Tag Archives: Pak-Afghan

Afghanistan » Foreign Policy

The Pak-Afghan ties Since Torkham Incident

Published Date: August 8, 2016

The Kabul-Islamabad relation reached to its lowest ebb since the establishment of National Unity Government (NUG), and the trust deficit is dominant between the two countries. However, now Torkham gate is nearly completed by Pakistan, while the afghan government on terms it as a violation of bilateral agreements. Besides, the Afghan refugees are made target of the escalating tensions between the two countries. According to the Afghan Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation, more than 20 thousand Afghan refugees had been repatriated in the last one week. The Afghan refugees in Kurram agency have also been told to return within week.

On the other hand, Pakistani official have also made successive statements about the Afghan peace process in the last two weeks. Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Advisor on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz Pakistan has recently said that the peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban would start in a near future. In the meantime, the US Commander in Afghanistan General Nicholson, in his meeting with Pakistani Chief of Army Stuff General Rahil Sharif has also spoken to reinitiate the Afghan peace process. Besides that, a delegation from the Taliban’s political office in Qatar has also traveled to China and the Pakistani Chief of Army Stuff will also visit to china on official visit.

At the climax of bilateral mistrust and before revival of peace talks, building trust seems priority. The question is why has Kabul’s suspicion has augmented against Islamabad? How much effective was the Torkham incident in deteriorating the bilateral ties? What are the main problems in Pak-Afghan ties? And to which direction is the Kabul-Islamabad relations heading?

 

Clashes at Torkham border and the deepening trust deficit

Recent border clashes between the Afghan and Pakistani security forces in Turkham which lasted for several days was the first of its kind in the history of Pak-Afghan relations at Torkham border. The clashes not only deteriorated relations between the two governments but also sparked hatred in two nations against each other. This situation had influenced trade, transit, healthcare and soft power.

After the incident, the trade level between the two countries began to reduce, wheat import to Afghanistan was affected; the number of Afghan patients in Pakistan decreased; the Afghan businessmen focused on transit through Iran rather than Pakistan; and the hatred between the two nations increased which led to reduction of the number of Pakistani workers in Afghanistan and gradual repatriation of Afghan refugees from Pakistan.

The border clashes have raised mistrust and removing the trust deficit seems difficult at present times. . This mistrust between the two countries is clearly apparent from the Afghan President’s interview with Salim Safi and also from the interview of the Pakistani Ambassador in Afghanistan Sayeed Abrar Hussain.

 

Change in Kabul’s policy towards Islamabad

After the formation of the NUG, the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani came ahead with the risky policy of rapprochement towards Pakistan and gave unprecedented privileges to Pakistan. Some members of the Afghan Security forces was sent to Pakistan for training; the bilateral cooperation agreement was inked between ISI and the Afghan National Directorate of Security; the Afghan government distanced itself from India and the Afghan President did not travel to India even after seven months from the formation of the NUG; the demand for heavy weapons from India was postponed; the leader of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan Latifullah Mehsud was handed over to Pakistan (although it was the Americans who had captured Mehsud, but it was a decision merely made by the Afghan government to hand over him to Pakistan) and later the Afghan government participated in the Quadrilateral Peace Talks an initiative by the Pakistani government.

On the other hand, Pakistani Political and Military officials successively visited Afghanistan and each made promises about peace in Afghanistan but Pakistan in a greater part failed to fulfill these promises.

After the bloody explosions in Kabul the Afghan President’s rapprochement policy towards Pakistan was highly criticized by the Afghan media, members of the Afghan Parliament and former government officials and thus the Afghan government’s stance against Pakistan gradually changed.

 

The roots causes of Pak-Afghan tensions

The followings are the reasons behind the deteriorating Kabul-Islamabad relations under the NUG:

First: showing off more than capability; After the formation of the NUG the political and military officials of Pakistan either intensively did not fulfilled its promises or had promise more than what they can deliver. Leaving aside the question of whether Pakistan deliberately did not fulfill its promises or was unable to do so; Pakistan’s promises had increased hopes in Afghanistan and when these promises went unfulfilled the hopes were replaced by disappointment and mistrust.

Second: Security in Afghanistan; the increased insecurity was the main factor behind the tensions in bilateral relations between the two countries. Bilateral relation with Pakistan is directly related to security situation in Afghanistan; the more upheaval in insecurity the more tensions between the countries.

Third: the Afghan Taliban and Pakistan; the presence of the Taliban in Pakistan is another factor behind Kabul’s suspicion.

Fourth: the Durand line and border management; the Durand line has affected the bilateral relations more than any other issue so far. The border management program of the Pakistani military which the Afghan government believes that this program may be a part of the efforts toward recognition of Durand line and hence this border management program has recently raised tensions in bilateral relations. Moreover, due to border management program the security forces of the two countries were engaged in armed conflict with each other at Torkham gate.

Fifth: Indian Influence in Afghanistan; India’s influence in Afghanistan has also deeply affected Afghan-Pak relations and this factor is the main element of Pakistan’s policy towards Afghanistan.

Sixth: instability in Pakistan’s policies; although Pakistani senior officials and Pakistani Ambassador in Afghanistan Sayeed Abrar Hussian criticizes the Afghan official by saying that the Afghan government’s stance regarding the Taliban is unclear; because from the one hand, the Afghan government demands peace talks with the Taliban and on the other hand, it urges Pakistan to conduct military operations against the Taliban. However a closer look into the Kabul-Islamabad bilateral relations in the past several years narrates that the unstable policy of the Pakistan towards Afghanistan. Pakistani government and military wants to maintain balance between the Afghan government and the Taliban and has lost its way to help whom? Taliban or the Afghan government?. On the one hand, if they wants to pressurize the Taliban to satisfy the Afghan government,on the other hand, they are afraid of the Afghan Taliban’s harsh response and are concerned that enmity with the Taliban would in the short run result in diminishing their influence over the group and in the long run would reduce their influence in the future Afghan government, if Taliban are a part of it.

 

The direction of Pak-Afghan relations

Currently the distrust atmosphere is dominant not only between the two governments but also between the two nations across the Durand line. Given the statement of the Afghan senior officials it seems that neither the Afghan government would participate in the Quadrilateral Peace Talk nor would it make effort to improve relations with Pakistan.

The deteriorated bilateral relations can only improve either by the efforts of Pakistan or a third party – such as China. China’s role seems to be effective in the issue because now not only China is interested in stability and security in Afghanistan but also it sees the improved Pak-Afghan relations are in its interest.

The end

Afghanistan » Foreign Policy » Peace

The rising tensions between Kabul-Islamabad and the future of QCG

Published Date: May 1, 2016

Following the ups and downs of bilateral relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan, once again these relations have reached its most tenuous phase.

After the bloody explosion in Kabul, the Afghan President said that he does not expect Pakistan to bring the Taliban to the negotiation table. He also added that in Quadrilateral Talks, Pakistan had pledged in writing to go after those Taliban who refused to join the Peace Process.

Before this, the Kabul-Islamabad relations were deteriorated when a similar explosion occurred in Shah-Shaheed, Kabul. At that time too, Ghani accused Pakistan of supporting the Taliban and said that he does not trust Pakistan. But the question is what the direction of bilateral Pak-Afghan relations is?

 

The NUG and ups and downs in Kabul-Islamabad ties

After the formation of the National Unity Government (NUG), unlike his predecessor Hamid Karzai, the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani adopted a policy of rapprochement towards Pakistan. He granted privileges to Pakistan and tried to reduce Pakistani concerns, and hence distance itself from India.

The main issue in new Kabul-Islamabad relations was “peace in Afghanistan”. In this regard Pakistan made many promises to Afghanistan; the senior officials of the two countries paid mutual visits to both countries and thus the hopes for peace in Afghanistan increased. But after several months of warm relations between the two countries, when security situation in Afghanistan was deteriorated and, moreover, Pakistan did not fulfill its promises to bring Taliban to the negotiation table in March 2015, and for the first time the Pak-Afghan relations started to change since the formation of the NUG.

Hence, after March 2015, the NUG changed its policy towards Pakistan, and tried to improve its relations with India. In March and April 2015, Abdullah and Ghani visited India one after another. Thus, Pakistan came under more pressure than before. Therefore, with the initiative of Pakistan and at the presence of Pakistani intelligence a meeting was held between Masoom Stanekzai Chairman of the High Peace Council Secretariat and some members of the Taliban in Urumqi, China; but the Taliban denied their participation in this meeting.

In July 2015, Pakistan for the first time became able to bring the Taliban to face to face talks with the Afghan government in Murree; but these talks became stalled with the disclosure of the death of Mullah Mohammad Omar. Later, a new wave of insecurity and instability began in Afghanistan. Kunduz came under Taliban control for two weeks and Kabul [1]and some other provinces witnessed many deadly explosions. Thus bilateral Pak-Afghan relations were deteriorated after one year of the NUG’s formation.

After the efforts made by China, United States and United Nations to improve bilateral relations between the two countries and the visit of Pakistani Pashtun parties’ leaders, the Afghan President met Nawaz Sharif Pakistani Prime Minister at the sideline of the Climate Change Conference in Paris. In this meeting, Nawaz Sharif proposed quadrilateral peace talks between Afghanistan-Pakistan-China-US, which Ghani accepted.

In December 2015, Ashraf Ghani traveled to Islamabad to participate in the Heart of Asia Conference and at the sidelines of this conference quadrilateral meeting between Afghanistan- Pakistan-China-US was also held. In this meeting the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) was formed to facilitate the negotiations.

Although four meeting of QCG is held in Kabul and Islamabad, but the Taliban has refused to participate in these talks. Refusal of participation in these talks by the Taliban made Afghanistan suspicious to the intentions of Pakistan. But after recent explosion in Kabul, the relations are more tenuous than ever.

 

Kabul’s recent stance against Islamabad

Since the beginning of the Quadrilateral Peace Talks, Pakistan has frequently failed to fulfill its promises to bring the Taliban to negotiation table. At the beginning of 1395, after the intensification of war by the Taliban, the Afghan government lost hope in Quadrilateral Peace Talks. It is why, a day before the explosion in Kabul, Ashraf Ghani had stated that he has boycotted quadrilateral peace talks[2].

On April 19, 2016, a massive explosion occurred in Kabul and Taliban claimed responsibility for that. According to the statistics of the Afghan government this explosion left 64 dead and 347 injured. In response to this explosion Ashraf Ghani adopted a harsh position against Pakistan and said that he no longer trusts Pakistan. ‘We do not expect Pakistan to bring the Taliban to the negotiation table, but we want Pakistan to honor its commitments based on the four nation’s agreement’, said Ashraf Ghani in a joint session of both houses of the National Assembly on April 25. He further added, ‘Pakistan should no longer continue the good and bad terrorist policy, and have to act as a responsible state and in this regard, the world is with us’. He warned that if Pakistan did not change its policy, the Afghan government will complain to the Security Council of the United Nations, International Institution and international community[3].

On the other hand, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah postponed his trip to Pakistan after the Kabul explosion and thus somehow blamed Pakistan for it[4]. Postponement of this trip deteriorated the bilateral relations even more. This trip was the only opportunity that could decrease the mistrust in the relations between the both countries.

 

Pakistan’s stance

Pakistani Foreign Ministry rejected recent remarks of Ashraf Ghani about Pakistan and in response to the new stance of Afghanistan it has announced that bringing Taliban to the negotiation table is not solely the responsibility of Pakistan.

On the other hand, following the intensification of Kabul-Islamabad relations, military of Pakistan has once again began their rocket attacks on Lalpoor and Goshta districts of Nangarhar province. The Afghan Foreign Ministry summoned Pakistani Ambassador for clarification[5]. According to reports, in these rocket attacks, one Afghan border police is dead and two other are injured.

 

The future of Peace and Quadrilateral Talks

After deterioration of relations between the two countries, now the future of peace seems dark. Although failure in the Quadrilateral negotiation is the main reason behind the deterioration of relations between the two countries, but Pakistani officials are still talking about the initiation of these talks in near future.

On April 25, the Afghan Refugees and Repatriation Minister visited Pakistan as a result of an official invitation by Pakistan; the main reason of his trip was to register unregistered Afghan migrants and to extend the validation date of migration IDs of registered Afghan migrants[6]. According to the Refugees and Repatriation Minister, Sartaj Aziz the Advisor to Pakistani Prime Minister has assured him of reinitiating peace talks.

On the other hand, Sartaj Aziz Pakistani National Security Advisor met Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. In this meeting the both sides agreed to establish close cooperation to maintain peace and security in Afghanistan to expand the activities of the QCG[7].

The Afghan National Security Advisor also visited China on April 17, 2016, although expansion of military and economic ties are said to be the main purpose of this visit but it seems that Afghanistan is trying to pressurize Pakistan through China for one last time.

On the other hand, the sixth session of Senior Officials Meeting of Heart of Asia conference was held under Istanbul Process on April 26, 2016, in New Delhi where the Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai and Pakistani Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Ahmad Chaudhari had also participated.

Referring to the recent incident in Kabul, Hekmat Khalil Karzai said in his speech that, peace efforts will not have specific conclusions unless the support for terrorism is stopped. About the quadrilateral negotiation he said the overarching goal of this process was face to face talks with the Taliban and according to the agreement of these talks if the Taliban were not prepared to negotiate then necessary measures will be taken against them. But Pakistani Deputy Foreign Minister stressed on shared commitments of all parties of quadrilateral peace talks in order to initiate peace talks[8].

According to the reports, a delegation of senior officials of the Qatar Office of the Taliban has arrived to Pakistan. It is said that Shahabuddin Delawar, Jan Mohammad Madani and Mullah Abas Stanekzai are the members of this delegation. Media has quoted the Statement of the Taliban that the purpose of this trip is solving the problems of the Afghan Migrants in Pakistan, border issues and negotiations about releasing the Taliban prisoners from Pakistani prisons[9]; but some international and Pakistan Medias have released news that beside Pakistani Officials this delegation would also meet the representatives of China. If it is true, then in current situation China would be the last hope to initiate peace talks.

The end

[1] For instance on August 9, 2015, an explosion happened in Shah Shaheed area of Kabul which had vast financial damages and casualties. Although nobody claimed responsibility for the explosion but it highly impacted Kabul-Islamabad relations.

[2] http://csrskabul.com/pa/?p=2402

[3] http://president.gov.af/ps/news/76964

[4] http://ceo.gov.af/fa/news/59339

[5]http://www.darivoa.com/content/pakistani-ambassador-summoned-to-afghan-foreign-ministry/3303086.html

[6] http://morr.gov.af/fa/news/60726

[7] http://www.mofa.gov.pk/pr-details.php?mm=MzY4MQ,,

[8] http://www.mofa.gov.pk/pr-details.php?mm=MzY4Mg,,

[9] http://www.voanews.com/content/afghan-taliban-confirms-delegation-visiting-pakistan/3304525.html

Afghanistan » Economy

The Situation of Water: The Challenges and Opportunities

Published Date: March 13, 2016

The Afghan Media have recently released news which shows that Afghanistan uses 25% of its water resources and rest of the remaining waters either goes to the neighboring countries or is being wasted inside the country.

In recent years, the rainfall is decreasing and drought also threatens the country, thus the agricultural products have suffered vastly. But, yet, there is enough water in the country which is currently flowing to the neighboring countries.

Although the country has the capacity to build power dams and can produce more power than it needs, but, in this regard, no fundamental work has been done yet. Thus after each year, the country loses the opportunities to use its water resources; still no measures are taken to control water resources in the country. Water resources in Afghanistan, the challenges and the opportunities are the issues which we have tried to analyze in this part of the weekly analysis.

Water resources in Afghanistan

In international politics, water can be the reason behind friendship and cooperation among nations; but, in the meanwhile, it can also be a reason behind enmity and confrontation. According to the statistics of the United Nations, from 1.4 billion cubic kilo meters (Km3) of water in the world only two hundred thousand Km3 is available to be used by human beings; thus besides the energy and food , water security is a very significant issue in the foreign policy of the countries.

Waters in Afghanistan flow in the following basins:

  1. The Amu Darya river basin
  2. The Helmand river basin
  3. The Kabul (Indus) river basin
  4. The Harirod-Morghab river basin
  5. The Northern river basin

Afghanistan is a mountainous and landlocked country and has common water with five of its six neighbors. In the Amu river basin, Afghanistan has common waters with Tajikistan which then flows into Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan; in the Harirod-Morghab basin, Turkmenistan and Iran; in the Helmand river basin Iran; and in the Kabul river basin Pakistan have common waters with Afghanistan. [1]

Today water scarcity has grown into a major issue in the world. There are two types of water scarcity; first; physical water scarcity which in this case there is not enough water in a place; second; economical water scarcity which is the lack of the access to water due to the economic problems. According to the international statistics, Afghanistan is suffering from both physical and economic water scarcity. According to a survey in urban areas, 78% of the Afghans have access to potable water and this percentage is 39% in the rural areas but overall 48% of the Afghans have access to the safe drinking water which compared to other countries in the world shows a very low percentage[2].

Water related problems in Afghanistan

Although the water related problems in Afghanistan is a vast issue; we will briefly study them in three parts:

  1. Lack of legal water sharing agreements with neighboring countries

Afghanistan has signed water sharing agreement with only one of its neighbors which was then inked between the Afghan Prime Minister Mosa Shafiq and the Pahlavi king of Iran on sharing the Helmand river waters.

The lack of water sharing agreements with neighboring countries will face the country with major problems ahead, because, whenever the Afghan government wants to build dams on its rivers, neighbors will be there to respond[3]. But after signing water sharing agreements with the neighboring countries, these waters will improve relations with the neighboring countries rather than deteriorating these relations.

  1. Lack of Water Management

The lack of water management is a basic problem that can cause crisis in the future. Some statistics show that Northern basin lacks water (it only provides 676m3 waters for every individual annually) while there is enough water in the Amu and Kabul basins. Thus there is no balance between the population and water resources in the country. On the other hand there are different amounts of rainfall in each season and it is needed to reserve water in the seasons with large amount of rainfall in order to be used in low-water seasons. This problem can be resolved with building dams which will also prevent floods and damages caused by it.

  1. Water pollution

However water pollution is not raised as a fundamental problem in Afghanistan but from a health point of view it is starting to change into a serious problem; as from June 2009 to July 2010, about 20 people died as a result of drinking polluted water in five villages of Samangan province (Hassan Khiel, Kachanhali Bala, Kachanhali Payeen, Dalkhani and Larghan) [4].

The factors behind improper utilization of waters

The main reasons why Afghanistan has not used its water resources or lack water management are as follows:

First: Since water is freely available in all parts of the country and there is a very low level of public awareness about the role and significance of water among the people; they do not know the significance of water in the economic development.

Second: due to the prolonged war no infrastructural project was implemented to use water supplies in the country.

Third: In this regard there is no central decision making administration and the decisions are made by various administrations such as the Ministries of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, Agriculture, Urban Development, Water and Energy and Municipality therefore every administrations implement their own separate policies.

Fourth: lack of a common view in the decision making administrations, mismanagement and lack of a master plan to use water resources nationwide.

Fifth: sabotage in the fields of financial support, design and construction of the water related projects by the neighboring countries.

Sixth: passivity and disorganization of the High Council of Energy and Water which is the coordinating and decision making administration in water related issues[5].

The Energy Situation

Afghanistan spends tens of millions of dollars annually to import electricity from the neighboring countries which has unpleasant impacts on the total trade of the country.

According to the Afghan Ministry of Energy and Water, Afghanistan needs 3000 megawatt electricity annually 6% of which is generated inside the country and rest of the remaining is being imported from Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Iran. Uzbekistan is the largest exporter of electricity to Afghanistan which provides 55% of Afghanistan’s needed electricity meanwhile Afghanistan imports 22% of its needed electricity from Iran, 16% from Turkmenistan and 7% from Tajikistan[6].

Kabul has a population of more than six million people which forms 20% of all the population in the country. On the other hand there are more factory and industries in this city than other cities in the country. Therefore; from all 3000 megawatts of electricity which is needed in all over the country, Kabul needs 530 megawatts of it. More than 260 of the needed electricity to the Kabul city is being imported from neighboring countries and passes through Salang where it can easily be disconnected due to the natural accidents or any other problems.

Overall, only 19% of the needed electricity in Afghanistan is generated inside the country which is mostly hydropower and a very small amount of it is solar and thermal energy; the remaining 81% is imported electricity from neighboring countries. On the other hand 70% of the Afghans have not access to electricity while the remaining 30% have relatively access to electricity meaning that they do not have 24 hours of electricity[7]. The current status of the electricity is worthy of considering because the country have the potential to generate 22 Giga watts of electricity which is much more that the amount of electricity that country needs.

The End

[1] the CSRS’s 107th issue of weekly analysis (Water management; the challenges and power potentials)

[2] Read more at:

http://worldwater.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2013/07/data_table_3_access_to_safe_drinking_water_by_country.pdf

[3] We have witnessed the various reactions of Iran about Salma Dam and the reaction of Pakistan about Kunar Dam.

[4] See the research of IWPR:

 https://iwpr.net/global-voices/water-pollution-silent-killer-north-afghan

[5] Read the 62th issue of the Centre for Strategic and Regional Studies (the decision of building the Dasu Dam in Pakistan and the need to complaining reaction of Afghanistan)

[6] See the link bellow:

http://www.afghaneic.com/Data/Afghan%20Electricity%20Imports%20by%20Source/Afghanistan%20Electricity%20import%20by%20Source–2011.pdf

[7] the seminar on the energy sectors of Afghanistan, potentials, current status and the future by the CSRS online:

http://csrskabul.com/en/blog/seminar-the-energy-sector-of-afghanistan-potentials-the-current-scenario-and-future-prospects/

Afghanistan » Peace

Direct talks with the Taliban: The Past and the Future

Published Date: February 28, 2016

The fourth quadrilateral meeting was convened in Kabul. According to the joint press release of this meeting, the face-to-face talks with the Taliban will commence in the first week of March in Islamabad.

Prior to this, in the third meeting, the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) had decided to start direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban at the end of February; however, it is not yet clear why these talks have not started while the month is almost ended.

Recent decisions about direct talks come at a time when the Pakistani Chief of Army Staff, General Raheel Sharif talked about the Afghan peace process with senior Qatari officials during his one day visit to Qatar which took place two days before the fourth quadrilateral talks.

The background and importance of direct talks with the Taliban, and the possibility of holding these talks in March are the issues that will be analyzed here.

Significance of direct talks in the Afghan peace process

Whether there were conflicts between foreigners and the internal parties, or internal forces that were involved in armed conflict with each other; the conflicts were being resolved through face to face talks almost in every country; thus, one can conclude that only direct talks would put an end to conflicts. For instance, the “Paris Peace Agreement” which was made between the governments of the Northern Vietnam and Southern Vietnam, the U.S and Provisional Revolutionary Government of Vietnam brought the “Vietnam War” to an end.

It goes the same way in Afghanistan, the entire peace efforts that have not contained direct talks were either fruitless or had negative consequences. During the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Geneva Conference was convened, but due to the lack of direct talks with the real sides of the war, it had unwanted outcomes and became one of the factors behind the “Afghan Civil War”.

The direct talks will also make the country to get even closer to security, peace and prosperity. However, it is important that these talks should take place with the real parties of the war and it should not be due to the pressure.

The background of direct peace talks

The face to face talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban first happened during Hamid Karzai era and were mostly carried out with the Taliban individually; Mullah Baradar, Mullah Motasim Agha Jan and some other Taliban were among them.

The Muree talks were held in Islamabad between the Afghan government and the representatives of the Taliban that were really representing them and were ready to set around the negotiation table with the Afghan government. The talks were held after the Afghan government’s outreach to Pakistan for its peace process and when Pakistan was under pressure due to the promise of Raheel Sharif about bringing the Afghan Taliban to the negotiation table in March 2015. Therefore, the way was paved for the Murree talks to be commenced in June 2015, but it came to a halt after the disclosure of the death of Mullah Mohammad Omar.

After the Murree talks came to a halt and the regional and international efforts for Afghan peace process began, Quadrilateral peace talks commenced in December 2015, and its fourth meeting was recently held in Kabul. In the first and second meeting of this series the four countries decided about the procedure of the quadrilateral meetings and in the third meeting they discussed over the “road map” for talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban and in its fourth meeting they determined to commence direct talks with the Taliban in the first week of March in Islamabad.

Obstacles toward direct talks

Considering the realities on the ground, the obstacles to face to face talks with the Taliban through the quadrilateral meetings are as follows:

  • At the start of the quadrilateral meetings, all the efforts were focused on the Taliban to be brought to the negotiation table by Pakistan rather than gaining the confidence the Taliban which is the main opposition party of the ongoing Afghan war. Therefore, the Taliban does not trust these talks and is suspicious about its intentions.
  • Unrecognition of the Taliban’s political office in Qatar paves the way for the failure of the face to face talks; because the Taliban believes that their Qatar Office is the only address to carry out the talks and this has been proven in the past that the decisions made by the Qatar Office were acceptable for the Taliban.
  • On one hand, not removing the bans to which the Taliban influential leaders are subject can also be an obstacle towards the talks because if the influential Taliban leaders did not participate in the talks, then the talks would be mostly failed. On the other hand, releasing the prisoners and fulfilling some other conditions can build trust between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

Will direct talks begin?

After the fourth meeting of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group, the Afghan Taliban’s political office in Qatar declared that they were neither informed about quadrilateral meetings and direct talks, nor were they contacted in this regard.

If one study the Taliban’s diplomacy in the past years, one will find that declaring difficult positions the Taliban either are not prepared for the talks or they wanted to talk directly, as in the cases of releasing the Russian pilot and the American soldier, Bowe Bergdahl.

Whether direct talks with the Taliban will commence within two weeks, is a significant question. Because in the past when Pakistan made solid promise to pave the way for face to face talks with the Taliban, it happened after long delay and with a lot of difficulties and only once in the past one and a half year.

The face to face talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in March is not a challenging task; but the question is who will represent the Afghan Taliban in these talks? If the representative of the Taliban’s Qatar office or the members of the Taliban’s leading council did not participate the talks, it will once again fail.

End

Afghanistan » Foreign Policy

The Heart of Asia Conference and a new turn in Pak-Afghan Relations

Published Date: December 12, 2015

The Fifth Ministerial Conference of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process (HOA-IP) held in Islamabad, Pakistan, on 08-09 December 2015. The first conference on this process was held in Istanbul in 2011. Senior officials of most of the regional countries participated in this conference; among them were the Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, Indian External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj and Iranian Foreign Minister, Jawad Zarif.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani went to Pakistan in order to participate in this conference. Pakistan warmly welcomed Afghan President. The most senior Pakistani political and military officials were there at the airport to welcome him.

Along with participating in the conference, Afghan President also had bilateral meetings with officials from India, Iran and China on the sidelines of the conference.

Moreover, Pakistan and India also held a bilateral meeting on the sideline of the conference and discussed about mending the ties between both countries.

The Pak-Afghan ties have had a lot of ups and downs in the last year. The Pak-Afghan ties in last one year, the activities of HOA-IP conferences and also the impact of Ashraf Ghani’s recent visit to Pakistan on the Afghan peace process are analyzed here.

The last one year of Pak-Afghan ties

Last year, the Afghan president, unlike the past 14 years foreign policy, tried to build good ties with Pakistan; he provided several privileges to Pakistan and he, in order to please Pakistan, increased the distance from Delhi. Hence, the visits of senior officials increased between Kabul-Islamabad.

After the ties mended, strong promises on the peace process were given and hopes for the successfulness of this process were increased. By the way, a series of bloody explosions rocked the Capital Kabul, the war became extended to the North of the country and insecurity incidents became increased in the entire country. Besides insecurities, the promises of Pakistan on that it would make the Taliban to have negotiations with the Afghan government became delayed from a date to date.

After the Shah Shaheed bloody incident in Kabul, the Pak-Afghan ties went worse. This scenario made the Afghan media, Parliament and the local people suspicious about Pakistan and at all, the internal pressures on the National Unity Government (NUG) increased. Therefore, the NUG changed its policy and started efforts to rebuild ties with India. From the other side, Pakistan, insistently, emphasized on reinitiating the Afghan peace process and it got use of “Pashto” card, also. Besides that, the regional diplomacy also became active to resume Afghan peace process and due to this the ties between Afghanistan and Pakistan entered into a new phase.

The fresh wave of bilateral ties

In the last few months, the Kabul-Islamabad ties were so frozen and as the insecurities increased in the country, the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani clearly stated that “Afghanistan is in an undeclared war with Pakistan” and therefore, it conditioned the mending ties and reinitiating the peace process to an international guarantee from Pakistan.

Some days ago, a number of Pakistani Pashtun nationalist leaders visited Kabul and they were also carrying the message of Pakistani premier that if President Ghani meet him on a sideline of the Paris Climate Change Conference.

However, meeting with Nawaz Sharif in Paris was not a part of the Afghan President’s agenda, but due to the encouragement of Pashtun leaders and the pressures from China and the US, Ashraf Ghani met Nawaz Sharif in a trilateral meeting and, then, in another bilateral meeting as well. In these meetings, Nawaz Sharif invited the Afghan President to participate in HOA-IP and, for the first time, announced the quadrilateral policy regarding the Afghan peace process, in which China, America, Afghanistan and Pakistan is taking part.

According to some sources, the Afghan president was impacted by Nawaz Sharif’s words, and of course, he became more encouraged after the Pakistani Army Chief of Staff held a video call with him and invited him to Pakistan. Also, the increasing interest of the US and China in Pak-Afghan close ties caused pressures on Ashraf Ghani to become increased in order for relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan to become normal. Due to these two reasons, Ashraf Ghani traveled to Pakistani in order to participate in HOA-IP.

Warm Welcome to Ashraf Ghani

Ashraf Ghani was welcomed so warmly in Pakistan. It was the sort of welcome normally reserved for visits from prominent Pakistani allies like the president of China or the king of Saudi Arabia. However, that sort of welcome also surprised the Afghani side itself. The reasons for this sort of welcome to Ashraf Ghani in Pakistan are as follows:

  • Pakistan wants not to lose the Afghan government alongside the Taliban;
  • Pakistan wants not to lose Kabul due to latest visits of Haneef Atmar and Hekmat Khalil Karzai to India;
  • The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has changed the minds of Pakistani political and military leaders; now, they are also busy on negotiations with Balochs and Bugti’s family in order to solve this problem. Besides that, it wants security to be provided in Afghanistan because it has role in succeeding this great project;
  • It was a diplomatic protocol in order to show their veracity to the international community and the participants of HOA-IP.

Reinitiating the Peace Process

As long as the HOA-IP ended, hopes for resumption of the second round of the peace negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban emerged. In the bilateral meeting between the Afghan President and Nawaz Sharif, the Pakistani Prime Minister (PM) in Paris, Nawaz Sharif suggested a quadrilateral meeting for the peace process to be held this time; America and China alongside Afghanistan and Pakistan would be also participating in this process.

Afghanistan-Pakistan-USA and Afghanistan-Pakistan-China trilateral meetings and Afghanistan, Pakistan-USA -China quadrilateral meetings were held on the sidelines of HOA-IP. The Afghan-led peace process was emphasized in these meetings, according to the statements released by Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Three new topics regarding the peace process were discussed in these talks; they are as following:

First: Afghanistan, Pakistan, USA and china agrees to work together to create a conducive atmosphere that encourages Taliban groups to engage in meaningful and sustained negotiations[1];

Second: China and America would also participate in the negotiations directly in order to eliminate the mistrust and suspicion between Kabul and Islamabad;

Third: The Constitution of Afghanistan would be respected[2].

On Wednesday night, Pakistan’s military chief General Raheel Sharif held a meeting with Ghani to discuss a possible timeframe for “reinvigorating” the Afghan peace process. Therefore, the Afghan Foreign Minister said: ““… our allies, in this case U.S. and China and of course Pakistan, have expressed their willingness to work with Afghanistan on peace and reconciliation process. And we very much hope that his effort will result in a result-oriented peace process where we will see some positive moves in the coming weeks…”

Impacts of this Conference on relations of Afghanistan and the Regional Countries

The leaders of regional countries met each other in a part of the HOA-IP in order to mend their bilateral relationships, and this conference also played a role in mending the Pak-India and Pak-Afghan ties.

Pak-India Ties: However, the Indian premier, Narendra Modi, as an initiative, invited the leaders of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to India, and so the Pakistani premier Nawaz Sharif was invited in this group, also. If this symbolic action was neglected, the Pak-India ties were too knotty. Both of the countries fought on border issues for several times, they suspended the negotiations and their frozen political relations even impacted Sports (start of Cricket matches between them is influenced by politics).

Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj attended Islamabad as a result of Pakistan’s invitations and since 2012; she is the first Indian senior officials that travel to Pakistan.

Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj held separate talks with the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his advisor Aziz on the sidelines of HOA-IP. In this bilateral meeting, both sides condemned terrorism and resolved to cooperate to eliminate it. Also, they noted the successful talks on terrorism and security related issues in Bangkok by the two NSAs and decided that the NSAs will continue to address all issues connected to terrorism. Both sides, accordingly, agreed to a Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue and directed the Foreign Secretaries to work out the modalities and schedule of the meetings under the Dialogue including Peace and Security, CBMs, Jammu & Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek, Wullar Barrage/Tulbul Navigation Project, Economic and Commercial Cooperation, Counter-Terrorism, Narcotics Control, Humanitarian Issues, People to People exchanges and religious tourism[3].

Pak-Afghan Ties: The participation of President Ghani in the “Heart of Asia” Conference caused a fresh wave of ties with Pakistan; both sides expressed coordination for the resumption of peace process. This conference, temporarily, eliminated mistrust between both countries; however, fruitfulness of it would be directly linked to the successfulness of the second round of the peace process and it consequences would be seen in the upcoming month, then.

Afghanistan-China Relations: President Ghani met Chinese Foreign Minister on a sideline of the conference; the important improvements in these talks are as following:

  • Afghanistan requested tojoin the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in order for this bank to help Afghanistan in building railway in Afghanistan and connecting Afghanistan with China through Wakhan Port;
  • The Afghan side suggested for joint cooperation with China, Afghanistan and Germany in electricity production, house construction and development sector. The Chinese Foreign Minister welcomed this suggestion and called for establishing a committee regarding this issue;
  • The Afghan side is ready to transfer gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to China;
  • The Afghan government officially requested the Chinese government to encourage the company working on the Aynak Copper Mine to fulfill its promise regarding building the railway.
  • Afghanistan officially requested for Chinese assistance in equipping the Afghan Air Forces (AIF)[4].

Afghanistan-Iran Ties: Emergence of Daesh group in Afghanistan, Chabahar Port and the Water Management were the issues discussed by Afghan and Iranian officials. The Iranian side, to a large extent, enlightened the issue of Daesh and the importance of Chabahar Port; and the Afghan President talked about concerns of Iranians about the issue of Helmand Water and said that there is an agreement present regarding this and the representatives of both sides would talk about its implementation, later[5].

Evaluation of the “Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process” Conference

The HOA-IP that was started due to Turkey’s initiative in 2011, it provides a new agenda for regional cooperation in the ‘Heart of Asia’ by placing Afghanistan at its center and engaging the ‘Heart of Asia’ countries in sincere and result‐oriented cooperation for a peaceful and stable Afghanistan, as well as a secure and prosperous region as a whole. However, these conferences are held from a while and the Afghan side, unlike past, has taken more interest in it in the last two year; but it has not done anything beyond mending relationships.

In 2011, the ties between Afghanistan and Pakistan were frozen; however, it, for several times, as a result of Turkey’s intercession, through Heart of Asia Conference, was tried to mend relations between both countries.

Besides that, this conference has played role in mending relations between other countries in the region. For example, the relations between India and Pakistan were so frozen and it was nearly impossible for them to hold a meeting on the level of foreign ministers; but the Heart of Asia Conference 2015 paved the ground for bilateral meetings between both countries.

The End

[1] For further studies see http://mofa.gov.pk/pr-details.php?mm=MzMyMw,,

[2] For further studies see http://mofa.gov.pk/pr-details.php?mm=MzMyMw,,

[3] For further studies see Pak-India joint statement http://mofa.gov.pk/pr-details.php?mm=MzMyMg

[4] For further studies see Presidential statement president.gov.af/ps/news/56708 

[5] For further studies see Presidential statement http://president.gov.af/ps/news/56709

Afghanistan » Peace » Politics

Pak-Afghan Ties: From Language Diplomacy to Peace Process

Published Date: December 5, 2015

Last week, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Pakistani Premier Nawaz Sharif met in Paris at the sidelines of Climate Change Conference. Before this meeting, both leaders met in a trilateral meeting with the British Prime Minister (PM). In both meetings, Pakistani side talked about the revival of peace and reconciliation process with the Taliban.

Five days before this meeting, leaders of the Pakistani Pashtun nationalist parties had a 3-day visit to Kabul. However, the Pakistani delegation was invited by Afghan President, but they had also brought Nawaz Sharif’s message; and meanwhile, they encouraged President Ghani to meet the Pakistani PM in Paris.

After the death news of Mullah Mohammad Omar, the Afghan peace process became stalled; Pakistan, insistently, talked about reviving the stalled peace process and, as a result of this, the regional diplomacy became active (for further information on this topic, read 142nd issue of the Weekly Analysis) and, these reasons, once again, provided the chance for direct talks between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

In this analysis, you will read about the impact of recent two meetings between Ashraf Ghani and Nawaz Sharif on Pak-Afghan ties and their role in reviving the stalled peace process.

Pashto and Pashtuns: The Elements of Pak-Afghan Diplomacy

It is not the first time that Kabul and Islamabad used “Pashto” card in their foreign policy; before that, Kabul and Islamabad had used this card during the Cold War and then in Hamid Karzai’s era.

During the Cold War, Pakistan’s Pashtun leaders were living in Kabul for several years; therefore, Kabul’s support from Pakistan’s Pashtuns and the ‘Pashtunistan’ issue were among the important factors of Afghanistan’s foreign policy. Meanwhile, Pakistan had also sheltered a number of Afghan Pashtuns in its soil and calls its support from them as a “necessity”. This issue, to a large extent, had deeps impacts on Kabul-Islamabad ties.

Later, in Hamid Karzai’s era, Kabul invited Pakistan’s Pashtun leaders and, in 2007, it held a Grand Jirga of Pakistani and Afghan leaders in order to make the Pak-Afghan ties better and tranquilize the armed position in both sides of the Durand Line. About 700 leaders from both countries participated in this Jirga, and it was the first of its kind, in which the leaders of both sides had officially participated in it. This Jirga established a 50-member committee in order to present their solutions regarding the peace process. However, this Jirga failed, because neither the Afghan Taliban and nor the tribal leaders were invited to it. Pakistani leaders were also participated in this Jirga and the former Pakistani president, Perviz Musharraf, also participated in the closing ceremony of the Jirga.

After Ashraf Ghani became President, he, during his visit to Pakistan, invited a number of Pakistani parties’ leaders in order to come to Kabul; therefore, Pakistan Pashtun Nationalist leaders attended Kabul in January, 2015. [1] Now, Ashraf Ghani, once again, invited the leaders of Pakistan’s Pashtun political parties to Kabul in this case the Kabul-Islamabad ties are worse than every other time in the past one year.

The “Pashto” Card in Foreign Policy

During the Cold War, Pakistan and Afghanistan had sheltered the opposition elements against each other; however, after the Cold War, both Kabul and Islamabad used the “Pashto” card in remaking its bilateral relations. Hence, many Pashtun delegations from both sides had visits to each other’s Capitals in order to establish good relations between both countries.

The Pashtun leaders’ visits to Kabul in January 2015 had brought optimism to a number of diplomats in Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry. Because, they believe that they, through their shared language, will not only shortened the gap of mistrust between Afghanistan and Pakistan but they can use it in rebuilding the ties, also[2]. This time, Pakistan, through Pashtun leaders, tried to rebuild its ties with Afghanistan; in the case, it, from a while, makes efforts to reinitiate the peace process and rebuild the ties between both countries.

Pakistan’s Pashtun leaders’ visit to Kabul

A few days ago (11/25/2015) a delegation consisted of ten members from three Pakistani nationalist parties attended Kabul as a result of the Afghan President’s invitation. Asfandyar Wali Khan, leader of the Awami National Party, Afrasyab Khattak, Dr. Saleem Khan (Son of Afzal Khan Lala), Mahmood Khan Achakzai, leader of Pashtunkhwa National Awamy Party, Aftab Ahmed Khan Shirpao, leader of Qaumi Watan Party, Shawkatullah Khan, former governor of Pashtunkhwa, Ayaz Wazir, former Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan and a number of other personalities were among this delegation. This delegation participated in a conference in Kabul that was praising the memorial of Afzal Khan Lala; briefly, the aim of this visit was to rebuild the ties between Kabul and Islamabad.

Politically, the visit of this delegation was very important to Pakistan due to following reasons:

First: Kabul-Islamabad ties, after the establishment of the National Unity Government (NUG), are worse than compared to every other time.

Second: Since a month, Kabul is making efforts to rebuild its ties with New Delhi. Haneef Atmar, National Security Advisor to Afghan President went on an official visit to India and the Deputy Foreign Minister; Hekmat Khalil Karzai had also a visit to India. Both afghan officials requested India to provide military assistance as well as to implement the bilateral strategic agreement.

Third: This visit was important because it was paved the way for a meeting between Nawaz Sharif and the Afghan President in Paris and, it was a chance for Pakistan to ensure the presence of Afghan high officials in the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process Conference that is going to be held in Islamabad in next week; because if the Afghan high officials did not participated in this conference, it would impact Pakistan very negatively.

Ashraf Ghani-Nawaz Sharif meeting in Paris

Leaders of Pakistan’s nationalist parties had brought the message of Pakistani premier, Nawaz Sharif to Afghan president and had requested him to meet Nawaz Sharif at the sidelines of the international Climate Change conference. The meeting with Pakistani PM was not included in the agenda of Afghan president; but after Pakistan’s nationalist leaders visit to Kabul this meeting became a part of Afghan President’s agenda, Afghan officials said.

On 30 November 2015, both leaders, before meeting each other alone, met in a trilateral meeting consist of Afghan President, Pakistani and British Prime Ministers. After the trilateral meeting, the Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani and the Pakistani premier, Nawaz Sharif held a bilateral meeting and talked about the relations between both countries. “Reinitiating the peace and reconciliation process was among their talking, also”[3]. Pakistani PM established the details of this meeting in a statement; the important points were as following:

  • Both leaders agreed that they will work with those who participate in this process as legitimate political players. Pakistan alongside the Afghan government will stand against those who do not want peace;
  • Pakistan believes that the US and China, which were associated with Murree reconciliation process, are vital partners in this process. We would also welcome the support of other friendly powers in this endeavor. Pakistan would, therefore, welcome a quadrilateral initiative to restart the reconciliation process. To this end, the forthcoming meeting of Heart of Asia – Istanbul process, to be held in Islamabad on 09 December 2015, provides a welcome opportunity to evolve a common roadmap for result oriented reconciliation in Afghanistan;
  • I look forward to the visit of President Ashraf Ghani to Islamabad, for jointly inaugurating the 09 December Heart of Asia meeting, and for discussions on the sidelines on how the two countries and the US and China can work together to pick up the thread of the reconciliation process, from where it was left off in July 2015;
  • Pakistan looks forward to coordinating closely with Afghanistan at political, diplomatic, military, and intelligence levels, to take our joint fight against terrorism to its logical conclusion[4].

The Future of Pak-Afghan Ties

The 70-year Pak-Afghan relations have seen a lot of ups and downs; however, distrust has covered these bilateral ties to a large extent. After the formation of NUG, the relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan unprecedentedly became better; but after insecurities increased in Afghanistan and the peace process became stalled, these relations, once again, went on distrust. Although, Pakistan, by using language diplomacy and the Pashtun card, once again, met the Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani at the sidelines of the Paris Climate Change Conference and invited him to the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process; so, these efforts brought hopes for the peace process to become reinitiated and for the ties between both counties to become better.

It is worth mentioning that these meetings, conferences can play a vital role in rebuilding the bilateral ties; but the Pak-Afghan ties, in mid-term and long-term, to a large extent, are mostly dependable on the successfulness of the peace process and stability in Afghanistan; and whenever, Pakistan fell shorten in fulfilling its promises, the relations between both countries would automatically become worsen and besides that, the trust-building process would be faced with various challenges in the future ahead.

End.

[1] For further information, please read “CSRS Weekly Analysis: Issue Number 100, from 10-17 January 2015”

[2] Inamullah Khattack, Pakistan launches Pashto Diplomacy to woo Kabul, The Nation, 11 Jan 2015, see it online: <http://nation.com.pk/national/11-Jan-2015/pakistan-launches-pashto-diplomacy-to-woo-kabul>

[3] See Online:http://www.pmo.gov.pk/press_release_detailes.php?pr_id=1259

[4] For reading the detailed press release of PM Nawaz Sharif Online; See: http://www.mofa.gov.pk/pr-details.php?mm=MzI5OA

Afghanistan » Peace » Politics » Security

Latest Incidents and their Impacts on the Afghan Peace Process

Published Date: August 17, 2015

After a serious of deadly attacks in Kabul, President Ghani, unlike past 10 months, used harsh language against Pakistan for the first time. He said, a war is being declared against us from the territory of Pakistan; it is an obvious enmity with a neighboring nation.      

Two days before Ashraf Ghani’s press conference, a series of heavy explosions shocked Kabul and according to UNAMA’s research it as the deadliest day for civilians since 2009. 

Before Ashraf Ghani’s harsh expressions and a serious of explosions in Kabul, the started peace talks in Islamabad was delayed due to revealing the secret of Mullah Mohammad Omar’s death. Besides that, disagreements in Taliban ranks have raised, also. For now, the question is that which direction the peace process would take in the light of latest evolutions and incidents?

Taliban’s internal disputes

From the day the Taliban regime had been toppled and then, after some years, when they started armed struggle against NATO forces, some authorities of the Taliban left their ranks, for example, Mutaseem Agha Jan separated from Taliban ranks due to some disagreements in 2010 and started struggles for establishing an inter-Afghan peace process from the countries in the region. But, these internal disagreements didn’t influenced Taliban badly, because of the existence and leadership of Mullah Mohammad Omar.   

When Mullah Mohammad Omar’s death was revealed, some disagreements came out in Taliban ranks, and the new opposition group began to criticize the new Ameer over keeping Mullah Mohammad Omar’s death as a secret and some other issues. Mullah Abdurrazaq, the interior minister, Mullah Abdul Jalil, the deputy foreign minister and Mullah Mohammad Hassan Rahmani, the provincial governor of the Taliban regime and Mullah Mohammad Rasool were against appointing Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor as the new leader of the movement. Moreover, Mullah Mohammad Omar’s family including his brother, Mullah Abdul Mannan, and his son, Mullah Mohammad Yaaqoub, have not pledged their allegiance with the new leader of Taliban.    

Following these disagreements, head of the Qatar Office, Said Tayyib Agha, had also resigned due to secretly keeping Mullah Mohammad Omar’s from him and why the new leader of the movement was appointed outside the country, Pakistan.

Now considering these disagreements, the new concerns on the peace process are on the rise that with the division of Taliban, who would Afghan government, now deals with for the sake of peace talks. Beside Taliban’s disagreements, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor has received support of most of the Taliban military commanders and provincial governors; the reason is that he had direct contacts and better relations with Taliban’s military commanders since the last last five years. On the other hand, the leader of Haqqani Network, Sirajuddin Haqqani became appointed as his deputy and so a huge part of Taliban’s military has pledged their allegiance to him.

On August 13th, Aiman-ul Zawahiri, leader of Al Qaeda, through broadcasting a video, pledged his allegiance to Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor and called him “Amir-ul Mumineen (Supreme Leader of All Muslims)”. Allegiance of Al Qaeda’s leader to Mullah Mansoor has challenged the existed disagreements. It looks like Mullah Mansoor will solve his disagreements with Mullah Mohammad Omar’s family through a group of religious scholars, and therefore the disagreements between the Taliban would decrease slowly, and they would not have any impact in the battle ground anymore.   

The Deadly Explosions in Kabul

Last week, deadly explosions in Kabul had impacted the foreign policy of Afghanistan toward Pakistan. On August 7th, three explosions occurred in Kabul within 24 hours, the first explosion was in Shah Shaeed locality, the second was in Qasaba locality and the third one was on Police Academy. Taliban claimed responsibly for the last two attacks but the first one had a lot of civilian casualties and economical losses, Taliban rejected having hand in this one. On August 10th, an explosion occurred in the Kabul Airport, which Taliban claimed responsibility for.      

The followings explain the aims behind series of serious explosions:

First: Some people opposed Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor for playing an obvious role in Islamabad’s Murree peace talks and showing green light to Taliban negotiators. Therefore, he, after becoming the new leader of Taliban, in his first audio message considered the peace talks as “enemy’s propaganda” and with these explosions in Kabul; he tries to gain support of his opponents.

Second: After Mullah Mohammad Omar’s death, the international media and Afghan government claimed that there are profound disagreements among the Taliban and they are going to become weak, soon. Now, the Taliban, with such attacks, wants to show their power to the Afghan government and international community that they are not yet weak.  

Third: Naturally, Taliban warriors might have lost their morale with the death of their leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, and on-going disagreement; therefore, the Taliban want to increase morale of their armed fighters through these attacks.   

Fourth: However, the Taliban participated in Murree’s peace talks that this would not be leaked to the media, but when it was leaked and broadly broadcasted by domestic, regional and international media; the idea of that Pakistan can make the Taliban to have peace talks empowered. Hence, they, for weakening this thought, speeded their attacks.    

The Change in Policies of Unity Government

The series of such attacks in Kabul changed not only Ashraf Ghani’s foreign policy, but it did also impact the Kabul policy on “terrorism”. 

The deadly attacks in Kabul, delay in the second round of peace talks and criticism on Ashraf Ghani’s Pakistan policy inside the country has caused Ashraf Ghani to change his policy toward Pakistan.   

Ashraf Ghani, in a press conference, used harsh language against Pakistan and said, “Still meetings are held in Pakistan and continuation of war is being insisted from there. It has proved that there are still safe shelters for terrorism is Pakistan”… ”training centers of terrorists are still functioning in Pakistan”… “We hope for peace but war against us is being declared in Pakistani soil, in reality, it is an obvious enmity against a neighboring nation and country.”     

Besides that, Dr. Abdullah, CEO of NUG criticized Pakistan and said that we should review our Pakistan policy. On the other hand, Ahmad Zia Masoud, special representative of the President also said that Pakistan had deceived Afghanistan under the name of peace process.

However, this policy of the Afghan government yet to be changed completely; but the upcoming two weeks will determine the course of Kabul-Islamabad relations. Following this aim, on August 13th, President Ghani sent a high-level delegation to Islamabad and perhaps this visit would be the last ditch attempt to repair ties with Pakistan.  

Afghan officials’ harsh reaction against Pakistan is being supported by the people. Before that, former President Hamid Karzai and his team were continuously criticizing Ashraf Ghani in order to stop the present policy toward Pakistan. For the first time, after Hamid Karzai had left the Presidential Palace, the government has taken such a position.         

The bleak Future of the Peace Process

President Ghani wanted to have peace talks with the Taliban via China and Pakistan, and this was his policy toward peace. This is the reason why he provided Pakistan with a lot of privileges, however, his policy became criticized inside the country and it had not had any obvious fruit except Murree’s first round talks. Meanwhile, this policy instigated the Afghan Taliban against the Afghan government. Hence, Taliban follow two wars: one, their normal/previous war and second, war for proving that they are not puppets of Pakistan.      

If Afghan side did not receive practical assurance on peace from Pakistan, so this policy of the Afghan government on the peace process would face close doors more than ever. And the peace process would face a bleak Future after that, then. However, one of the following steps could be taken toward the peace process:

First: Efforts on dividing the Taliban would speed up, in order to gain from the Taliban’s disagreements, but it would not be so fruitful.  

Second: Karzai’s former policy would be followed and relations with Pakistan should become worsen. 

Third: Kabul would get use of diplomacy and put pressure on Pakistan through Pakistan’s strategic friends. 

Fourth: it is that Kabul would keep Pakistan’s door open and only request help from it in order to eliminate Taliban’s compounds, and from the other hand, it would start face-to-face talks with the Taliban on the peace process. 

Fifth: Kabul would receive assurance from Pakistan and Ashraf Ghani’s policy toward Pakistan will continue until several months. 

Afghanistan » Foreign Policy

How serious are Kabul-Islamabad tensions?

Published Date: August 16, 2015

After the Unity Government and especially after the disclosure of ISI-NDS cooperation agreement between Pakistan and Afghanistan, it looks like new era of relations between both countries is begun.  

Pakistan’s commitment to peace process in Afghanistan and two rounds of negotiations between representatives of Taliban and the Afghan government as a result of Pakistan’s intercession in China’s Urumqi and Pakistan’s Murree, increased hopes on that both countries are going forward to have insuperable constituent cooperation.       

Pakistani high-level officials were talking, from an unexampled closeness, about relations between two countries and they were praising President Ghani for taking courageous initiatives for strengthening ties between the two countries, so President Ghani was calling Pakistan as a new ally in the war on terrorism, however, the relations has gone on obscurity in the last week.          

Following the latest attacks in Kabul which killed a lot of servicemen and civilians, Afghanistan, once again, accused Pakistan for supporting terrorism and requested Pakistan to eliminate the compounds of Taliban in Pakistan, immediately and effectively.      

Returning to Karzai’s Policies

The Death of Mullah Mohammad Omar came out at a time, when the next round of peace negotiations between the Afghan government and Taliban were expected to be started due to Pakistan’s facilitation, soon. Therefore, some people considered the disclosure of this secret as an attempt of Pakistan to postpone the peace process and connect this with the latest harsh waves of attacks in Kabul.          

President Ghani, during a press conference, considered these attacks as a “war message” from Pakistan and, with a virulent tone, accused Islamabad that it supports terrorism. The compounds of terrorists beyond the Durand Line should be eliminated, he said. It seems that Ashraf Ghani is not satisfied with criticizing Pakistan through media only; Pakistani media reported that Ashraf Ghani, on Monday, complained to John Kerry, Director of the US Department of State about the existence of terrorists’ centers in Pakistan. Then, John Kurbi, the spokesman to US Department of State, said that Afghanistan and Pakistan should cooperation in eliminating centers of terrorists on both sides of the border. Quoting Kurbi, America supports the peace process between the Afghan government and Taliban and that it hopes the latest attacks of Taliban would not make the peace process vulnerable.          

These expressions of the spokesman for the US Department of State in response to the request of President Ghani and CEO of Afghanistan that say, the center for equipping and supporting terrorists are located beyond our border, in Pakistan. 

From the other hand, missile and artillery attacks of Pakistan on the border areas in Kunar province are restarted from the last one month. These attacks are reminder of Hamid Karzai’s era when both countries have convulsive relations.     

 The “Trusting Pakistan” Policy

One thing that caused the Afghan government to become furious with Pakistan is the gathering of Taliban outside Pakistan’s Quetta City of Baluchistan province, where Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, was appointed as the new leader of Taliban. This adventure followed by the deadly attacks of Taliban in Kabul has provided opportunity for those who were always raising their voice against making a peace deal with the Taliban.     

This evolution has empowered the ideas of the people that previously believed that Pakistan should not be trusted. Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, CEO of Afghanistan, during a speech, harshly criticized Pakistan and accused Islamabad with supporting and equipping Taliban against the Afghan government.    

Some domestic and Western media consider the latest words of President Ghani as setback in his policy on establishing close ties with Pakistan; however, Pakistani officials have had soft language in this regard.   

The Peace Negotiations and Ties with Pakistan

One of the core issues that can put ties of both countries under pressure is the postponement of peace process. Disparities in the Taliban’s ranks that are interpreted as scrimmage on power inside this movement have caused the peace process to be suspended until uncertain future.   

In the past few months, the peace negotiations with the Taliban due to Pakistan’s facilitation have empowered the idea in Afghanistan that the policy of Pakistan toward Afghanistan is changed, however, suspension of these negotiations from one hand and continuation of war in Afghanistan on the other hand will cause the ties to become iced to a large extent.  

In the past, Pakistan could have some individuals in their control who were being made to participate in the negotiations on behalf of the Taliban and, also, these representatives were claiming that they are the real representatives of Mullah Mohammad Omar. However, Pakistan, after the death of Mullah Mohammad Omar revealed, lost this opportunity. Now, the individuals that have more support of the Taliban militants are needed to participate in these negotiations. Pakistan have make this kind of individuals to join the peace process, however, considering the morale of the Talban and the problems they have faced after death of their leader revealed, doing this job won’t be easy.        

Perhaps, Pakistan would try to divide Taliban into two parts in order to get out from this problem, and then they would try to make one of these parts to participate in the peace process and thus reduce the importance of Qatar Office. Previously, Pakistan had started this job with those who were not representing the armed Taliban, however, now, when the government of Afghanistan wants to have negotiations with members of the Taliban which have the power of “ceasefire” , it is not easy for Pakistan to pressurize and bring these to the negotiations table.       

Dividing the Taliban into two groups does not mean that they would rival for having peace negotiation and/or understanding with the Afghan government but such a divergence would cause every group to repeat slogans of war and anti-peace in order to not lose the support of its warriors.  

Conclusion

Beside the virulent expressions of the leaders of the Unity Government against Pakistan, it does not seem that Ashraf Ghani is going to adopt the policies of Hamid Karzai between 2003-2014 regarding Pakistan.  

The Meeting of Afghan ambassador to Islamabad with Mawlana Samiulhaq and the telephonic conversation of the Afghan Foreign Ministry with Mawlana, obvious and secret contacts of Ashraf Ghani with Pakistani officials in the past days and the high-level Afghan delegation’s visit to Pakistan shows that the virulent speeches of Ashraf Ghani were for calming the people inside the country and Pakistani officials, realizing the pressures put on Ashraf Ghani inside the country, preferred not to take these words seriously and so they avoid to have a virulent response. 

Pakistani officials, besides condemning the latest attacks in Kabul, expressed their sympathy with the government and people of Afghanistan. They were insisting that Pakistan, itself, is a big victim of terrorism. 

Pakistani media broadcasted the words of President Ghani and Dr. Abdullah alongside with the expressions of Pakistan’s foreign ministry where the latest attacks on Kabul were condemned.

From the other hand, a high-level delegation including the acting-minister of Defense and the director of NDS heading by Salahuddin Rabbani, the Foreign Minister of Afghanistan attended Islamabad to have talks with Pakistani officials. However, the spokesman for the Afghan Foreign Ministry said this is a vital visit in relations between two countries and he added that the delegation would have serious negotiations with Pakistan, but considering the problems of National Unity Government (NUG), a significant achievement could not be expected from this visit.      

At all, it can be said that beside the latest tensions in relations between the two countries, the secret of understanding exists between Afghan and Pakistani officials; as a result, the virulent expressions of Afghan officials against Pakistan are not considered serious by Islamabad. 

Afghanistan » Peace

Whether the direct peaceful talks have get-off the ground?

Published Date: July 13, 2015

The first known direct talks between Afghan govt. and the Taliban in Islamabad have been welcomed internationally. These talks were taken place in Murree, a tourist spot near Islamabad. Where on the Taliban’s side Abdul Latif Mansour (Nephew of Maulvi Nasrullah Mansoor), Haji Ibrahim (Maulavi Jalaluddin Haqqani’s brother) and Mullah Abbas took part in it, while Hekmat Khalil Karzai (deputy foreign minister), Haji Din Muhammad (a member of High Peace Council), Faizullah Zaki, Asadullah Sadati, Aasim, and Muhammad Nateqee represented the Afghan government.

Moreover, the Chinese and USA representatives were too present as observers and UNAMA, White House, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Shareef, and the Afghan ex-President Hamid Karzai welcomed these talks.

These Peaceful talks happened due to Pakistan’s initiative and the first round of it was in Urumqi, China. However, it is not the first time that the Afghan government is directly talking with Taliban but Islamabad’s meeting differs with all those others meetings. But, still it is wondered whether Taliban’s representatives truly represent them or not?

Islamabad’s meeting and the Taliban’s stance

Even though the peaceful talks with the Taliban have been started during Hamid Karzai’s era, but when Ashraf Ghani became the new afghan President, the peaceful talks becomes the core issue of afghan foreign policy. In Ashraf Ghani’s first foreign visit, China becomes ready to give a platform to Taliban, Afghan government, Pakistan and China for peaceful talks.

In this regard, China hosted the representatives of Taliban’s political office and later in February the Chinese foreign minister while visiting Pakistan said that China is ready for a mediating role in Afghanistan. In May, the peaceful talks between Taliban, Afghan government and the High Peace Council were started in Urumqi, China, which was later rejected by Taliban. In Urumqi, the representatives of Taliban were Mullah Abdul Jaleel, Muhammad Hassan Rahmani, and Mullah Abdul Razzaq.

After the first round of talks in Urumqi, hopes were high that the second round of peaceful talks will soon took place in Urumqi,  but when the Taliban rejected the Urumqi talks, as a consequence China halted to host peaceful talks in Urumqi, and then Pakistan’s national security advisor Sartaj Aziz proposed to host this meeting in Islamabad. In this meeting, for the first time representatives of Taliban who were not the members of Taliban’s political office but were part of Taliban took part in the direct talks with Afghan government.

Taliban also didn’t reject Islamabad talks, but after taliban’s declaration, it is understandable that Afghan government have talked with some officials members of Taliban but with one big difference that those who took part in Islamabad talks weren’t a part of Taliban’s political office.

According to the closed sources to Taliban, these peoples were influential in Taliban’s hierarchy. But Taliban’s political office spokesman Dr. Muhammad Naeem Wardak has rejected that no member of Taliban’s political office has taken part in Islamabad’s Peaceful talks. In addition, Taliban’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid too said that it is the responsibility of political office to take part in such talking, not others.

The future prospects of Pak-Afghan ties

When Ashraf Ghani became President, Afghanistan’s foreign policy towards Pakistan was completely changed, and Kabul’s foreign policy became Pakistani centric. Even though, Afghan government hoped that Pakistan will play an important role in Afghanistan’s peaceful reconciliation but as the time passed away Kabul became upset with Pakistan’s double game and afghan government, especially the President, came under public pressure. Therefore, in this regard, the Afghan President wrote a letter to Pakistan and hence the signs of trust deficit incurred in Pak-Afghan ties.

The trust deficit reached to its heights when both Pakistan and Afghan security forces clashed over border in Paktika province, killing 8 pakistani and 1 afghan security personnel. As a result, both countries summons each other’s ambassadors over this border firing and this revealed rift in bilateral relations. But, after this incident, Pakistan’s help in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table was admired and the Kabul once again looks through hopeful eyes to Pakistan.

The Peaceful talks between Taliban and Afghan government was solely responsible for removing trust deficit in bilateral Pak-Afghan tie and as a result the Afghan government admired Pakistan’s role in hosting and organizing the Islamabad talks. The Afghan Ministry of Foreign affairs said in its press release: ‘The National Unity Government thanks the leadership of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan for facilitating the first meeting and hosting the delegation of the High Peace Council. It also hopes that this cooperation produce practical and tangible results so that both countries enjoy security and stability and both nations are rid of war’[1]

Islamabad’s facilitation role

Taliban from the day first of its political office is saying that their political office has complete authority and capability to hold talks, But with this clear message, the afghan government didn’t wants to hold talks directly with Taliban’s Political office, instead it is holding peaceful talks with some of Taliban’s former and present members with the help of Pakistani pressures.

Now the question arises, why the present Taliban wants to hold talks with Afghan government and the Islamic Emirate too didn’t show any serious response to it. Its reason might be that they are holding talks mostly due to Pakistan’s overt pressures. But, those who are closed to Taliban has expressed it clearly that only Taliban’s political office has the right and authority to hold talks and others who do this is in their own personal capacity.

Both afghan and Pakistani government wants to divide Taliban through such talks, and since such talks, they are striving for this motive, But so far Taliban has been successful to preserve their unity. It is from here that Taliban in the last two press releases hadn’t have criticized those who took part in talks and moreover they have shown themselves free of Pakistani pressures. Because, they had only contended that the sole authority to hold talks is with Taliban’s political office.

Pakistani Pressure and the changing Taliban policy

Since 2007, Pakistan have overt its pressures on Taliban. For instance, Taliban’s two top leaders, Mullah Ubaidullah Akhund and Mullah Baradar, were arrested by Pakistani establishment, where Mullah Ubaidullah Akhund died under Pakistan’s captivity and Mullah Baradar is still under house arrest. In addition, a much closed source to Taliban has told us that since 2007, roundabout 22 top Taliban leaders have been killed by Pakistani intelligence agency, ISI.

The reason behind all this is that Pakistan wants to control Taliban’s foreign policy, but as Ashraf Ghani became President and changed Kabul’s Pakistani policy, the pressures on Taliban got increased and due to these pressures some members of Taliban were forced to sit in Urumqi and Islamabad talks.

As a consequence to these Pakistani pressures, Taliban have changed their policy and now they have given responsibility of internal political and external affairs to Qatar’s office (Taliban’s political office). In this regard, Taliban have stated in its last statement :< on this basis, from now onwards all of Islamic Emirate’s foreign and internal political affairs are entrusted to the Islamic Emirate’s Political office as their sole responsibility. The Political office has full capacity and agency powers to conduct or postpone, in light of Islamic Principles and national interests, negotiations with internal and foreign parties wherever and whenever it deems suitable>[2]

It is understandable from the above statement that Taliban is going through serious period and Pakistan’s Pressure is knowable. Therefore, it is from here that the Taliban in a counter attack have given the responsibility of internal political affairs to its political office, in order to get away Pakistani pressures.

The future of peaceful talks

When the afghan delegation returned home from Islamabad, they hold a press conference and called the Islamabad talks a productive discussion with Taliban and Haqqani members and moreover had called it a vital step towards achieving peace. According to Hekmat Khalil Karzai, Taliban have shared their wish list with them, which is the withdrawal of foreign forces, and the names of Taliban in UN and USA’s blacklists. In this regard, they believed that Taliban’s delegation cam with the permission of their leader, Mullah Mansoor, and had complete authority in the peaceful talks. Moreover, Afghan side is hopeful that the second round of these talks will be soon started after Ramadan.

However it is felt that Islamabad’s peaceful talks would play vital role in the future peaceful talks, but as the taliban have given permission to hold talks only to its political office and holding peaceful talks, instead of Taliban’s political office, with others will haven’t a good future and it would most probably fail.

If there weren’t any pressures from Pakistani side and the Taliban were too happy with such talks, then most probably Taliban might have took part in Islamabad’s peaceful talks. However, not only the Taliban have rejected such talks –Because political office is solely responsible for holding talks and no member of political office had taken part in these talks- but have given the internal political affairs responsibility too to Qatar’s Taliban office. It is from here that we concludes that due to Pakistan’s mediation the peace would not be a real one and the Taliban would too don’t want to show itself as Pakistani stooge.

The End

[1] To study more, see:< http://mfa.gov.af/en/news/press-release-on-the-first-meeting-of-formal-peace-negotiations-between-official-delegations-of-the-high-peace-council-of-afghanistan-and-the-afghan-t>

[2] For further studies, please visit:< http://alemara1.org/?p=19802>