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Article No. 039/2018
Courtesy: Aviation & Defence universe
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who is former Chief of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) called Pakistan Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa on June 6th 2018 and discussed about strengthening US-Pakistan relations, settlement of political situation in Afghanistan and also told General Bajwa to take stringent actions against terrorists without differentiating between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ terrorists. US Vice President Michael Richard Pence also called Pakistan Caretaker Prime Minister former Chief Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk and while congratulating him to take over as Prime Minster also wished him good luck for conducting the general elections scheduled to be held on July 25th 2018. The analysts claim that the call of Vice President was of routine nature while the call of Mike Pompeo was a jolt to Pakistan establishment.
Pompeo as former CIA director is fully aware that the Pakistan army Chief is the most powerful person in Pakistan and sinister Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directly works under Army Chief. CIA Chief has in-depth knowledge how and when ISI assisted various terrorist outfits active in Afghanistan. He also knew that General Bajwa is the right person to instruct creepy ISI to stop assisting Haqqani network and Afghan Taliban, as they are attacking US led North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) troops in Afghanistan.
The telephone call of Pompeo is also important as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced a temporary ceasefire with Taliban as Islamic Council issued a proclamation that suicide bombings should be stopped and peace talks should be initiated. Ghani announced temporary ceasefire up to fifth day of Eid-ul-Fitr nonetheless pragmatic analysts feel that the ceasefire will be fruitless and terrorists will utilise it in regrouping and strengthening themselves.
Nevertheless US has welcomed the decision of ceasefire as US administration claims that it succeeded in arranging the talks between Taliban and Afghan administration. Taliban also declared temporary ceasefire for first three days of Eid-ul-Fitr but before declaring ceasefire they attacked a military base in Western Afghanistan and killed 19 Afghan security personnel. Taliban massacred Afghan security personnel to show their strength but had to declare ceasefire on Eid-ul-Fitr in view of a proclamation from Afghan Ulema Council. Afghan hard-liners feel that the victory is nearby and they will occupy the whole country hence there is no use negotiating for few areas only, although the analysts mention that it is a very optimistic assessment and may not be fulfilled.
Afghan watchers claim that now the sway of Pakistan has considerably dwindled and it is in no position to force terrorist outfits to negotiate or after negotiations conform to the agreed terms. So the call from US Secretary of State may be to make Pakistan a scapegoat for US failures in Afghanistan and allege that Islamabad has not extended whole hearted support in eliminating Haqqani network and Afghan Taliban hence US could not win the war on terror.
The situation in Afghanistan is becoming more and more complicated as now Russia, China and Iran are also ready to assist Taliban to mitigate the rising influence of the Islamic State (IS) which was previously known as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). IS has constituted Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISK-P) and it is magnetizing large number of radicalised, Madrassa-educated, semi-literate Muslim youths of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and several other countries. There are also reports that even disenchanted Muslim youths of Western countries are also joining ISK-P.
The following of ISK-P is increasing not only in Afghanistan but also in the areas of Pakistan abutting Afghanistan. Several disgruntled elements of different terrorist outfits including Tehrik-i-Taliban-Pakistan, Taliban, Al Qaeda, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and terrorists of foreign countries also joined IS. The terrorists of Ansar ul-Khilafat Wal-Jihad, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al-Alami, Al Tawhid Brigade, Jundullah, and Jamaat-ul-Ahrar are also became close to ISK (P). IS which follows Salafi ideology is against Shia Muslims hence Iran is assisting Afghan Taliban, same way Russia has sizable Muslim population and does not want that influence of IS enhances in Afghanistan. The Uighur Muslims of Xianjiang province of China are fighting for separate homeland hence China also wants to curb rising influence of IS in Afghanistan.
Islamabad alleges that India is assisting diverse secessionist outfits in Pakistan from Afghanistan. Islamabad is in doldrums as USA is pressing hard to take actions against terrorist outfits including Haqqani network as they are constantly attacking US and Afghan troops. Islamabad alleges that Delhi and Kabul have inculcated close relations and working against interests of Pakistan hence it is not prudent to take stringent actions against ISI backed terror outfits including Haqqani network.
The relations between US and Pakistan are dwindling fast as President Trump in its first tweet of 2018 mentioned that US got nothing except “lies and deceit” from Pakistan while Washington gave about $33 billion aid to the Islamabad in last fifteen years. US has suspended military and security aid to Pakistan. Both counties have also imposed travel restrictions on the diplomats of other country.
Islamabad launched numerous operations with fancy names in diverse areas against terrorists but the terrorism could not be curbed and it enhanced. The main operations included Al-Mizan, Zalzala, Rah-e-Haq, Rah-e-Raast, Rah-e-Nijat, Black Thunderstorm, Sher Dil, Koh-e-Safaid, Zarb-e-Azb, Radd-ul-Fasaad, but these operations could not achieve desired result as the authorities always distinguished between good and bad terrorists. The terrorist outfits attacking India and Afghanistan according to the commands and directions of sinister ISI are considered “good” terrorists while the terror groups attacking Pakistan security forces or carrying out terrorist activities inside Pakistan are considered “bad” terrorists. Here also the terrorist outfits attacking Shias, Sufis and non-Muslims even in Pakistan are considered ‘good’ terrorists. Pakistan security forces before launching the operation inform ‘good’ terrorists about the operation hence they escape from operational areas. Here Pakistan security forces do not understand that there are no ‘good’ and ‘bad’ terrorists and all terrorists must be dealt stringently and should be exterminated. The terrorists change outfits and loyalties hence there should be no mercy towards them.
Pakistan supporters mention that the Trump administration should analyse its relationship with Pakistan and should not adopt irrational attitude as US was the first ally of Pakistan and it trained Mujahedeen on behest of US and its allies however once Russian troops withdrew US also left abandoning Pakistan. After 9/11 Pakistan joined US war against terror but US administration continuously mention that terrorists are taking shelter in Pakistan after attacking US led NATO troops. Pakistani leaders also claim that they took actions against all terrorists and spent more than $120 billion and about 80,000 Pakistanis were killed. They also mention that US needs Pakistan to win the war in Afghanistan but it appears that the Trump administration is determined to condemn Pakistan. However the suspension of aid alone will not compel Pakistan to stop rendering support to terrorist outfits as now it is declined to $ 1 billion only.
Pakistan has waged a low intensity war against India and also wants to eliminate Pakistani Taliban as they are carrying out terrorist activities from Afghanistan. Whenever Pakistan launches an operation against Pakistani Taliban they take shelter in Afghanistan.
The relationship between Pakistan and USA is based on suspicion. US feels that it spent billions of dollars in Pakistan but it always ditched it. On the other hand Pakistan considers US as a distant, volatile and unreliable partner. US will be in trouble if Islamabad cuts off supply routes to US troops in Afghanistan although the number of troops is considerably reduced but they also need supplies. Use of Northern Distribution Network (NDN) or Chabahar port may also not be workable as US has imposed sanctions both on Russia and Iran.
Pakistan has general elections in July and there is lot of anti US feelings in the country hence Islamabad will have to adopt a stringent line towards US to please the masses. Pakistani masses also feel that US is becoming close to India and is working against Pakistan hence the threat and suspension of financial assistance by US will have no effect on Islamabad.
Pakistan should also be careful from China as the latter is an expansionist country and utilising its surplus cash in giving loans at higher rates to neighbouring countries and later occupying their territory. Myanmar had to lease Coco Islands to China, Bangladesh lost control over Chittagong port and Sri Lanka had to lease Hambantota port to Beijing on 99 years lease. Maldives had to allow China to build naval base in Marao Islands. CPEC will prove a debt-trap and Pakistan will lose not only Gwadar port but some arable lands will also be annexed by China.
Pakistan which has emerged as an epicenter of terrorism should genuinely launch operations against terrorist outfits and exterminate terrorists without discrimination between good and bad terrorists.
The other problem is that civilian government in Pakistan is toothless hence US has to negotiate with military officers. The relations between US and Pakistan are so complicated that it can be sorted out by civilians especially by diplomats.
US snubbed Pakistan so many times and there are rumors that US will take unilateral actions against terrorist outfits as its closeness with India is increasing. It is expected that Pakistan will not take any action against ‘good’ terrorists till general elections are over and Islamabad bluntly told that there is no setup of banned terrorist organisation in Islamabad. These terrorist outfits are serving Pakistan’s interest. If US will bulldoze more, Pakistan may go completely in the lap of China which will also not be good for US or for the region.
[Jai Kumar Verma is a Delhi-based strategic analyst and a retired senior intelligence officer. He is also member of United Services Institute of India and Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses.The views in the article are solely the author’s. He can be contacted at email@example.com]