Geopolitics

The Roots of Afghan War
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 03 Feb , 2018

A US official spokesman said that the Saturday devastating attack in the centre of Kabul city was planned and executed by Taliban and the Haqqani Network. 103 people were killed and hundreds wounded. A UN observer called it ‘massacre”. Taliban and Haqqani Network have intensified attacks and bomb blasts in recent weeks and months in Afghanistan.

Observers say that intensifying terrorist attacks is because President Donald Trump has designated three Taliban leaders and NATO has accelerated anti –Taliban operations in Helmand region. Whatever the causes, situation in Afghanistan is going from bad to worse. More and more areas are slipping out of the hands of national government. Obviously, this is a matter of great concern not only for the Afghan government but also for the NATO and US Commanders.

The rescue of an abducted US-Canadian family in Pakistan last week has spotlighted their captors — the Haqqani network, former CIA assets now considered one of the most dangerous factions fighting US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan. We need to know about the US-designated terror group.

After taking oath of office, Donald Trump lost no time in holding Haqqani Network (HN) responsible for major terrorist activities in Afghanistan. He has been repeatedly pressuring Pakistan to close Haqqani Network’s hideouts in Pakistan and ensure it is paralyzed. The US believes the HN is to be blamed for spectacular attacks across Afghanistan after the US invasion.

Not only that, Washington has belatedly understood that there definitely exists a link between the HN and Pakistan\s shadowy military establishment. Way back in 2011, US Admiral Mike Mullen described HN as a “veritable arm” of Pakistani intelligence.

The founder of the group, Jalalu’d-Din Haqqani raised it around 1970 in Eastern Afghanistan and came into prominence after attacking the Dawood group that had ousted King Zahir Shah. When the Afghan Mujahedeen war against the Soviet occupational forces began in 1980s, Jalalu’d-Din Haqqani group was adequately provided by the Americans, of course through Pakistani conduit. That was the time when close understanding between Pakistan intelligence agency ISI and Jalalu’d-Din Haqqani was cemented. Americans were impressed with Jalalu’d-Din’s organizational skills and bravery so much so that he was visited by CIA boss and Congressman Charles Wilson.

After the exit of the Soviets and meteoric rise of Taliban in Afghanistan, Jalalu’d-Din joined the Taliban, and for the reason of his impressive military record, he became a minister in Taliban government. At this point of time, since Osama bin Laden was physically present in Afghanistan and wielded enormous influence among the Taliban primarily owing h is ability to be among the financiers of the Taliban, Jalalu’d-Din developed relations with Osama and Al Qaeda as well. A fluent Arabic speaker, Jalalu’d-Din also fostered close ties with Arab jihadists, including Osama Bin Laden, who flocked to the region during the war and later became a minister in the Taliban regime. Throughout these events, he remained in close contact with Pakistan intelligence agency ISI which had understood his military and tactical prowess. It is said that ISI was grooming him all the time to serve as their point-man in Afghanistan to be used in reducing the growing influence of India with the nationalist Afghans.

When the US declared war on Afghan Taliban, most of the leaders including Jalalu’d-Din flocked to Pakistan. It was in Pakistan that the Taliban fugitives regrouped, of course with tacit understanding and support of the ISI, to form the resistance force against the Americans in Afghanistan. That included the Huqqani, who coordinated attacks on NATO from across the border in their stronghold of Miran Shah, the biggest town in North Waziristan, one of Pakistan’s semi-autonomous border tribal areas.

In resistance to the US-led NATO forces, Haqqani group emerged as the most powerful and active with ability to plan and execute deadly strikes on the enemy. The Haqqani group resorts frequently to suicide bombing and this is their strength. The group was held responsible for the truck bomb in May in which about 150 people were killed in the heart of Kabul. However, Siraju’d-Din Huqqani, the son of Jalalu’d-Din later on denied through an audio message that their group had undertaken the attack. The network has also been accused of assassinating top Afghan officials and holding kidnapped Westerners for ransom. The outfit stands designated by the US. Recently the group released Canadian Joshua Boyle, his American wife Caitlan Coleman, and their three children — all born in captivity/ The rumour goes that release of the captive couple was negotiated by Pakistan intelligence agency to convey to Washington that Pakistan was doing its bit to mollify Haqqani group as desired y Donald Trump.

In retaliation, the US made regular drone attacks targeting the terrorists in Afghanistan of Af-Pak region, the Taliban and other allied groups primarily the Huqqani group. Pakistan has also claimed to have launched cleaning operations against the warriors linked with Haqqani Network. It will be remembered that Haqaani Network has been recruiting mostly Arab, Uzbek, ISIS and Chechnya fighters volunteering as suicide bombers. Afghan officials are skeptic about Pakistan army’s claim that in operations like zarb-e-azab, really Huqqani allies were targeted by Pakistani soldiers.

Pakistan has deep political motivation in her role in Afghanistan. Pakistani policy planners see “existential threat” on their eastern border owing to inimical relations with India. Islamabad’s patent policy is to seek strategic depth westward. Therefore she sees Indian physical or material and even psychological presence in Afghan polity as a serious threat to her and thus would not want that Afghanistan gives quarter to India. Even the US has recognized that India is rendering great humanitarian support to Afghanistan as an ancient friendly county. On diplomatic level Pakistan does not allow India to be among the concerned countries that need to talk about the situation in Afghanistan.

So far the thinking in policy planning circles in Washington was that without the support and cooperation of Pakistan, it may not be possible to win a decisive victory over Afghan Taliban and their allied resistance groups. But this thinking is likely to go through drastic change owing to Pakistan’s fast deteriorating relations with the US. The immediate result of Trumps “lie and deceit” twitter was that Beijing came out with forthright support to Pakistan adding that the country had made a good deal of sacrifices in containing terrorism. This is indirect recognition of the theory of good and bad terrorist because the treatment which Beijing metes out to the Uighur “terrorist and fundamentalists” when compared with Pakistan’s kid-glove treatment of her home-bred terrorists, is totally a great saga of repression and tyranny on a minority group.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

K.N. Pandita

Former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University

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