Pakistan Afghan Policy

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					Pakistan's Afghan Policy

"The world must stop Pakistan from helping the Taliban."
Those are the words neither of Afghan President Hamid
Karzai nor the NATO commander in Afghanistan. They are
the title of a recent piece by a Pakistani journalist, the
world-renowned expert on Taliban and Afghanistan,
Ahmed Rashid.
According to Rashid the Pakistani province of Baluchistan is the nerve center of the
Taliban movement. ISI-run training camps, ammunition dumps, meeting places for the
shura (leadership council) and tacit connivance of the Pakistani border guards form the
basis of Pakistani help. A host of madrassas provide new fighters to the Taliban cause
and whenever things get too hot in Afghanistan Taliban "recuperate" across the border.

The October 2006 USIP (United State Institute of Peace) report on Afghanistan
reinforces what Rashid says. The report talks about "sanctuaries and support networks"
for the Taliban present in Pakistan.

The roots of the Pak-Afghan tensions lie in history. Afghanistan was created as a buffer
state between the British and Russian empires. The international boundary line between
Afghanistan and the British empire, inherited in 1947 by Pakistan, is the Durand line.
This line divided ethnic Pashtun tribes into two separate countries. Afghan governments
never really recognized the Durand line and have always laid claim to the Pashtun and
Baluch regions of Pakistan.

The newly independent Pakistani state in 1947 faced tensions and conflicts on both its
borders - the war and conflict with India over Kashmir and the conflict over the Durand
line with Afghanistan.

As an answer to this problem the Pakistani military came up with the concept of 'strategic
depth' - the belief that Pakistan's elongated geography and the lack of a hinterland
hindered its military from fighting a prolonged war with India and thus the need to fall
back on a friendly neighboring country. The need to be able to stand up to India in any
future conflict became tied up with the necessity of having a friendly ally (read 'pliant
state') in Afghanistan.

As part of this belief and policy, and even before the 1979 Soviet invasion of
Afghanistan, the Pakistan government and military started providing refuge to opponents
of the pro-Soviet communist government of Kabul.
The Pakistani policy was to aid and support the anti-Soviet Afghan Mujahideen by
allowing them to function from Pakistani territory. The support given by the United
States, Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Gulf helped Pakistan move towards its
goal. A whole jihadi infrastructure of madrassas, training camps and large ammunition
dumps came up as a result.

1989 saw the Geneva Accords and the withdrawal of the Soviet Union from Afghanistan
and America lost interest in Afghanistan. Pakistan, however, had still not achieved its
goal of a friendly government in Afghanistan. In the civil war which followed the new
character that emerged was an ISI protégé, the Taliban.

The Taliban were preferred to other mujahideen because they were Pashtuns, were united
and were willing to support Pakistani military's aims not just in Afghanistan but even in
Kashmir. After fighting and not winning three wars with India the Pakistani military
establishment believed that covert war, of the kind used to defeat the Soviet Union in
Afghanistan, was ideal for adoption in Kashmir.

Camps used to train the Taliban and other mujahideen along the Pakistan-Afghanistan
border were now used to also train jihadis for Kashmir. Whenever things became too hot
for Pakistan i.e. whenever the Indian government protested against 'cross border
terrorism' or there was international pressure (especially from the United States) these
camps were simply shifted across the border.

Ties with international jihadi groups started with the ties developed with the Al Qaeda.
Over the years this jihadi infrastructure has grown and spawned more terrorist
organizations, the majority operating in Kashmir. Hizbul Mujahideen, Harakatul
Mujahideen, Lashkar e Taiba, Jaish e Muhammad are just a few names.

Taliban's links within Pakistan extend beyond the military to the political parties. The
Taliban studied in Deobandi madrassas run by the the Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam, a political
party which is part of the Islamist ruling coalition, Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) in
the North West Frontier Province.

The costs of Pakistan's Afghan policy have been immense. Strategic depth and covert war
were supposed to help Pakistan stand up to India, have friendly relations with
Afghanistan and win back Kashmir with the least cost to Pakistan itself.

Instead what happened was the 'Talibanization' of Pakistan - a massive jihadi
infrastructure which provides succor to both international and domestic jihadi groups and
a 'Kalashnikov-drugs culture' in its North West tribal regions.

Domestically Pakistan has seen the rise in popularity and support of Islamist parties in the
North West tribal regions of Pakistan and the rise in sectarian violence. Tensions with
Afghanistan and India have increased not lessened. International pressure on Pakistan,
especially since 9/11, to stop aiding Taliban and other jihadi groups has increased.
It is possible for Pakistan to change its Afghan and Kashmir policies, to stop aiding the
Taliban and to seek diplomatic and political ways to solve the conflicts with its

However, if the Pakistan' military and ISI still believe that the only way to stand up to
India is by a covert war in Kashmir and a friendly regime in Afghanistan; and if they
believe that the United States and Europe do not have the staying power in Afghanistan
then Pakistan might continue with its present policy.

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