By Sajjad Shaukat
Although the former presidents of the US George. W. Bush and Barack Obama were secretly acting upon double game as part of the South Asian policy, yet the President Donald Trump clearly exposed America’s double game in South Asia.
In this regard, in his speech, the US President Trump announced new strategy for Afghanistan on August 21, this year. Trump said, “We will fight to win,” taking a strident tone and indicating “the US would expand its presence in Afghanistan” by committing more American troops.
Trump stated, that victory in Afghanistan will mean “attacking our enemies” and “obliterating” the Islamic State group, Al-Qaeda, and to prevent the Taliban from taking over the country.
He did not provide a number of additional troops which will be sent to the war, though US officials said ahead of the speech that they expect him to go along with a Pentagon recommendation for nearly 4,000 new troops.
Using harsh worlds against the US ally Pakistan, Trump revived the old blame game of his predecessors Bush and Obama regarding the cross-border terrorism in Afghanistan by saying Washington could “no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations”, and threatened to target the terrorists’ sanctuaries in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
He added, “We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars, at the same time, they are housing the very terrorists we are fighting…that must change immediately.”
As regards Pakistan’s regional rival India, Donald Trump elaborated, “We appreciate India’s important contributions to stability in Afghanistan, but India makes billions of dollars in trade from the United States and we want them to help us more with Afghanistan.”
US President Donald Trump’s revised policy towards Afghan war and allegations against Pakistan prompted strong reactions from Pakistani analysts, politicians of the ruling party and leaders of the opposition parties.
In this context, Pakistan’s renowned analyst on the affairs of tribal areas and Afghanistan, Rahimullah Yusufzai opined, “the United State’s new Afghan policy is “equivalent to a threat to Pakistan…frequent statements from the US stating that Pakistan is home to terrorists is a clear message…India will play a bigger role in Afghanistan.”
Chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan stated on August 22 and 23, 2017, “Just as India blames Pakistan for the indigenous Kashmiri uprisings when these are a result of its own failed policy of repression in the Indian Occupied Kashmir…So the US again blames Pakistan for its deeply flawed and failed Afghan policy stretching over a decade…We must also reject being made scapegoats for the policy failures of the US and India…the new US policy is aimed at de-nuclearising Pakistan…India’s major role in Afghanistan as per Trump administration’s new strategy for the region will have adverse impacts on Pakistan…Trump had threatened Pakistan in open words and undermined the country’s major contributions towards that war. It seems Trump has no knowledge of this region. He does not know the dynamics of over a decade-old war the US has been fighting in Afghanistan…The Trump’s new strategy will further weaken the US government and its economy…If you want peace in Afghanistan, you need Pakistan. More troops and money will not serve the purpose.”
The leaders of the opposition parties demanded the Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to convene a special session of Parliament to discuss Trump’s threat and to prepare a new policy towards US.
According to the statement of Inter Services Publication Directorate (ISPR) issued on August 23, 2017, Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa said that Pakistan was not looking for any material or financial assistance from USA but trust, understanding and acknowledgement of our contributions…peace in Afghanistan is as important for Pakistan as for any other country. This he said, while speaking to American Ambassador to Pakistan David Hale who called on Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) at GHQ (Army head quarter) in Rawalpindi.”
The meeting comes a day after US President Trump allegedly warned about Pakistan’s safe havens for militants and threatened that it had much to lose by continuing to harbor terrorists.
Pakistan’s top political and military leaders on August 24, 2017 offered a stark response to Trump’s false accusations in the meeting of the National Security Committee, telling him that scapegoating Pakistan will not bring about peace in Afghanistan. The civil and military officials demanded that the US military should eliminate militants who use Afghan soil to stage attacks in Pakistan. It also called for recognition by the Trump administration of Pakistan’s many sacrifices—thousands of civilians and security forces have lost their lives in the country’s fight against insurgency and militancy on its own soil. The war on terror has also cost this Islamic nation $120 billion in economic losses. The committee reiterated Pakistan’s commitment that it will not allow its soil to be used for violence against any other country—“We expect the same from our neighbors”, it said in a reference to Afghanistan and India.
The committee pointed out that Trump’s claims of giving billions of dollars in aid to Pakistan were “misleading…that the reimbursements to Pakistan since 2001 only account for part of the cost of ground facilities and air corridors used by the United States for its operations in Afghanistan, rather than any financial aid or assistance.” The meeting pledged to continue helping international community to ensure peace in Afghanistan.
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif said, “Terrorist sanctuaries are present in East Afghanistan. It is from these safe havens inside Afghanistan that terrorist attacks are being launched on Pakistan.”
Khawaja Asif’s official visit to the United States was postponed and now, he will go to China and Russia to discuss Trump’s new strategy.
Notably, on August 22, this year, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi reaffirmed Beijing’s support to Pakistan during a meeting with Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua hours after the US President Trump criticized Pakistan for allegedly offering safe haven to agents of chaos in his South Asia.
A Foreign Ministry handout of Beijing said that China came to Islamabad’s defense in light of Trump’s remarks—Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying asserted that Pakistan was on the front line in the struggle against terrorism and had made great sacrifices and important contributions in the fight. Chunying called on the international community to recognise Pakistan’s role in the fight against terrorism. During the meeting in China, Yi and Janjua agreed that Pakistan and China would continue cooperating with each other closely in efforts to establish peace in Afghanistan.
Besides China, on August 24, this year, Russian Presidential Envoy to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov slammed Trump’s Pakistan strategy and insisted that Islamabad is “a key regional player to negotiate with.” He explained, “Putting pressure [on Pakistan] may seriously destabilise the region-wide security situation and result in negative consequences for Afghanistan.”
On the same day, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, while rejecting the US new strategy in Afghanistan, stated, “Russia has expressed regret that the main focus of the new [Afghanistan] strategy announced by Washington is regulation by methods of force…We are certain this is a futile course.” He also rejected American’s allegations that that Moscow was supplying arms to the Taliban.
However, American new strategy is not about Afghanistan, Pakistan and India only, in its wider sense, it is aimed at China and Russia too.
It is notable that terrorist outfits such as the Islamic State group (Also known as Daesh, ISIS, ISIL) and its affiliated militant groups which are being backed by American CIA and Israeli Mossad arranged several acts of terrorism in the Middle East, especially Syria. ISIS through its linked militant groups has, also, been conducted acts of sabotage in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
When any terror attack occurs in Afghanistan, by following the covert policy of the US, 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.
During the same 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 with full forces.
According to the press release of 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.”
It is 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 province. 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.
While coping with the strong resistance of Taliban, what the well-equipped and well-trained NATO forces could not do in Afghanistan in 16 years, Pakistan military forces did in the sixteen months by eliminating terrorism.
Peace has 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).
It is of particular attention that Indian role in Pakistan became naked after the arrest of Kulbhushan Yadav on March 24, 2016. Yadav openly admitted that he was the serving agent of Indian RAW in Balochistan province, and during his stay, he contacted various Baloch separatist leaders and insurgents to execute the task to damage the CPEC. Yadav confessed that he spied for India and was “assigned with the task to create unrest in Karachi and Balolchitan…to destabilize Pakistan…he was captured, while heading Iran.”
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. 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 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.
It is worth-mentioning that 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.
In 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 16 years of bloodshed in Afghanistan.
Owing to America’s double game, trust deficit had already 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”.
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 respect, in the recent past, new wave of terrorism in Pakistan killed several innocent people, while various terrorist outfits, especially the ISIS, 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 outfits 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 particularly 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 harm Pak-China CPEC project.
While, India, the US and puppet rulers of Afghanistan have always accused Islamabad of 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, a suicide bombing followed by gunfire on Shia Muslims who gathered for Friday (August 25, 2017) prayers at a mosque in Kabul killed at least 28 people, with the ISIS claiming responsibility.
The 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.
Nonetheless, America and some of its NATO allies which prefer India over Pakistan have been following conflicting policies. Sometimes, they recognize the fact that there is a co-relationship of stability in Pakistan and Afghanistan and sometimes, they back the propaganda of New Delhi and Kabul against Islamabad in relation to cross-border terrorism in Afghanistan. India which has invested billions of dollars in Afghanistan, signed a wide-ranging strategic agreement with that country on October 5, 2011 also includes to help train Afghan security forces, while assisting Kabul in diversified projects, is manipulating the ambivalent approach of the US-led Western countries so as to further strengthen its grip in Afghanistan.
Regarding Indian activities in Afghanistan the then NATO commander, Gen. McChrystal had pointed out: “Indian political and economic influence is increasing in Afghanistan…is likely to exacerbate regional tensions.” And the US Senator John McCain had reminded the Obama administration that encouraging India to take a more active role in Afghanistan, while simultaneously criticizing Pakistan could be a recipe for disaster.
If NATO withdraws its forces from Afghanistan in future, despite the presence of American-led NATO troops on small scale, New Delhi which has been assisting the Northern Alliance (Minority groups) like the America and other Western powers against the Afghan freedom fighters will not be in a position to maintain its network due to successful guerrilla warfare of the Taliban. Afghanistan will be thrown in an era of uncertainty and civil war. In that drastic situation, the US-led foreign donors will not be able to sustain their economic aid in that lawless country.
It is noteworthy that the US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had 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.”
As a matter of fact, Taliban who are fighting against the US-led NATO countries for the liberation of their country are targeting their installations and military personnel. In this connection, two US soldiers of NATO were killed and six others were wounded when a suicide bomber attacked their patrol on August 3, 2017 in eastern Afghanistan, marking the second incident in just as many days when insurgent attacks have killed Western troops. But, in order to divert attention of their public from NATO’s defeatism in Afghanistan and the prolonged war of 16 years, some of these countries shift the blame game towards Pakistan and Russia.
In this respect, at a news conference in Kabul, on April 24, 2017, the US Defense Secretary James Mattis and Gen. John Nicholson, the American commander in Afghanistan had supposedly stated that Russia was providing weapons to the Taliban. But, Moscow denied these false accusations.
It is worth-mentioning that India did not participate in China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) Summit which took place on May 14, 2017 in Beijing. This step was taken to show displeasure towards the Pak-China project of the CPEC which has been strongly opposed by New Delhi. The OBOR summit was attended by the heads of 29 states and governments, which included Pakistan’s then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, delegations from South Asian countries, leaders and officials from Russia, Japan, UK, Germany, France etc. The OBOR plan will create a network of trade routes, rail lines, ports and highways, linking countries on four continents. China is calling it the “plan of the century.”
Nearly, 70 countries have signed agreements with Beijing to participate in the initiative of the OBOR or the Belt Road Initiative (BRI). Many of China’s Asian neighbors are sorely in need of infrastructure investment and development aid.
Russia has strongly favoured the OBOR and CPEC projects, leading the Russia-China strategic partnership which comprises everything from energy to infrastructure development, including future Trans-Siberian high-speed rail. Pakistan is the key member of this partnership, while Turkey also joined the Russian-led China-Pakistan alliance.
On June 9, this year, Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif held a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Astana, Kazakhstan.
President Putin said that Pakistan is an important partner for Russia in South Asia and congratulated Prime Minister Sharif on Pakistan’s full membership to the SCO. Putin elaborated, “Russian-Pakistani relations have been constructive and mutually beneficial…our relations are developing in many areas, and our trade has increased.”
In a major development, Russia has offered its support for Pakistan’s entry into a free trade agreement with Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), of which Russia is a leading member.
Now, taking cognizance of Trump’s threatening diplomacy against Islamabad, Pakistan is likely to strengthen its ties with Russia.
Undoubtedly, President Donald Trump clearly exposed America’s double game in South Asia by announcing America’s new strategy, which will fail like previous policies, while the US and its NATO partners will remain entangled in Afghanistan by further increasing the cost of war and multiple crises which their peoples are facing internally.
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
Courtesy Veterans Today