Editor in Chief: Dr. Hussain Yasa Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

Afghan-Pak Last Year’s Relations

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Afghan-Pak Last Year’s Relations

Afghan-Pak relations remained tense throughout 2016 and it is believed that ties between the two nations will continue to remain hostage to the Taliban if Kabul and Islamabad do not engage. The underlying mistrust between the two neighboring countries has squandered many opportunities of fostering an environment conducive to the peaceful settlement of the protracted conflict.
2016 commenced with a silver lining for both nations with the revival of talks between Kabul and Afghan Taliban. It also marked the first time the Taliban confirmed a visit to Islamabad by its negotiators. Things went downhill from there as harsh rhetoric was exchanged between officials for the unmitigated insurgency in Afghanistan just before talks were scheduled to begin in April. This followed a suicide attack on a security agency’s office in the Afghan capital. Prospects for talks further worsened when the Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour was killed in a US drone strike in Baluchistan in May as Pakistan condemned the incident and called it violation of its territory. Additionally, Islamabad’s role regarding peace talks was not acceptable for Kabul and the escalated militancy in Afghanistan aroused a sense of mistrust between the Afghan-Pak officials for being orchestrated in the Taliban’s safe haven located in Pakistan – according to Afghan’s authorities. The relations further tensed when the two countries clashed over the construction of a gate at Torkham. Ensuing skirmishes resulted in casualties on both sides. The border remained closed for five days and all trade was suspended. The relations further tensed following Ashraf Ghani’s tirade against Pakistan and his negative answer to its financial aid at the Heart of Asia Conference in the northern Indian city of Amritsar. Ghani said that Taliban insurgency would not survive a month if it lost its sanctuary in neighboring Pakistan, urging it to take on militant groups on its soil instead of giving Kabul financial aid. Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz countered the claim, calling the criticism “simplistic”. Lauding the leadership of President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, Aziz said Afghan security forces had firmly and bravely stood their ground in repulsing militant and terrorist attacks. “We would do whatever we can to help achieve this objective.” The Afghan government, he said, “has also signed peace agreement with Hizb-i-Islami Afghanistan. The implementation of this peace deal can serve as a model for talks with other insurgent groups in future.”
Following the death of Mullah Mansour, the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG), consisting of Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the US to bring the Taliban to negotiating table, ended and insurgency continued in Afghanistan with the appointment of Mullah Haibtullah Akhundzada. Subsequently, Russia, China and Pakistan have formed a trilateral group over the instability about Afghanistan and lately had its third round meeting – Afghanistan and the US, who are supposed to be the mainstays in Afghanistan’s issue, are not included in the group. Kabul has disapproved of the group and called it interference in country’s internal issue.
Former politician and Jihadi figure Mohammad Ismail Khan warned, last week, that Afghanistan is likely to enter a new era of conflict unless government reviews its regional policies, referring to the trilateral meeting. He said that leaders of the National Unity Government (NUG) have failed to tackle the problems in the country, adding that government’s ineffective policies have led to the creation of a new front between Russia, Iran and China against Afghanistan. “While uncertainties continue to prevail in the country, those who are within the government also do not have the right policy, therefore we see that the region starts staging against us. We also face weaknesses on the warfront and this takes Afghanistan toward a crisis” he is cited as saying. He further warned that if action is not taken, Afghanistan could change into a second Syria calling the Taliban-Russian relation a new crisis and devastating for Afghanistan.
It comes as Russian President Vladmir Putin’s special envoy to Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, has said that Moscow does not have plans regarding Afghanistan’s peace process stating that Russia was not asked to do anything.
Considering the aforementioned facts, the Afghan-Pak relations hit rock bottom within the last year and the gap between the two countries has widened to a great extent. In other words, the mistrust between Kabul and Islamabad has been lingering up to 2017 and therefore, no effective step was taken to broker the peace stalemate. The Taliban fighters continued their militancy in Afghanistan under the Omari Operation and inflicted heavy casualties upon Afghan nation.
SIGAR reported in October 2016 that more than 5,500 Afghan forces were killed in the first eight months of 2016 while around 10,000 were wounded. UNAMA said that more than 3,000 civilians have been killed last year. However, the Taliban militants also underwent large casualties. As a result, counter-insurgency operations conducted by Afghan police and military forces around the country had, reportedly, left more than 18,500 fighters dead and wounded 12,000 more. 
Overall, 2016 was a bloody year for Afghanistan. Pakistan did not remain immune to terrorist attacks and suicide bombings either. As a result, at least 70 people were killed and over 100 others wounded in a suicide bombing on August 8, 2016 at the emergency ward of Quetta’s Civil Hospital, where scores of people had gathered to mourn the death of Baluchistan Bar Association (BBA) president Bilal Anwar Kasi in a gun attack.
In a nutshell, since both the countries are embroiled in militancy, they will have to bridge the gap and build trust through friendly practices and take high step regarding peace process.

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