The Pak-US Odyssey

Spearhead Analysis – 03.09.2015

By Moiz Agha
Research Analyst, Spearhead Research

NSAThe old mantra of the US to ‘do more’ once again found resonance when the National Security Advisor of the United States, Suzan Rice, visited Pakistan this past Sunday. Despite what Pakistan has achieved in the past year ever since the commencement of Operation Zarb-e-Azb, it nevertheless inevitably finds that even appreciation comes with a degree of blame. The US National Security Advisor told Pakistan that attacks in neighboring Afghanistan by Pakistan-based militants were ‘absolutely unacceptable.’ Recent attacks and bombings have taken place in Kabul, which according to Afghan officials have been undertaken by the Pakistan supported Haqanni network. Notwithstanding the denial by Pakistan of all such allegations, Pakistan was nonetheless held responsible for these alleged actions. The nurturing and protection of the Haqqani network and their purported safe havens in Pakistan were also a bone of contention during the talks between the US and Pakistani officials. Pakistan was told to take ‘specific measures’ and adopt an ‘aggressive approach’ against them within Pakistani territory. Pakistan’s National Security Adviser later clearly stated that the Haqqani Network had relocated to Afghanistan. This is something on which the US needs to make a determination before blaming Pakistan. USD 300 million of the Coalition Support Fund has been withheld from being released to Pakistan. In between the lines Pakistan was given the message that CSF funds were linked to Pakistan’s operations against the Taliban.

  The Haqqani network is closely tied with the Afghan Taliban. After the demise of Mullah Omar was belatedly made public, Jallaludin Haqqanni’s son Sirajudin was named the Deputy of the new leader of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Akthar Mansur. Haqqani’s support has for long been pivotal to the Taliban’s survival. As a matter of fact, Jallaludin Haqqani’s decision to permit the Taliban access to territory under his control in the early 1990s, instead of ordering his mujahidin to fight its forces, was essential for the Taliban’s survival and growth. Hence both groups have a common bond which should not be ignored because it is a reality that cannot be wished away. In any case some disruption was to be expected after the news of Mullah Omar’s death was made public.

Pakistan’s role for holding peace talks with the Afghan Taliban was commended by the US officials and Pakistan was urged to continue with the negotiation process. While negotiations with the Afghan Taliban are being praised, at the same time Pakistan is being told to take action against a group which is itself intertwined with the Afghan Taliban. Pursuing negotiations and undertaking military action at the same puts Pakistan in an awkward position. This fact should be considered before blaming Pakistan for harbouring terrorists. Dealing with the Haqqani network and the Afghan Taliban might, in the long term, require a political solution rather than a military one because of such intricacies. Bringing peace in Afghanistan, though it is definitely in Pakistan’s interest, is by no means a bagatelle. All political realities will have to be taken into consideration and great tact and resolution from both sides of the border will be required in order to achieve harmony in the region. The US, Afghanistan and Pakistan should be and should be seen to be on the same page if the talks option is to make headway.

Another point of interest about the US officials’ visit was that this visit to Pakistan came just days after a violent attack by India on the Working Boundary between the two countries that left at least 9 people dead and over 50 injured in Pakistan. Despite such egregious and provocative actions being taken by the India, the NSA of the US  just said that the US was ‘interested in hearing from Pakistan about their thoughts and views on addressing the situation.’ Pakistan had already condemned the attack and the UN observers had visited the location of the attack so the US NSA could have been less diplomatic and more forthright in her views. The US needs to have a balanced policy towards South Asia. Pakistan has no problem with the US-India relationship as long as the US tilt towards India does not encourage it to destabilize Pakistan and the region.

The US NSA delivered an invitation from the US President to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif inviting him to visit the US. This is a welcome development as the PM will be able to explain Pakistan’s position, constraints and concerns to the US President. Lately Pakistan has produced proof of Indian RAW involvement in actions that undermine Pakistan and this is something that the US needs note.  The US and Pakistan relationship has weathered many storms in the past and remains on track. The importance of Pakistan’s relationship with the US cannot be undermined if the US truly desires to see the purging of terrorist activities in the region. Pakistan’s strategic importance was forcefully stated by General Joseph Dunford. He correctly pointed out that, ‘Pakistan has cooperated with the US in our operations against al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. Their actions in North Waziristan and other areas of western Pakistan have disrupted groups that are a threat to US personnel and objectives in Afghanistan’ and the US ‘will need to continue cooperation to defeat al Qaeda, support Pakistan’s stability and achieve lasting peace in Afghanistan.’