Karzai's allegation and Afghanistan report card

On July 14, the besieged Afghan President said he had evidence of Pakistan's involvement in the suicide bombing attack on the Indian embassy that left 40 dead and the Taleban attack on an ISAF post which killed nine US soldiers.

By Nasim Zehra (Vantage Point)

Published: Sat 19 Jul 2008, 10:10 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 4:21 PM

Karzai called off scheduled Pakistan-Afghan bilateral talks. India too pulled out of a planned two-day Indo-Pak talks on intelligence sharing. But neither of the two countries have provided any evidence against Pakistan, which too is fighting militants on its soil and suffering regular military casualties.

The list of problems inside Afghanistan is long and increasing. Karzai's inability to move beyond Kabul is coupled with the absence of sufficient ISAF troops to deal with the security challenge. Some claim the presence of the troops is the root cause of the civil war. The financial support required for Afghanistan's reconstruction is not available. The corruption and the warlords rule the roost. The increased killing of civilians by ISAF air attacks helps to swell the ranks of the Taleban.

Admittedly, the situation in the tribal belt too is a contributing factor. It continues to serve as the staging and recruiting ground for elements mostly fighting foreign occupation. If it was the Soviets in the 80's, it has been the US and NATO forces currently. The kosher and publicly known CIA-led international help received by these groups has now been substituted by multiple clandestine sources of support. It perhaps includes some elements within Pakistan's security agencies which have habitually and ideologically found reason to help fight all foreign occupations in Afghanistan. Also in post 9/11 volatile and more recently hostile situation, they may well be looking for sympathy and support from trials and militants fearing the international failure in Afghanistan prompts foreign military action inside Pakistan's tribal areas and beyond.

For the US, the compulsion to win 'by any means' is linked to its failures in Iraq, its Israel-inspired paralysis on Palestine and its inability to apply 'smart power' in dealing with Iran. Close to the US elections, the Bush administration is heightening its pressure on Pakistan to 'do more' and even increasing missile attacks directly on Pakistani forces. The past pattern of seeking prior clearance from Pakistani counterparts has changed with the US president having allowed his forces to take unilateral action on 'actionable intelligence.' India too has its compulsions. Despite the continuing Pakistan-India bilateral dialogue, with key bilateral issues having remained unresolved, the adversary mindset persists. For the adversaries, Afghanistan has long remained the battleground for influence. Embassy burnings, first Pakistani and now the Indian, is symptomatic of this continuing battle.

In Pakistan, under General Pervez Musharraf, the post 9/11 ideological reorientation of the top leadership of the Army and intelligence agencies also led to a new strategic conclusion; that the defence of the country is a complex factor involving economy, diplomacy and alliances and much less the patronage of armed militias. That policy change was reflected by taking concrete steps to improve relations with India and Afghanistan. However beneath this obvious policy there is also a subtext to the Pakistan policy. Often this subtext has been conveyed, over the many interactions and fragmented phrases to the Americans. How would a collection of these fragmented phrases, with stated and implied accusations, read? Perhaps something along these lines:

"We have our own security concerns that we acutely worry about; your worries area about your homeland thousands of miles away yet we worry about the here and now , about what appears to be a pincer movement from our eastern and western borders where troubles never end; you are never satisfied with what we do, you demand more from us at the cost of the government alienating itself vis a vis its citizens and the armed forces thinning out over a treacherous terrain; you forbid us from dialogue where experience has shown us that force alone will spell disaster; you are simplistic in demanding that we deliver peace while you are not willing to take the minimum sufficient steps needed to establish control at the borders; you acknowledge that greater political representation including that of some sections of the Taleban is required for putting Afghanistan on the peace track; while your charge list against Pakistan increases, our security concerns are always dismissed and seldom addressed; we are unsure of your intentions towards Pakistan and you must know if you do not trust us we trust you even less; you expect us to use unadulterated force against our own people resulting in the fire of civil war engulfing us all across nationally; your policy prescription will comprehensively extend the zone of crisis and chaos from Iraq, Afghanistan to our own country. This is unacceptable. Much that we want to engage with the international community to wisely deal with fast spreading terrorism we cannot accept your demand that we follow a failed policy of application of force on the one hand and of assured disaster for our own country, on the other. Are you our friends or our foes?

Unless these questions are addressed, there can be no peace and progress in Afghanistan, no calm in Pakistan's tribal areas and no end to the bloody battles erupting in pockets throughout Pakistan, and the so-called US-led global war on terrorism will continue to foment more terrorism.

President Karzai's accusatory outburst provides no solution. Less so does his and Delhi's move to cancel planned dialogues with Pakistan.

Nasim Zehra is an Islamabad-based national security strategist

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