Washington : Afghanistan’s close relationship with India is not acceptable to Pakistan, which is using proxies like the Haqqani network and the Taliban against its two neighbours, eminent experts have told US lawmakers.
“Afghanistan’s strongest regional ally is India, that is unacceptable to Pakistan. India is an enemy…while the Afghan government is an ally in the Indian government,” Seth Jones, director, International Security and Defense Policy Center, Rand Corporation, said during a Congressional hearing last week.
“Pakistan has resorted to proxy organisations to further its foreign policy goals both in places like Jammu and Kashmir against the Indians and in Afghanistan, and that means support to organisations like the Haqqani Network and the Taliban, so it’s a proxy war,” Jones said in response to a question from Congressman Ted Poe. Bill Roggio, editor of the Long War journal, agreed with Jones assertion. The Pakistani government is continuing with its policy, the strategy of strategic depth, that it views everything through the lens of fighting India, Roggio said during the hearing organised by the House Foreign Affairs Sub-committee on Terrorism, Non-proliferation.
“That unfortunately some of these jihadist groups that have spawned from the Pakistani efforts to fight India to establish strategic depth in Afghanistan, it’s come back to bite them with groups like the movement in Taliban and Pakistan, and other groups which have attacked the Pakistani state,” Roggio said. “Until the Pakistani government and leaders and military intelligence, until they come to grips with this, this problem is going to exist for decades,” he said.
Poe, who chaired the Congressional hearing on Afghanistan and Pakistan, said that in recent years the US has given over USD 33 billion in some form of aid to Pakistan. “Pakistan directly or indirectly supports the Haqqani Network, in theory. That network as we mentioned earlier, has killed more Americans in the region than any other terrorist group. To me that is something that we should not accept. We should not accept sending money to a country that supports a terrorist group that kills Americans. I think there is a real problem with that,” Poe said.
Jones said this was a serious problem. “I would support as the US did last year when it has a strike against the Taliban leader, as it did with Mullah Mansour to take that strike. I mean, I think it’s worth considering the cost and benefits, but I would applaud the administration for targeting the Taliban leader last year,” he said. Poe alleged that Taliban was still based in Pakistan and it came as no surprise that when a US drone strike killed the leader of the Taliban in May 2016, he was in southwestern Pakistan.
“The laundry list of evidence of Pakistan’s support for terrorist goes on and on. We remember that when al-Qaeda leader and America’s most wanted terrorist Osama bin Laden was killed, he was found in Pakistan,” he said. “I believe Pakistan is playing us, they launch what they called counter-terrorism operations in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, but quickly became clear they were only targeting the Pakistani Taliban and not the Afghan Taliban,” he said.
Poe noted that ISIS announced the establishment of Afghan affiliate in January 2015 and is entrenched itself in the eastern part of the country. “ISIS presence in Afghan further complicates the country’s tourist landscape. These fighters ended up becoming the leaders of the ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan known as, ‘ISIS Khorasan Province’,” Poe said. PTI