Pakistan must be made to rethink its support to the Taliban’s Quetta Shura and the Haqqani Network, and this can be done by the United States. This is a long held view of analysts in Delhi and Kabul. Now the International Crisis Group (ICG) also has veered around the view with its first “Watch List 2017”, bluntly saying that the role of the US will be central in pressuring Pakistan to rethink its support to the Taliban and Haqqani Networks.
“The US is best placed to pressure Pakistan to reverse its support for Afghan proxies”, the report titled, “Afghanistan: Growing Challenges”, said.
The challenge stems from Afghanistan’s neighbours who are “more aggressively promoting what they perceive to be their own national security interests”.
“This most notably is the case of Pakistan, whose relations with Afghanistan continue to be strained. Islamabad remains unwilling to facilitate talks between the Taliban and Kabul, and continues supporting its Afghan proxies, allowing them to recruit, fundraise, as well as plan and conduct operations from safe havens inside Pakistan,” ICG’s report said. It also added that Islamabad views as provocative the close ties between Kabul and New Delhi. It is this reality that Washington must factor in to force Pakistan to abandon support to terror.
“The US role will be central, including by conditioning continued military support to Islamabad on Pakistan working with Kabul to bring the insurgents to the negotiating table and rethinking its support to the Taliban’s Quetta Shura and the Haqqani Network, now fully integrated into the insurgency’s command structure,” ICG said.
Pakistan was once the third-largest recipient of US foreign assistance. It peaked to more than $3.5 billion in 2011. But in 2016, American civilian and military aid dropped to total less than $1 billion, according to US government data. It may come down further since the Trump administration is hinting at a tougher stance against Pakistan.
Before his visit to Islamabad in April, US national security adviser (NSA) Lieutenant General HR McMaster indicated to ToloNews that Washington would take a “tougher line” on Pakistan, for its use of the Taliban as a proxy force and for giving its leaders sanctuary.
“As all of us have hoped for many, many years – we have hoped that Pakistani leaders will understand that it is in their interest to go after these groups less selectively than they have in the past. The best way to pursue their interests in Afghanistan and elsewhere is through the use of diplomacy, and not through the use of proxies that engage in violence,” McMaster told the Afghan channel.
While on the subject of peace negotiations, the ICG report said: “A precondition for successful negotiations is for the U.S., still the most powerful and influential foreign actor in Afghanistan, to settle on a comprehensive political strategy. While the Trump administration’s Afghan policy remains a work in progress, there are clear indications it will maintain its presence in Afghanistan and likely enhance its military support. But it still must address the question of the optimal format and composition of the talks.”
The Quadrilateral Consultation Group comprising Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and the U.S. has been dormant since the May 2016 U.S. drone attack that killed Taliban leader Mullah Mansoor. Russia’s efforts to bring together Pakistan, China, Iran, India, and most recently Afghanistan, are more promising in so far as they include all regional stakeholders. But Washington declined Moscow’s invitation to participate in the process, concerned that Russia’s outreach to the Taliban, including some military support, could endanger U.S. stabilisation efforts and endanger the lives of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
For Negotiated Peace
“Given the U.S.’s key role, its absence clearly would be to the detriment of the process. The EU should continue providing technical support to a negotiating process that has broad Afghan support, which the Moscow-led process currently lacks even with one of the principal stakeholders, the Taliban”, the Watch Report prepared by Brussels- based advocacy group said.
It went to say that Pakistan must become convinced that its interests would be better served by a political settlement in Afghanistan than by continued Taliban insurgency. This is a third essential element for peaceful negotiations and it will require international efforts both to pressure Pakistan to shift course and to facilitate constructive dialogue between Islamabad and Kabul.
For this process to succeed, “The U.S. role will be central, including by conditioning continued military support to Islamabad on Pakistan working with Kabul to bring the insurgents to the negotiating table and rethinking its support to the Taliban’s Quetta Shura and the Haqqani Network, now fully integrated into the insurgency’s command structure. While the U.S. is best placed to pressure Pakistan to reverse its support for Afghan proxies, the EU and member states should use trade and diplomatic ties with Pakistan and financial assistance to Afghanistan as leverage to persuade them to peacefully resolve their differences”, the ICG report concluded.
It underlined the urgency thus: “Rising insurgency and a fraught political transition are exacerbating an already pervasive sense of insecurity about Afghanistan’s future. Since the 2014 international military drawdown, the resurgent Taliban has fast expanded its presence countrywide. The Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K), an affiliate of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), also has a foothold, albeit limited and mainly in some eastern districts. Preventing the loss of more territory to insurgents, particularly during the anticipated spring offensive, is an urgent priority, notably in order to limit the scope of ungoverned spaces that could be exploited by regional extremists and transnational terror groups”.
– malladi rama rao