Af-Pak relations: Blame game continues in wake of attacks

NEW DELHI (ANN Desk) - Afghanistan has been blaming Pakistan for the deadly attacks on its soil and harbouring the Taliban, a charge Pakistan has refuted.

Kabul has long blamed Islamabad for providing a safe haven to the Taliban and other militant groups, with Pakistan denying the charge and claiming it has quarantined the restive tribal region along the border with Afghanistan.

The blame game has escalated after a recent spate of attacks in Afghanistan, in mostly urban areas and on civilians, that has left more than 200 dead in the last three months.

The latest in the series of attacks was witnessed on March 20, a national holiday for Navroz, the Persian New Year, that killed 29 people and injured 52. The attack has been claimed by the Islamic State, whose Khorasan wing has been spreading its tentacles in Afghanistan since 2015.

In a televised address in February, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani slammed Pakistan, blaming it for the deadly attacks in his country and accusing it of harbouring the Taliban.

“The centre of Taliban terrorism is in Pakistan,” Ghani said, demanding strict action against the terror group.

Pakistan's Foreign Office was quick to challenge Ghani's assertion saying it would never allow its soil to be used against any other country. It also rubbished allegations that it was harbouring Taliban
groups, including the Haqqani Network, which has claimed to have carried out several of the recent attacks.

A foreign ministry statement urged Afghanistan to focus on its domestic security lapses rather than blaming its neighbour.

Interestingly, while the Afghan government blames Pakistan for the attacks, local Afghans have been blaming their government’s US-trained Afghan security forces for the lapses.

The US invaded Afghanistan in 2001 to topple the Taliban. Ever since, thousands of civilians have been killed in the fight between the US-backed Afghan government forces and the armed group.

Along with Kabul, Washington too has been accusing Islamabad of providing a safe haven to the Taliban.

US President Donald Trump escalated pressure on Pakistan in 2018 by withholding nearly US$ 2 billion in military aid, saying the country had done little to curb terrorism - to rein in the Haqqani Network and other militant groups - and had only given "lies and deceit" in exchange for billions of dollars in aid from the US. 

Both Afghanistan and Pakistan are now looking at China to ease the tense bilateral ties between them.

Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai proposed trilateral meetings among Afghanistan, China and Pakistan way back in 2012, and China strongly backed the proposal. China is keen on stability in Afghanistan since it has an eye on the country's abundant mineral resources and wants to use it territory for transit and trade. 

Last December, the first China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Foreign Ministers’ Dialogue was held in Beijing. The two most important takeaways from this dialogue were Beijing’s “read[iness] to play a
constructive role in improving Afghanistan-Pakistan relations” and decision on “extending CPEC [the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor] to Afghanistan”, the Diplomat reported.

Experts say only China and the US – which have the most stakes in Pakistan and Afghanistan – can bring them closer.

China also wants a stable Afghanistan and Pakistan for the realisation of its One Belt, One Road initiative and the US is worried about terrorism being a threat to its national security, given the way Afghanistan was used as a base in the past by al-Qaeda.

India, which has its own cocnerns about Pakistan-based terror groups, has been keeping a wary eye on efforts by China, Iran and Saudi Arabia to rope in the Taliban for negotiations. 

India, which has provided billions of dollars in development aid to the war-torn country, has also been asked by the US to play a larger role in Afghanistan. While backing the Afghan government, India has been reluctant to deploy its troops in Afghanistan or take on any military role.


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