Blame thy neighbour

In the latest flaring up of tensions between Islamabad and Washington, Pakistan’s civil and military leaders are blaming the America-led foreign forces in Afghanistan for their failure to stop the cross-border incursions from Afghanistan into Pakistani territory. Government and intelligence sources in Peshawar go to the extent of claiming that the Afghan National Army and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) are actually supporting and sponsoring these attacks. Mian Iftikhar Hussain, the spokesman of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, has, in fact, made public statements to the effect that both the Afghan National Army and Nato supported the attacks inside Pakistan. He says there is a popular perception in Pakistan that attacks are being orchestrated to force Pakistan into launching a military action in the North Waziristan tribal agency.

Many people in Chitral andUpper Dir, where these cross-border encounters have taken place, also believe that the incursions could not have taken place without the support of the forces on the other side of the border. Some local residents described that the militants involved in the assaults were wearing the Afghan National Army uniform. They also claim having witnessed unusual movement of the Nato’s planes while the attacks were launched.

“The attacks show that the militants had strong backing,” says Sardar Mohammad Khan, a former military officer who has also served two stints with the Chitral Scouts and is a resident of Chitral. Every insurgent, he explains, would have carried about 50-kilogrammes of arms and ammunition. “In a mountainous terrain it is very difficult to move with such a heavy load [without any logistical support],” he says. That it would have taken the attackers many days to amass the weapons at the border on the mountain peaks and then cross intoPakistansuggests that it is impossible that the forces inAfghanistanremained unaware of their activities all this while, he says. But Sardar Mohammad Khan also acknowledges thatAfghanistan’sNuristanprovince, where some of the attacks are being launched from, is under the complete control of the Afghan Taliban, with no influence of the Nato or the Afghan army there.

A well-placed intelligence source, however, points out that Nato has a massive presence inAfghanistan’s Kunar province which is adjacent toNuristanas well as Chitral and Dir in Pakistan and is a source of many encounters. “We have credible reports that the Tehrik-e-TalibanPakistancommander for Mohmand Agency, Abdul Wali (alias Umar Khalid), frequently visits Topchi Kandak [where Nato has one of its biggest bases in the region] and has even held meetings with the American officials inKabul,” says the intelligence source wishing to remain unnamed. He claims that Fazlullah Wahidi, the governor of Kunar, allowed the Swat Taliban to take shelter in his province after they were uprooted from Malakand division during the military operations of 2009 and 2010.

The source claims that Rozi Khan, the director of the Afghan Reconciliation Commission for Kunar province, has recently arranged a meeting of some Bajaur Taliban leaders including Jan Wali (alias Sheena), Faisal and Ali Rahman with American officials in Asadabad, the capital of Kunar. He wonders why the Americans so successfully target the al-Qaeda men in Pakistan’s tribal areas but fail to do anything against the militants operating in Afghanistan. “Why don’t they (Nato) deploy their troops on the border or allow us to fence the border [as Pakistan has been demanding for years]?” he asks.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government spokesman Hussain says the attacks demonstrate that either the Nato forces are incapable of curbing the militants or that they lack the will to do so. “In both cases, the situation proves to be very dangerous,” he says. He puts it to the deep-rooted “mistrust” among Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States. “It is beyond comprehension that all the three countries have military presence on the border but still they cannot contain cross-border terrorism.” For him, all sides need to stop distinguishing between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban. “If the three sides continue protecting the Taliban they believe to be good, the Taliban in general will continue finding breathing space and attacking their targets both in Pakistan and Afghanistan,” he remarks.

Read more: , , , , .