Afghan Journal

Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics

Pakistan and Afghanistan, spoiling for a full-blown fight ?

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With a series of spectacular attacks over the past few months, first in the provinces and then in the Afghan capital Kabul, the Talban have captured attention and even prompted comparisons with the Viet Cong’s Tet offensive. But they are not the only ones attacking Afghanistan, according to The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). It lists a series of attacks from early this year to build the case that Pakistan has joined the Taliban in what it called a “military invasion of Afghanistan”, driving another nail in the faltering U.S. effort in the country.

Beginning from the February bombardment of Afghan  border police posts in Nangarhar and Khost provinces in eastern Afghanistan by Pakistani planes to the firing of hundreds of rockets last month in Kunar and Nuristan, Pakistani forces have stepped up cross border action, MEMRI  said in a report.  It quoted Afghan officials  as saying the artillery and missile strikes backed by air intrusions were an “act of intrusion.”

 By August there had been 50 incidents of border violation by Pakistani forces, Afghan border police commander Aminullah Amarkhel said. He also made the startling claim that  Pakistani forces had established 16 checkpoints inside the territory of Afghanistan in the east, taken control of some parts and even offered offered citizenship to the local tribes. He said there was proof that Pakistan provided Pakistani citizenship cards to Afghans in the eastern border towns, particularly in Kunar and Nuristan provinces.

It’s hard to tell what is going on in the remote and rugged area straddling the two countries. Pakistan says it has legitimate security concerns with many of the militant groups fighting the state operating from sanctuaries just over the border in Afghanistan.  With foreign forces stretched and focused largely on securing the Afghan south, the eastern region was left largely uncovered, allowing militant groups to reconstitute themselves.  Indeed there is growing concern that some militant groups may have shifted their base from Pakistan’s Waziristan strongholds to provinces such as Kunar.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Taliban talks – a necessary but not sufficient condition for peace

We have known for months that the United States has begun direct talks with representatives of the Taliban. And as I wrote in this story, the death of Osama bin Laden in a U.S. raid on May 2 should make it easier for the Taliban to break with al Qaeda, a fundamental requirement for including them in any eventual political settlement in Afghanistan. But lest anyone should think these talks, combined with bin Laden's death, would somehow produce an early end to the Afghan war,  it is important to remember that engaging with the Taliban is only a necessary but far from sufficient condition for a political settlement.

As Thomas Ruttig  writes at the Afghanistan Analysts Network,  any deal between the Taliban and Afghan President Hamid Karzai that was simply meant to open the exit door for foreign troops would not serve the interests of Afghans.  "... they need an end of the bloodshed that will also physically reopen spaces for economic and political activities, a debate about where their country is going. A deal which does not address the main causes of the conflict (namely the monopoly over power of resources concentrated in the hands of a small elite, then possibly with some additional Taleban players) will not bring peace.

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