PAKISTAN’S friendly overtures toward the newly installed unity government in Afghanistan and the consequent interaction between the leaders of the two countries did help in promoting bonhomie and cooperation between the two countries to fight the common enemy and we did see some concrete actions against TTP operative based in Afghanistan besides an agreement between the intelligence outfits of the two countries to share intelligence and work together to thwart the designs of the enemy. Both countries vowed not to allow their territories to be used for attacksagainst each other. Pakistan also played a significant role in the first ever face-off between the Taliban and the Afghan government to nudge the process of Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation in the war-ravaged country.
But regrettably that amity proved short-lived. The two countries relapsed into the blame-game mode due to a number of developments that overshadowed the reconciliation efforts including: rampant attacks in Kabul by Taliban in August for which Ashraf Ghani openly blamed Pakistan, revelation about demise of Taliban leader Mullah Omar, the ensuing leadership battle within the ranks of the Taliban movement, pressure built by the proponents of the war economy and the war lords, unprecedented institutional corruption, burgeoning crimes, geo-political realities nurtured by Indo-Pak animosity, strong anti-Pakistan lobby within Afghanistan and the shrinking writ of the Afghan government.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah have been severely criticizing Pakistan and the former even went to state that relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan were not brotherly but relations between the two states. On one occasion he even spurned Pakistan’s further involvement in facilitating dialogue between Afghan government and the Taliban.
In my view the biggest role in orchestrating this dip in relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan has been played by Indian RAW, which has proven links with the Afghan intelligence outfit (NDS). Both have been using TTP for a proxy war against Pakistan and sponsoring terrorist attacks against it from the Afghan territory. This was corroborated by none other than the second in command of TTP Lateefullah Mehsud who was captured by the NATO-Isaf forces in Afghanistan in October 2013 when he was returning after his meeting with key figures in Kabul and the Chief of NDS. He confessed during the interrogation that Kabul-Delhi nexus was harbouring ‘safe heavens’ across the Durand line and using them for subversive and terrorist activities within Pakistan. The Badaber attack which was planned and executed from the Afghan soil could also be a link in the same chain.
In the prevailing circumstances there is a need for re-establishing contacts between the two countries at the highest level with a view to clearing the haze about mutually expressed apprehensions and finding a way forward in re-building cooperative relations between the two countries, forming a joint front against terrorism and promoting process of reconciliation instead of resorting to brinkmanship.
Both sides need to work together with sincerity of purpose showing sensitivity to the mutual concerns and making a new beginning. Before it is too late, an immediate re-evaluation of the current relationship is essential in order to move forward. It must be understood that as the US troops gear up to withdraw, Afghanistan needs Pakistan more than ever. Ghani is struggling to maintain his unity government intact and the withdrawal of US troops by the end of 2016 may precipitate his woes, as the Afghan Army is still not in a position to maintain security. The capture of Kunduz by Taliban and reported advances in the Badakhshan province are indeed very dangerous portents which have exposed the vulnerabilities of the newpolitical dispensation in Afghanistan.
In the wake of increased attacks by Taliban on government installations and their offensive to capture Afghan cities as well as the presence of IS in the shape of Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan in the country, there is a strong likelihood of Afghanistan drifting towards an unending conflict and struggle for ascendency among different players after the departure of foreign troops. To prevent this horrible scenario from re-emerging, Ghani government has no alternative but to join hands with Pakistan in forestalling the impending disaster. Similarly Pakistan also is in desperate need of Afghan cooperation in taking the war on terror to its logical conclusion, implementing its economic initiatives including CPEC and recalibrated foreign policy objectives in the region. This is also the considered view of the top US military commander in Afghanistan John F Campbell who briefing the Senate Armed Services committee termed it absolute necessary for peace in Afghanistan.
— The writer is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.