The dastardly suicide raid in Kabul on May 31, 2017, must be condemned by all civilised societies and nations. Over 120 people have been killed to date and more than 460 injured in the deadly truck bomb attack in the green zone of Kabul. No one has claimed responsibility for the lethal raid; yet even before the explosion debris has settled down the premier intelligence agency of Afghanistan the National Directorate of Security (NDS) has declared the bombing was planned and conducted by the Haqqani network with the aid and assistance of Pakistan’s intelligence agency the ISI. Zalmay Khalilzad, a former US diplomat of Afghan origin has repeated the NDS assertion, urging his adopted country to take Pakistan to task.
What is the reality of NDS accusations of ISI behind the attack
How has the NDS arrived at such a conclusion so quickly, one wonders. Do they have any smoking gun to link the bombing to the Haqqanis and the role of the ISI in coordinating and facilitating the attack? And if they do, why have these details not been revealed so far? Why do the American and other western intelligence agencies in Kabul still maintain the real perpetrators of the crime are yet to be determined? These are queries that need further deliberations to arrive at the truth.
How has the NDS arrived at such a conclusion so quickly, one wonders. Do they have any smoking gun to link the bombing to the Haqqanis and the role of the ISI in coordinating and facilitating the attack?
NDS accuses the ISI of funding the Taliban and the Haqqanis. Perhaps it should go through the findings of various American and Afghan scholars about the subject. Writing for the Wall Street Journal of May 31 2017 Eric D. Prince has revealed that the Taliban “control most of Afghanistan’s economic resources including lapis, marble, gold, pistachios, hashish and opium.” The booming illicit drug trade where even the Afghan National Army commanders are said to be involved generate enough resources to cater for all the war contingencies of the Taliban. Selling off sophisticated weapons and military hardware by members of the Afghan National Army in exchange for drugs or at a pittance allow the Taliban to stock their armoury with western military hardware without the need to approach the western carpetbaggers who are ever willing to sell arms to any customer willing to pay the price. From purely a financial viewpoint, the Taliban have far more resources and funding than the much maligned ISI.
Why Pakistan state did not go after Haqqani network in 2009
The ISI is the favourite whipping boy for the American and Afghans in an attempt to hide their own incompetency. Its alleged support to the Haqqani network in North Waziristan was and still remains the principal bone of contention between USA and Pakistan. Pakistan, on the other hand has always denied the charges and tried to explain that initially it just did not have the necessary wherewithal to simultaneously start major military offensives in Swat, South Waziristan and North Waziristan where the Haqqanis had established their stronghold. It had to prioritize and tackle them one by one, starting with the Swat Valley. Going after the Haqqanis was delayed until 2014 because of some genuine concerns and some perceptions that (with hindsight) should have been ignored.
The ISI is the favourite whipping boy for the American and Afghans in an attempt to hide their own incompetency. Its alleged support to the Haqqani network in North Waziristan was and still remains the principal bone of contention between USA and Pakistan.
Operation Zarb e Azb uprooted the Haqqani network including other terror syndicates from North Waziristan. The Haqqanis and the TTPs are now firmly ensconced in Afghanistan and are freely carrying out murderous raids both against Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Afghan government and ISAF admit to the presence of these factions in their land but plead inability to expel them. The Haqqani commander is on record stating they have shifted their base of operations from North Waziristan to the eastern provinces of Afghanistan where they are much safer and feel welcomed.
Why is Afghan government not taking stock of its own failings?
The attitude of the Afghan military commanders and the government officials to blame Pakistan for their failure to defeat the Taliban who are estimated to have under their control over forty percent of the Afghan territory is understandable. It is a pathetic attempt to hide the colossal level of corruption and inefficiency within the rank and file of their government and military, amply highlighted by the American and Afghan journalists and defence scholars. The American attitude to engage in a similar accusation is harder to comprehend.
American doublespeak on Pakistan
The American doublespeak on the Haqqani status can be gauged by the contradictory statements that emanate from their top Generals. The current US commander of ISAF General Nicholson and his predecessors invariably hold Pakistan’s support to the Haqqani network responsible for their military failures to stabilize Afghanistan. On the other hand the top US military commanders in the Pentagon and various operational Commands on their visit to Pakistan effuse praises of the Pakistan military on its role to combat the terrorism menace. While the assertions of the ISAF commanders might have had some merit pre 2014, now that the much feared setup has shifted fully to Afghanistan post Operation Zarb e Azb, the charges are almost laughable—imagine a nation with very limited resources checkmating a superpower’s military might in the neighbourhood solely through its intelligence agency. Any outsider reading the script would in all probability believe Pakistan is the superpower and not the other way around.
So far neither Daesh (ISIS) nor the Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attack. The latter in fact has issued a statement condemning it in no uncertain term. The Haqqani network is a subset of the Taliban and their commanders owe their allegiance to the Taliban supreme commander and their shura hence a Taliban denial and condemnation is representative of the Haqqanis as well. Not claiming responsibility and condemnation by themselves are not enough to exonerate the Taliban and its subset the Haqqanis from any role in the Kabul massacre. The same holds true for Daesh as well. Jonathan Schanzer, an American scholar in the Middle Eastern studies appearing for the CNN news channel believe the attack appears to have the hallmark and signature of Daesh but he was quick to point out much more investigation is required before a firm conclusion can be arrived at.
Kabul bombing appears to be an inside job
The meagre details filtered out until now has confirmed the truck that carried out the attack was a vehicle used regularly to remove garbage from the green zone that housed the foreign embassies and high commissions. Given the sensitivity of the area, it was provided the highest level of security. The truck driver who detonated the bomb was an old hand and he must have been thoroughly vetted and security cleared for the job. The possibility of the suicide bomber was either a Taliban or Daesh mole looms large; or he was recruited by them, much as Salman Abedi the Manchester bomber had been brainwashed into becoming a suicide bomber by Daesh. The Kabul bombing appears to be an inside job and that is the area the investigation must focus more thoroughly. The ISI considered the most dangerous party and its activities are very minutely kept track of by the Afghan intelligence services. The possibility that they (the ISI) could so blatantly operated in planning, recruiting and executing an attack of this magnitude in such a very high security zone appears remote.
Promoting stability in Afghanistan is a major foreign policy plank of Pakistan and it is inconceivable the Pakistani government would even remotely consider launching such an attack.
Promoting stability in Afghanistan is a major foreign policy plank of Pakistan and it is inconceivable the Pakistani government would even remotely consider launching such an attack. Pakistan itself is a victim of terror raids of the magnitude witnessed in Kabul and it believes many of those raids had been planned and launched from the Afghan soil aided and abetted by the Indian RAW. Both Pakistan and Afghanistan need to take a step back and realise the role of outsiders in stoking the fire of hatred and mistrust that currently exists between them. Pakistan has as much and perhaps even a greater stake in reestablishing the faith and trust with its northwesterly neighbour at the level that had existed up until 1980. The future prosperity and wellbeing of the two nations depends on mutual trust and cordiality.
Air Commodore (retd) Jamal Hussain has served in Pakistan Air Force from 1966 to 1997. He was awarded Sitara-e-Basalat for his services in the year 1982. He regularly contributes articles on defense-related issues in the Defence Journal from Pakistan, Probe Magazine (Dhaka – Bangladesh) and Dawn, The News, and The Nation English Dailies from Pakistan. He is the author of two books on ‘Air Power in South Asia’ and ‘Dynamics of Nuclear Weapons in South Asia’. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.