Is Kabul barking up the wrong tree?
The Afghans bled profusely last Tuesday when terrorists attacked the NDS office, the country’s intelligence agency. It was a massive security breach claiming over 64 lives and leaving dozens injured.
While Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah-Abdullah was absent from the Parliament’s joint session, President Ashraf Ghani’s rare address was directed at Islamabad, alleging Pakistan played a double game. “But we want Pakistan to fulfill its promises . . . and take military action against their sanctuaries and leadership based on its soil. If they can’t target them, they should hand them over to our judiciary. If we do not see a change, despite our sincere efforts for regional cooperation, we will be forced to turn to the UN Security Council and start serious diplomatic effort,” he stated
The White House joined the chorus, emphasising Islamabad must translate its words into reality regarding the Taliban faction, Haqqani group.
Afghanistan says Kabul attack was planned by Haqqani network in Pakistan
Shifting blame conveniently
Throughout Ghani’s speech, there was no admission of security and intelligence failure; not only on the part of Afghan security agencies but also the US forces. No one seemed embarrassed at the fiasco. In Afghanistan, heads don’t roll when catastrophes strike. Maintaining a precarious political and ethnic balance, the Ghani-Abdullah government has long acted in the most predictable manner: censure Pakistan.
Since coming to power, Ghani and Abdullah have been repeatedly locking horns to gain greater control over power. The twin-headed unity government’s internal rifts of appointment of security chiefs, governors and key bureaucrats have been making way for the defiant militia. Taliban factions have been attacking in Kabul’s high security zones at will, taking over entire provinces without much resistance.
Early in the month, US Secretary of State John Kerry dashed to the Afghan capital on a fire-fighting mission in the government. Since Karzai era, sinking economy, perpetuating corruption and incompetent security agencies have marred Afghanistan.
Although the Afghan side of the border may not be duly and efficiently manned, Ghani-Abdullah regime has consistently blamed Islamabad for militant infiltration. On the contrary, Pakistan’s most wanted Taliban fugitives are hiding in Afghanistan since the start of Operation Zarb-e-Azb. Neither the US troops nor the Afghan government have been able to eliminate them, for which they tirelessly seek help from Islamabad. Yet, Kabul follows Delhi’s suit by holding Islamabad responsible for its internal security.
The ‘efficiency’ of Afghan security forces parallels their Iraqi counterparts who have failed to stem terrorist acts in Baghdad while giving in to advancing Daesh in the northwest. Ironically, both received training from US personnel.
Not only did Abdullah-Abdullah postpone his Pakistan visit but President Ghani also upped the ante by declaring that Afghanistan won’t need Pakistan’s help in bringing Taliban to the negotiating table. Just a fortnight ago, Secretary Kerry had advised the duo to the contrary.
Kabul set to launch efforts to ‘isolate’ Pakistan
So far, Islamabad has responded calmly. Ghani’s outburst has been noticed and responded to by reminding his government’s responsibility towards internal peace and reconciliation. Pakistan has mostly exercised restraint at the Afghan leaders’ flare-ups. Even today, Pakistan is hosting Afghan and Qatar-based Taliban delegations for direct talks. Neither the host nor the participants have publicaly confirmed the ongoing face-to-face parleys.
For long, Afghanistan has been drifting more towards India. With the arrest of Indian spy Kulbhushan Yadav, intense collaboration between RAW and NDS has become public debate in Pakistan. His detailed admissions about Indian and Afghan intelligence agencies’ joint ventures in Balochistan and Sindh offer a reality check for everyone.
Some circles on the Indian and Afghan news channels alleged ISI orchestrated a revenge attack on its counterpart in Kabul. However, there has been negligible mention of concrete evidence yet. The good news, however, is that Abdullah’s visit has been rescheduled.
Naveed Ahmad is a Pakistani investigative journalist and academic with extensive reporting experience in the Middle East and North Africa. He is based in Doha and Istanbul. He tweets @naveed360