athar Abbas had revealed that several foreigners from Chechnya, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Saudi Arabia, Libya and India including Afghans, having connections with the enemy countries were arrested along with huge caches of sophisticated weapons sophisticated weapons, made of India and America.
Now, without informing, Islamabad, US troops have vacated scores of security check posts in Afghanistan side of Pak-Afghan border to a give free hand to the Afghan commanders so as to send large-scale reinforcements in inside Pakistan.It is noteworthy that on September 17, in a rare interview by telephone from an undisclosed location, leader of the Haqqani militant network, Sirajuddin Haqqani had revealed that the group has become so confident after battlefield gains in Afghanistan that “it no longer has sanctuaries in Pakistan, and instead, felt secure inside Afghanistan.”
On October 3, Sirajuddin Haqqani denied killing the Afghan government’s peace envoy Burhanuddin Rabbani and the US allegations that the Haqqanis were linked to the ISI. He also pointed out that US is persuading us “to leave the sacred jihad and take part in the Afghan government.” His statement was also verified by the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who signaled on October 12, “The United States remains open to exploring a peace deal with the militants including the Haqqani network.” She has also asked Islamabad to help US for a peace deal with the militants.
On the one hand, US has been blaming Pakistan for supporting, Haqqani militants in relation to attacks inside Afghanistan, while on the other, it was secretly negotiating with the group for reconciliation.
Returning to our earlier discussion, safe havens of militants are in Afghanistan, and first time this fact has also been realised by the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
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