By Sajjad Shaukat
When any terror attack occurs in Afghanistan, Afghan government revives old blame game against Pakistan.
On May 31, this year, a massive truck bombing of the Afghan capital’s diplomatic section killed more than 150 people and injured hundreds of others, including foreigners. It was the deadliest terror attack in the 16-year-old conflict.
Taliban denied responsibility for the terror attack. But, Afghanistan’s intelligence service accused the Haqqani network by saying that a Taliban-affiliated group in Pakistan, carried out the attack. Addressing the conference-the “Kabul Process on Peace and Security Cooperation”, held in Kabul on June 6, 2017, which was attended by representatives from 26 countries and international organizations, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani criticized Pakistan for a lack of cooperation in promoting Afghan peace and alleged that Taliban insurgents are using sanctuaries on Pakistani soil to wage the insurgency in Afghanistan.
In the same speech, President Ghani offered peace talks to the Afghan Taliban by reiterating his preconditions such as recognition of the Afghan constitution, continuity of the reforms of educating and advancing the rights of women, and renunciation of violence and linkages with terrorist groups.
A Taliban spokesman rejected Ghani’s offer of a peace dialogue by stating that it is another attempt to endorse and to prolong foreign occupation of Afghanistan.
However, during the same of the conference, a powerful bomb went off at a main mosque in the western city of Herat, killing at least 10 people. Again, Taliban spokesman denied its involvement in connection with the explosion.
On the other side, Pakistan’s special Corps Commander Conference took the stern notice of Afghanistan’s allegations and threats and vowed to defend the country the with full forces.
According to the press release of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), issued on June 6, 2017, the “Special Corps Commanders Conference presided over by Chief of the Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa called for Afghanistan to introspect and not allege Pakistan of sponsoring terrorism…the conference reviewed the security situation…Strongly condemning the Kabul blast…meeting has expressed complete solidarity with Afghan government…instead of blaming Pakistan, Afghanistan needs to look forward and identify the real issues…Armed forces will defend the country from each challenge and will continue work to establish peace in the region.”
ISPR statement further reported that the meeting reaffirming continued support to regional peace and stability, the forum reiterated military’s resolve to defend the motherland against all types of threat.
Nevertheless, we need to know that who is behind Afghanistan’s blame game against Pakistan and why the same continues unabated in wake of terrorism-related assaults in Pakistan.
It mentionable that the armed forces of Pakistan have successfully broken the backbone of the foreign-backed terrorists by the successful military operations Zarb-e-Azb and Radd-ul-Fasaad which have also been extended to other parts of the country, including Balochistan. And Pakistan’s primarily intelligence agency, ISI has broken the network of these terrorist groups by capturing several militants, while thwarting a number of terror attempts.
Besides, since the government of the Balochistan province announced general pardon and protection to the Baloch militants as part of reconciliation process, many insurgents and their leaders have surrendered their arms and decided to work for the development of Pakistan and peace has been restored in Balochistan.
Peace has also been restored in Karachi and other provinces of Pakistan, including the tribal areas. But, recent blasts in Balochistan and other regions of the country show that the US-led India, Afghanistan and Israel have again started acts of sabotage to destabilize Pakistan and to damage the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)
In this regard, as part of the latest wave of terrorism, at least 35 people, including nine police men were killed and several others injured in a suicide blast near Arfa Tower on Ferozpur Road in Lahore on July 24, 2017.
On the same day, ISPR statement said that Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa raised concerns with the visiting Commander Resolute Support Mission (RSM) and US Forces in Afghanistan, General John W. Nicholson, over “the blame game perpetrated by some quarters in Afghanistan and United States to undermine Pakistan’s contribution to the war on terror.
The army chief elaborated, “This theme is being played at a time when policy review is being undertaken in USA…despite provocations, Pakistan will continue to act positively as we consider defeat of terrorism as national interest.”
The ISPR statement further pointed out that Nicholson reiterated his appreciation of Pakistan Army’s professionalism and admiration for resilience of the people. Both agreed on need for continuous engagement and coordination for peace and stability in the region.
Notably, a visiting United States (US) Congressional delegation led by Senator John McCain was taken on a tour of South Waziristan by Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa on July 3, this year.
During their visit to South Waziristan, the delegation was briefed on recent measures taken for the improvement of the fencing of the Pak-Afghan border and enhanced surveillance.
Speaking at the event, Senator McCain stressed the importance of continued cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Senator Graham expressed his satisfaction with the progress against the fight against terrorism by stating, “I cannot stress how impressed I am with what’s happened in the last two years. It speaks well of the Pakistani Army and the people in this region”. Senator Whitehouse also lauded the military’s efforts in curbing terrorism.
As a matter of fact, the US and India do not want to see peace and prosperity in the region. Sadly, Pakistan’s dominant role in Afghanistan’s peace process under the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) has, deliberately, been sabotaged by killing of the Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansur in CIA-operated drone attack in Balochistan. After the incident, Afghan Taliban leaders refused to participate in the US-sponsored talks with the Afghan government. While, in the recent past, with the help of Pakistan, a series of meetings were held in Islamabad and Kabul among the representatives of Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and the US to develop an understanding for the earliest possible resumption of stalled talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban with view to ending nearly 15 years of bloodshed in Afghanistan.
Owing to America’s double game, trust deficit deepened between Islamabad and Washington. Therefore, on June 10, 2016, a high-level delegation of the US visited Islamabad and met the Pakistan’s former Chief of the Army Staff Gen. Raheel Sharif and Adviser to the former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz separately.
During the meeting, expressing his serious concern on the US drone strike in Balochistan as a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty, Pakistan’s former Army Chief Gen. Raheel Sharif highlighted as to how it had impacted the mutual trust and was counterproductive in consolidating the gains of Operation Zarb-i-Azb against terrorists. He explained, “All stakeholders need to understand Pakistan’s challenges-inter-tribal linkages and decades—old presence of over three million refugees—blaming Pakistan for instability in Afghanistan is unfortunate”.
US ambivalent policy about Islamabad could also be judged from some other development. In this respect, another delegation of US Senators including Senator Lindsey Graham led by Senator John McCain, Chairman of US Senate Arms Services committee visited Islamabad and North Waziristan Agency (NWA) on July 3, 2016. The US Senators visited areas cleared of terrorists during Operation Zarb-e-Azb. American delegation appreciated the Pakistan Army’s accomplishment of cleansing the entire area of NWA right up to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, after witnessing the terrorists’ hideouts and communication infrastructure dismantled by the Pakistan Army.
Outwardly, American top officials have been appreciating the capabilities of Pakistan’s security agencies against terrorism, but inwardly, they are not pleased in relation to the successes, achieved by the armed forces of Pakistan against the militants, because America is acting upon a dual strategy in relation to Islamabad—also due to the reason that Pakistan in the only nuclear country in the Islamic World, which irritates America and its allies-India and Israeli.
In this context, in the recent past, new wave of terrorism in Pakistan killed several innocent people, while various terrorist outfits such as the Islamic State group (Also known as Daesh, ISIS, ISIL) and the affiliated faction of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Jamaat-ur-Ahrar (TTP-JA also known as JuA) claimed responsibility for these brutal acts. TTP based in Afghanistan has its connections with ISIL and other terrorist organizations and affiliated terror groups, including Baloch separatist elements, and all these groups are promoting the anti-Pakistan agenda of the foreign entities against Pakistan. As part of the double game, American CIA, Indian RAW, Israeli Mossad and Afghan intelligence agency, National Directorate of Security (NDS) which are in collaboration, are using these terror outfits in destabilizing Pakistan and especially Balochistan, including Afghanistan through various acts of terrorism in order to fulfill the covert strategic aims of the US-led India and Israel against Pakistan, China, Russia and Iran.
These external secret agencies are particularly supporting the TTP which is hiding in Nuristan and Kunar provinces of Afghanistan. Reportedly, Mullah Fazlullah led TTP is behind several terror activities inside Pakistan, as the latter has also become center of the Great Game due to the ideal location of Balochistan. With the tactical assistance of CIA, particularly, Indian RAW is trying to damage Pak-China CPEC project.
While, India, the US and puppet rulers of Afghanistan have always blamed Islamabad for cross-border terrorism in Afghanistan to divert attention from the acts of sabotage, which they have been arranging in Pakistan. Main purpose behind is also to pacify their public, as the US-led countries have failed in their fight against the Taliban who are waging a war of liberation against the occupying forces.
As regards the terrorism-related incidents inside Afghanistan, India, Israel and the Afghan government want to prolong the stay of the US-led NATO forces in that country and are using the militant outfits to create further unrest there, while shifting the blame game towards Islamabad.
In this regard, suicide bombers attacked a Shiite mosque in the western Afghan city of Herat on August 1, this year killing at least 20 people. The Taliban denied that they were behind the attack, while the ISIS group took the responsibility. While the majority-Sunni country has been relatively free of sectarian violence, the ISIS terrorists have repeatedly targeted gatherings of Shiites, so that sectarian riots could be erupted in the war-ravaged country.
ISIS on July 31, 2017 claimed responsibility for an attack on the Iraqi Embassy in Kabul, which began with a suicide bomber blowing him up at the main gate, allowing gunmen to enter the building and battle security forces. Similarly, a car suicide bomb exploded in western Kabul July 24, 2017, killing at least 27 people. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack.
Besides various terror assaults, on January 10, 2017, an explosion took place in Governor House Kandhar (Afghanistan) where diplomats of United Arab Emirates (UAE) were also present along with the Governor, Deputy Governor, Inspector General of Police (IGP) and other dignities. The blast killed 12 people—five UAE diplomats and injured 18 persons, including Governor of Kandhar and UAE Ambassador to Afghanistan. IGP Abdul Razziq went outside the hall few minutes before the blast. IGP Razziq put blame on Pakistan’s Haqqani network and its primary intelligence agency, ISI on the very next day. The matter was investigated by two committees, consisting of NDS and Afghan government and UAE, including Scotland Yard. IGP Razziq did not cooperate with the investigation teams, even though he was responsible for the security of Governor House.
It is mentionable that the US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told Congress on July 13, 2017 that the United States “is not winning the war against Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan”, promising to brief lawmakers on “a new war strategy to call for thousands more U.S. troops.” Now, American President Donald Trump has decided to dispatch more troops in Afghanistan.
According to data released by the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, “The Afghan government was assessed by the US military to control or influence just 59.7 percent of Afghanistan’s 407 districts as of Feb. 20, a nearly 11 percentage-point decrease from the same time in 2016.”
In fact, Taliban are fighting against the US-led NATO countries for the liberation of their country. Hence, in order to divert the attention of their public from the prolonged war of the 16 years and their defeatism, especially the US is behind Afghanistan’s blame game against Pakistan in relation to terrorism.
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