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Thursday, February 15, 2024

Pakistan compelled to strike in Afghanistan against ISIS?

Jan Achakzai

“I direct and authorize my armed forces and law enforcement agencies to eliminate the enemy where ever they are with the full force of the state”, said Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif during his visit to Sehwan Sharif blast’s victims.
Pakistan Army has targeted terrorist hideouts in Afghanistan’s Kunar and Nangarhar regions of Afghanistan and reportedly destroyed four camps, many terrorists killed in what is described as “swift strikes”, according to news reports.

So far Pakistan has not officially acknowledged these reports. But if true, these reports would suggest Islamabad abandoned its across-the-border-restraint policy after failing to move Kabul government to go after these terrorists who have launched a fresh wave of attacks across the country.

Off-course this reported action by Pakistan would not have come without some sort of understanding with and backing from allies. The first is China. Beijing is on board primarily with Pakistan’s anti-terrorist policy and would have affirmed Islamabad’s right to go after terrorists across the border in the wake of deadly in the country.

US Gen John Nicholson already assured of his support to Pakistan’s Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa in a phone call the other day. Likely nod would have come from him for possible limited surgical strikes.

Read more: Waiting for Trump: Kabul Duo, Afghan Taliban, Russians & Chinese

Kabul’s excuse

The Kabul government will play the victim card and try to invoke sovereignty argument without realizing terrorists almost govern one-third of the country with impunity. Afghan Government either has no capacity or is not willing to eliminate these safe heavens. It has not been able to cooperate with Pakistan on terrorism. So victim card can not absolve itself of its responsibility to either take action against these havens or allow Pakistan to take care of them.

Interestingly, it is India that will be closely monitoring Pakistan’s action in Afghanistan. It was first India to claim of surgical strikes across LOC into Pakistan but a claim rubbished by Islamabad last year.

Interestingly, it is India that will be closely monitoring Pakistan’s action in Afghanistan. It was first India to claim of surgical strikes across LOC into Pakistan but a claim rubbished by Islamabad last year. Then Afganistan is not Pakistan where almost 40 percent of the territory is contested by the Taliban and ISIS-linked terrorists. On the other hand, Afghanistan has already entered into a broader India-Pakistan rivalry, first by participating and enforcing India’s SARRC boycott and now by ensuring close collaboration between NDS and RAW in Delhi’s non-conventional warfare against Pakistan.

Pakistan’s Achilles heel is its western border: it can not fence it immediately nor it can wait to harden the border in medium terms, but the strategic threat emanating from Afghanistan has multiplied as shown by almost 9 attacks in 24 hours all over Pakistan.

Following APS attack, Islamabad adopted a policy of putting its house in order: it flushed out militants from FATA and answered anti-radicalisation dilemma with charting NAP. Yet it did not focus on externally driven terrorism-sanctuaries in Afghanistan was left intact and all efforts to get Kabul and NATO to take them out failed.

The US never took seriously Pakistan’s complaint of how terrorists were roaming freely in Afghanistan threatening Pakistan’s peace and stability. Instead, Washington bought into Afghanistan’s narrative that Pakistan wanted to wash its hand off Afghanistan through unilateral border fencing and returning of Afghan Refugees.

Earlier, the US did not converge with Islamabad on later’s plea of evicting tactical sanctuaries of the Afghan Taliban (the infamous Quetta Shura) and the Haqqanis and letting them into Afghanistan. The US also bought into Afghanistan’s claim that for Islamabad has not locus-standi to criticize Kabul for terrorists safe havens when the Afghan Taliban and Haqqanis are allegedly living and moving freely out Pakistan.

Pakistan secure a right to retaliate 

However, while Pakistan has no business to suck into Afghan conflict but has every right to strike at these camps and close down the border with Afghanistan.

Surgical strikes by Pakistan would be definitely based on actionable intelligence as Islamabad has vast experience of dealing with instability in Afghanistan.

The US and Pakistan continued to disagree on how best to resolve this divergence as Washington’s previous policy under Obama administration had a belligerent posture believing in a military solution to a basically intra-Afghan political issue.

The US, surprisingly so far, is oblivious to the need of adopting a concrete strategy in containing ISIS and preventing it from becoming a greater threat to the region hence invoking deep concerns in Pakistan, Russia, China, and Iran.

Islamabad believes that terrorist outfits inside Afghanistan have become an asymmetrical force in the hands of India who has publicly threatened to attack deep into the country exploiting its fault lines. So the terrorism inside Pakistan is not a home-grown phenomenon or outcome of the so-called Ideology. Most debate in Pakistani English press since 2007 onwards has remained focused on ideological fault-lines but ex-Jihadi militants are now set to serve client-patron interest of the states Pakistan has adversarial relations.

Indian defense analysts have long argued that India needs to invest into Pakistan’s insurgencies and fault-lines to engage Pakistani military into these conflicts.

Read more: Pakistanis & Indo-Afghan Terrorism: Pakistanis don’t know how to respond?

Watch Indian TV Discussion


Surgical strikes and action across the border is perhaps the only tactical solution for Pakistan’s counter-terrorism strategy at times when threat from ISIS Khorasan in Afghanistan is growing and when the US has itself confirmed that ISIS Central’s “Bureaucrats” are moving out of Syria and Iraq and tending to find sanctuaries in failing states like Afghanistan or Libya.

The author is Geo-Political Analyst, leader ruling PML-N party and Advisor to Balochistan government on media and strategic communication. He has remained associated with BBC World Service in London covering South and West Asia. Twitter: Jan_Achakzai