Don’t let Pakistan marginalize Afghan government
April 4th, 2013
12:45 PM ET

Don’t let Pakistan marginalize Afghan government

By Sher Jan Ahmadzai and Thomas Gouttierre, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Sher Jan Ahmadzai is a research associate, and Thomas Gouttierre is director, of the Center for Afghanistan Studies at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. The views expressed are their own.

The Afghan peace process and talks with the Taliban were high on the agenda during Secretary of State John Kerry’s meeting with Pakistani military chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani in Amman last month. But the key question is whether the Afghan government is gradually being cut out of its own country’s development.

The U.S.-Pakistan relationship – and the flow of billions dollars of aid money to Islamabad – already leaves many Afghans suspicious. This is not surprising considering al Qaeda and Taliban leaders including Osama bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed have been found in Pakistani cities and tribal areas. Such assistance has left many Afghans with the feeling that the U.S. is closer to Pakistan than its real ally in the war against terrorists, namely Afghanistan.

Such concerns may be compounded by recent statements coming out of Islamabad calling Afghan President Hamid Karzai an impediment to peace talks with the Taliban, talk that suggests Pakistan may be pushing for the kind of direct talks between the Taliban and the U.S. that would essentially exclude the Afghan government.

These developments have been the cause of serious concern within the Afghan government, which unsurprisingly wants to ensure peace talks are an Afghan-led process. Indeed, Karzai has made clear that to do otherwise would undermine the prospects for a long-lasting peace in the region.

These concerns seem valid. Karzai believes, as do most Afghans, that the Afghan government should play an integral role in peace talks and negotiations with the Taliban, and that without the Afghan government as a central partner, any progress won’t be sustainable after talks have concluded.

More from CNN: Five questions over Afghanistan's future

One only need look to recent history to see the danger of excluding the government. During and after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, Afghan Mujahidin were strongly discouraged by Pakistan from talking directly with the government of Dr. Najibullah in Afghanistan. As a result, the Soviet Union, United States and Pakistan started mapping out post-Soviet Afghanistan without adequate input from the Afghan government in Kabul and the Mujahideen, with Afghan Mujahideen  leaders dismissed by Pakistan as lacking the necessary diplomatic and political skills to negotiate themselves.

But contrary to expectations at that time, Najibullah’s government was able to survive for three more years after the Soviet withdrawal, before collapsing in 1992. The Afghan national security forces were eventually dissolved, Kabul was indiscriminately shelled by all Mujahideen factions, and the country was engulfed in civil war.

The danger in today’s process of not including all those directly involved in the conflict should therefore be clear. As was the case with the Mujahideen two decades ago, insurgent Taliban groups are widely seen as receiving support from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence and to be planning deadly attacks from safe havens in Pakistan against Afghan soldiers and civilians.

But allowing Pakistan to steer peace talks in Afghanistan as it did in the 1990s is not only against the interests of Afghanistan, but those of the United States as well. As Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Jawed Ludin recently noted, “Pakistan’s concept of the peace process is one that will reverse the achievement of the last 10 years that will negate the centrality of the Afghan state.”

The foundations for a sustainable peace in Afghanistan must be constructed around the leadership and active participation of established institutions inside Afghanistan. But the only really suitable such institution is the government that was duly elected by the people of Afghanistan and which has been able to evolve thanks to the efforts of Afghans and their international allies.

Of course, direct talks between the Afghan government and Taliban should not mean stakeholders such as Pakistan are excluded from peace talks. After all, as a neighbor and frequent safe haven for Taliban elements, Pakistan can play a key role in bringing peace to Afghanistan. But despite the widely held perception of the Afghan government as weak and corrupt, no other entity has the authority to replace it.

Afghanistan’s history has many lessons on the danger of excluding vital parties from the search for peace. The question now is whether the United States and its allies will heed them.

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Topics: Afghanistan

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soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. TQ

    CNN need a impartial editorial board, rather then this clown who is on Indian Government payroll, and only prupose of his stolen material is to degrade and spread false propoganda against Pakistan on behalf of Indian Government.

    April 4, 2013 at 5:08 pm | Reply
  2. Jim

    Excellent, well researched article. The only way to pull out successfully in 2014 is to let Afghanistan be in control of the peace process and hence its destiny. It is unreasonable, illogical and impractical to even think of a good outcome if Afghans are not allowed to call the shots about the peace process in their own country.

    April 4, 2013 at 5:25 pm | Reply
    • Joseph McCarthy

      First of all Jim, both the U.S. and it's crony NATO allies need to butt out of this process completely and let the Afghans take control of their own affairs. Unfortunately, Afghanistan has too many underground mineral resources for the U.S. and these NATO countries to leave alone and therein lies the problem!

      April 4, 2013 at 7:21 pm | Reply
      • Jim

        Please read the article. It is very revealing. Making sure that Afghanistan is safe from a predator like Pakistan must be a part of the NATO and the US pull out mission.
        As for the minerals, it is of no use to anyone. Mining in a landlocked country would also require transporting the ore out which is very expensive. Refining right there before transportation is the only way to make it economically viable. That requires both technology and billions in investment – Afghanistan has neither. Location, location, location - that is the key consideration when you want to make an investment. Nobody in their right mind would invest billions in unsafe Islamic countries – Pakistani Islamists are blowing up power stations in Pakistan. Those minerals are of no interest to the civilized world.

        April 4, 2013 at 9:54 pm |
      • amit

        and also unfortunately Afghanistan also has lots of terrorists that are essential and an asset for the terrorist state of Pakistan. therefore the us and nato have to look over as big brothers

        July 23, 2013 at 1:45 am |
  3. me

    The position of the Taliban is known, and its also recognized by everyone as a terrorist organization. Before any sort of an agreement is put in place the Taliban have to lay down their arms. If they don't eliminate every last one of them. Its no different with Al QUeda, they are at war with the west, same thing there, if they don't want to lay down their arms, then eliminate them. It really is that simple. Radical Islam has no place in an evolving world, an in time, like the dinosaurs they to will become extinct.

    April 5, 2013 at 1:22 am | Reply
    • Phunnie boy

      I agree with everything you said above, me. But then again, what do I know? I'm just an ignorant, war loving, foul-mouthed Tea Partier!!!!!!!

      April 5, 2013 at 5:36 pm | Reply
  4. j. von hettlingen

    It's unclear what Hamid Karzai wants. A legacy as a unifying figure, a father of the modern Afghanistan, or is he aiming at preparing for a political comeback in the next election.
    The current situation in Afghanistan has much to do with Karzai's person and his inabilities of clamping down on corruption and making economic and political reforms. He isn't popular at home and the Taliban loathe him. He isn't at all liked by Pakistan. Musharraf showed his disdain, when speaking of Karzai. Zardari was friendlier towards Karzai, but it was just a farce.

    April 5, 2013 at 8:15 am | Reply
    • j. von hettlingen

      Indeed, the ethnic mosaic is a challenge for the modern state Afghanistan. With some 42%, the Pashtuns are the biggest group, followed by a dozen others. Nevertheless the Tajiks, Hazaras and the Uzbeks are the major ones. The Pashtuns are Sunnis and speak Pashto, which is quite different from Dari, a Persian dialekt. Besides the Tajiks and Hazaras are Shia Muslims.

      April 5, 2013 at 8:27 am | Reply
      • me

        Actually Karzi is done after this term, he can't run again, he has done very little during the two terms he has served his population, its up to the next leader to find a better balance between the government and the constant corruption. This includes grasping the countries relationship with their neighbours. I think as long as they continue run their political system in terms of tribal bias, they will continue to have the same problems they have today.

        April 5, 2013 at 10:09 am |
      • GP

        Yes. It is possible that Karzai is done. Time from fresh leadership for a fresh start in Afghanistan. However, Pakistan should also realize that it is done after the US pull out. Pakistan has not developed a single industry which can compete in the global economy - it's focus has been only on exporting terror using the US aid. Once the US aid dries up, and it surely will after the pull out, Pakistan is certainly done for.

        April 6, 2013 at 10:13 am |
    • GP

      It is abundantly clear what Pakistan wants - And not one bit of what Pakistan wants is noble. It is also clear what Karzai wants - He wants Afghanistan to have a leading role in defining the peace process in Afghanistan. Afghanistan will have peace if and only if Pakistan is forced to stop sabotaging the peace process in Afghanistan. Excellent research by the University of Nebraska scholars!!

      April 6, 2013 at 10:08 am | Reply
  5. Eye opener

    Pakistan lost 200 Billion $$ on this US led war, and out the 20 billion it got back, most of it was used for the 160,000 troops fuel, food and Yankee toilet papers for the terrorists invaders in Afghanistan and not a single dime went to over 50 years old ally like US gave a “Marshall Plan” to its white/christian/European race allies after WW2.
    Keep in mind that more than half of your aid is actually "rent" for using our supply lines, and airbases. 

    It's the Americans who are untrustworthy. They turned their backs on us and left us 3 times, the worst of which was after the Soviet Afghan war when they put sanctions on us. 
    Despite this, Pakistan supported many US-led military operations in the 1990s. We supported the Coalition Desert Storm and NATO in the Balkans, ceto, sento ally which started from U2 spy flights from Pakistani territory against russians since 50’s. 
    It was Pakistani soldiers who vanished their lives to rescue US troops who had been trapped in Somalia in 1993 and over 5000 troops lives gone in US led war on terror. Sadly, these people were not aware how much Americans are thankless and see how they turned their back by making arch rival India as their strategic partner.

    April 8, 2013 at 12:01 am | Reply
    • Jim

      Pakistan never lost a penny on the US led war. The only thing Pakistan can complain about is that the goal of wiping out all minorities comes with a large price tag. That's where Pakistan has been spending all their money - to kill Ahmadi and Shiites. Pakistan has spent the US AID on harboring Sunni terrorists like OBL who can help Pakistan kill off all minorities like Ahmadi, Shiites, Hindus, and Christians.

      April 8, 2013 at 4:43 pm | Reply
  6. Marcus A

    Our interests should not be a peaceful Afghanistan instead it should be to ensure that the US would not be attacked and that Pakistan remains viable/secure and is able to fend off militants crossing into it's territory from Afghanistan considering our national interests.

    Afghanistan is a sand pit in the middle of nowhere and if we negotiate with the Taliban directly to ensure that our security is not imperiled in the future in return for control over portions of Afghanistan than so be it.

    It is obvious that Karzai and the Afghan government at large, who are a collection of drug kingpins and warlords, is still stuck on the 20+ years of civil fighting and can't be expected to act rationally. They aren't interested in what's best for the people they want control which they've used for the last 10+ years to rob the treasury and development funds that had been earmarked for a number of projects. The drug trade has grown exponentially since the 2001 invasion and it's no surprise why considering men like Karzai's brother were known drug lords. Afghanistan isn't an ally, it's nothing more than a liability.

    April 10, 2013 at 1:27 pm | Reply
    • Jim

      @Marcus - To negotiate peace in Afghanistan, we should negotiate directly with all parties in Afghanistan. Also, as the excellent research done by these authors points out, we should get the middle man Pakistan out. Dealing directly with Afghanistan is in the best interest of peace and stability of Afghanistan. Pakistan should be kept out since they have never proven to be a reliable "ally" anyway - Pakistanis have cut off US/NATO supply routes, torched US/NATO tankers, killed US journalists like Daniel Pearl.

      April 10, 2013 at 3:28 pm | Reply
  7. pakistani342

    There are three million Afghans in Pakistan today who for whatever misconstrued notions of philanthropy we let live in our bosom. We give them access to our meager resources such as schools, universities, hospitals, labor markets, etc.

    Despite this charity, the Afghans hate us – the secularists hate us, their Taliban us, their technocrats hate us, their youth hate us even more – so why are we continuing with this folly.

    There is again an increasing call to arms in all sections of Afghan society to repeat what "Daud Khan" did to Pakistan. These calls permeate the secularists, the zealots, the young and the old. When the Afghans pull another "Daud Khan" on us these three million Afghans have the potential to wreak havoc on us from within.

    The needs of the hour are:
    1. Pakistan should expel all 3 million Afghans refugees from Pakistan – there is no need to host a people who are ungrateful and hostile to Pakistanis
    2. The resources Afghans consume in Pakistan: schools, hospitals, universities should go to Pakistanis – no point in giving these to a people, Afghans, who hate us Pakistanis
    3. Pakistan should not provide transit trade to Afghans – it will reduce drugs and guns in Pakistan.

    Afghans out of Pakistan! Good bye and good luck! Please prosper on the other side of the Durand Line! #AfghansOutOfPak – support us on twitter https://twitter.com/pakistani342

    April 14, 2013 at 11:49 pm | Reply
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    June 21, 2013 at 11:01 am | Reply
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