Islamabad has assured the US that it will help maintain peace in landlocked Afghanistan while intra-Afghan dialogue gathers momentum in the coming months. But there are doubts given Pakistan’s track record in arming and financing the Taliban, encouraging Lashkar-e-Taiba to operate from Afghanistan and using Afghan’s territory to target India, analysts who track the Af-Pak region told ET.
Pakistan has used Afghanistan to gain strategic depth to target India in the past and more than 3,000 Pak army personnel were present when the Taliban fled Kabul in 2001 in the aftermath of September 11 terror attacks, recalled one of the analysts quoted above.
The Pakistan army is currently facing challenges to control political movements along areas bordering Afghanistan including Pakistan occupied Kashmir and may seek to re-establish presence in Afghanistan to control these uprisings. Pakistan’s provinces bordering Afghanistan have seen continuing incidents of violence against the Pakistan army. But any move by the Pak army to strengthen the Taliban for its own strategic goals will be detrimental to India’s interests both within Afghanistan and in the region.
“Some of key Taliban players who participated in the negotiations with the USA are ‘under the influence of Pakistan’. Some of the Taliban leaders have allegedly lived in Pakistan since 2001. In the wake of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks and the subsequent start of US military operations against the Taliban in Afghanistan, Pakistan not only continued to arm and support the Taliban in order to undercut efforts to create a secure and stable Afghan government but also assisted al Qaeda, up to and including offering safe haven to al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden,” former Pentagon official Michael Rubin recently wrote in the Washington Examiner.
The Financial Action Task Force that seeks to combat money laundering and terror financing had treated Pakistan lightly when it had cracked down on Lashkar-e-Taiba, Islamic State, al Qaeda, and Haqqani Network supporters, Rubin wrote in the article, while referring to Islamabad’s use of its diplomatic offices now to get the UN to make exceptions for LeT and its front groups.
Even though terror financing convictions should bring between one and five years of imprisonment, Pakistani courts gave less than one year in 27% of cases. “Nor have there been any significant prosecutions or convictions of group leaders. These are not the actions of a government that takes counterterrorism or regional security seriously. Rather, it is what governments do that want to continue to use terrorism as a tactic,” according to Rubin.
Foreign secretary Harsh Shringla had visited Kabul as his first destination abroad after taking charge in South Block. His wide-ranging consultations across ministries in Afghanistan are key steps to safeguard Indian interests there, from projects to diplomatic missions.
Analysts refer to yet another scenario that could push the region into turmoil. With Pakistan in strategic connivance with China, the Pak army can push the Uighur rebels earlier ensconced in the frontier areas of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan into Afghanistan’s remote areas of North East. This could fuel tensions between Kabul and the Sino-Pak axis.
The Doha agreement aims to create a political mechanism in which the US military will withdraw from Afghanistan in exchange to the Taliban promise that the group will not harbour any terrorist organisation which aims to attack the West. But there is uncertainty over the success of intra-Afghan dialogues as the Taliban wants to rule the entire country but the elected government representatives in Kabul do not want to cede power.