How Pakistan moves against Taliban could complicate Afghan ties
March 7th, 2014
06:03 PM ET

How Pakistan moves against Taliban could complicate Afghan ties

By Frederic Grare, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Frederic Grare is a senior associate and director of the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The views expressed are the writer’s own.

Pakistan’s military is set to launch a major military operation in North Waziristan, AP reported this week, after weeks of hesitation over its strategy of negotiating with Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Yet although the expected operation follows the killing of 23 Pakistani soldiers last month by a Taliban faction, it seems likely to have been motivated by something more than a desire to retaliate and coerce the TTP into talks.

Whatever the motivation, it will have a significant impact on the country’s relationship with its weaker neighbor: Afghanistan.

In early 2012, Pakistan’s Foreign Office publicly declared a “strategic shift” in its thinking on Afghanistan, and began promoting its own version of an inclusive reconciliation process, as well as actively reaching out to elements of the Northern Alliance. Islamabad adopted this new policy after concluding that its strategy of supporting the Taliban alone was unlikely to produce a “friendly” Afghanistan (in other words, one under close Pakistani influence) because the Taliban is, for now at least, simply not capable of taking the reins of power on its own.

More broadly, the shift seems to reflect a perception in Pakistan that the Taliban are no longer a reliable proxy, although Islamabad appears to still believe that the Afghan Taliban would be able to secure Pakistani interests in Kabul. Now, Pakistan appears to be trying to broker a power-sharing agreement in which its proxies would dominate the east and the south of Afghanistan in exchange for their non-interference in the areas dominated by other ethnic groups. A national unity government that emerged from such an agreement would not be strong enough to prevent Pakistani maneuvering in Afghanistan.

According to Pakistani officials and analysts alike, the main rationale for the shift is domestic security concerns, including significant worries over the TTP. Since the TTP operates from the FATA and Afghanistan, Islamabad worries that the movement may collude with the Afghan Taliban. But this introduces a major contradiction in Pakistan’s Afghanistan policy as it will only exacerbate the very threats it is trying to eliminate. After all, if the Afghan Taliban is frustrated in its aspirations to gain power in Kabul, as it might well be under the Pakistani proposal for inclusive negotiations, it could join hands with its Pakistani counterparts to seek a limited version of “Pashtunistan,” based on an ideological version of Pashtun nationalism. The fact is that even a limited operational alliance between the Afghan and Pakistani Talibans would create a serious headache for Islamabad, and could even increase the risk of conflict between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

To complicate matters further, Pakistan cannot expect to quash the TTP without Afghan cooperation. Faced with Pakistani pressure, the TTP will inevitably seek refuge in Afghanistan, and recent Pakistani actions cannot on their own seal the border between the two countries.

Afghanistan, of course, has no incentive to help Pakistan without a credible guarantee of non-interference from Islamabad, and the dynamic between these two countries also has implications for the United States, reducing its freedom to maneuver diplomatically. Having asked Pakistan to intervene in North Waziristan to eliminate al Qaeda and its proxies for years, the U.S. can only approve of the operation. Yet helping Pakistan get its way without obtaining any of the non-interference guarantees that the Afghans legitimately desire would diminish the potential for Afghan-Pakistani cooperation. This in turn would heighten the risk that terrorist sanctuaries could re-emerge, undermining more than a decade of counter-terrorism efforts.

Ultimately, the reality is that coalition forces along the border have been unable to stop Taliban infiltration, meaning it is highly improbable that Afghan forces will perform any better on their own. More likely, the security situation will deteriorate on both sides of the border. And given Pakistan’s current policy toward Afghanistan – and despite any official rhetoric to the contrary – the country is likely to view continuing low intensity conflict in Afghanistan as a necessary step.

Pakistan might suggest any new offensive is simply a response to recent events. But whatever the trigger, it is clear that there will be significant strategic ramifications.

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Topics: Afghanistan • Pakistan • Taliban

soundoff (40 Responses)
  1. Joseph McCarthy

    I guess that the right-wing thugs in Washington couldn't be happier over this vulgar move on the part of the Pakistanis! Now there'll be more bloodshed than ever and as usual. the Pakistani people will pay the price and as taxpayers, so will we indirectly!

    March 7, 2014 at 7:22 pm | Reply
    • j. von hettlingen

      What is unsettling is that Pakistan is also "reaching out to elements of the Northern Alliance". These are non Pashtun groups, that joined force to fight the Taliban before the US came in 2001. They have good relations with India, Pakistan's arch-rival in Afghanistan. In recent months Karzai has also had much contact with India. Indeed Pakistan can't be indifferent to what's going on in Afghanistan, just like Russia vis-à-vis Ukraine.

      March 9, 2014 at 7:30 am | Reply
  2. chrissy

    This article was a little confusing to me but even so im not sure that i understand the conclusion you derived from it @ Joseph! Why would this make the right wing thugs happy when they want the US to be in a perpetual war always?

    March 7, 2014 at 9:44 pm | Reply
    • Joseph McCarthy

      That's easy to answer, chrissy. If the Pakistan government and the Taliban did reach some kind of truce, that would stop the bloodshed and that means less money for both the M.I.C. and Congress in Washington. This bloodbath is their bread and butter!

      March 8, 2014 at 1:53 pm | Reply
  3. ertewrert3452345

    wertwert

    March 8, 2014 at 11:30 am | Reply
  4. bobcat2u

    A devout Arab Muslim entered a black cab in London. He curtly asked the cabbie to turn off the radio because as decreed by his religious teaching, he must not listen to music because “in the time of the prophet there was no music, especially Western music which is the music of the infidel.” The cab driver politely switched off the radio, stopped the cab and opened the door.The Arab Muslim asked him, "What are you doing?”The cabbie answered, "In the time of the prophet there were no taxis, so get your ass out and wait for a camel!"

    March 8, 2014 at 12:14 pm | Reply
  5. chrissy

    Lmao good one @ bobcat!

    March 8, 2014 at 12:19 pm | Reply
  6. bobcat2u

    Thank you chrissy. How are you doing my friend ?

    March 8, 2014 at 12:43 pm | Reply
  7. chrissy

    Not so well @ bobcat! My mum, "the pip", had a stroke yesterdaybut ty for asking. And the joke helped btw!

    March 8, 2014 at 1:35 pm | Reply
    • bobcat2u

      chrissy, I am so sorry to hear about your mum. I pray that all will be well for her. And I'm glad the joke was helpful.

      Things in bobcat land have taken a downturn as well. My wife just had cancer surgery for the second time. And while she is in recovery, I landed in the hospital with pneumonia. But we are very resilient couple and are helping each other through our recoveries. How is that for harmony ?

      March 8, 2014 at 2:26 pm | Reply
  8. chrissy

    Boy i know THAT feeling @ bobcat! I recently suffered multiple broken bones, ribs being the worst ones! And ya know nothing can be done for that or my tailbone either! Just gotta tough it out! And my daughter is still in the hospital month 5, going on 6 months, for a rare blood disease very similar to cancer! Jury is still out on her survival! Just have to keep the faith!

    March 8, 2014 at 2:37 pm | Reply
    • Ted M

      What a terrible person you are. No sense of responsibility. You have a sick child. And here you are posting nonsense messages. Some people are not fit to be parents. I wish the Child Services takes your child away. Jerk!

      March 10, 2014 at 9:22 am | Reply
  9. dazzle ©

    @chrissy and @bobcat, good to see you both here. I am sorry that you both have health issues as does your family members. Things will get better.@bobcat, this joke is close to what happens to arrogant people taking cabs in Europe. LOL my friend. See you around some time I hope.

    March 8, 2014 at 7:00 pm | Reply
  10. Zach

    Pakistanis are making trouble with their acts of terrorism in Afghanistan which makes it difficult for the coalition troops to leave. I hope the drones eliminate as many Pakistani terrorists as possible before the troops leave. Coalition should ramp up their drone operation to the max now.

    March 8, 2014 at 11:23 pm | Reply
    • Jerry Falwell

      Of all the stupid comments I read so far on this website, the one above takes the cake! Evidently, this creep thinks that murder solves everything! This kind of idiocy is disgusting! Enough said.

      March 9, 2014 at 11:00 am | Reply
  11. chrissy

    Hmm not so sure thats really dazzle @ bobcat! As shes quite aware already of the issue with my daughter. And it just doesnt sound like one of her posts.

    March 8, 2014 at 11:28 pm | Reply
    • dazzle ©

      Good Morning Chrissy, I can say the word if you need it. We can't be too sure, I know. I can't believe your daughter is still in the hospital.

      March 9, 2014 at 10:27 am | Reply
  12. chrissy

    Hey @ dazzle, it IS you! And yea me either. Shes been released 5 times but has not been out more than a few days each time and now they are planning heart surgery!

    March 9, 2014 at 2:57 pm | Reply
    • dazzle ©

      As you know I have access to one of the best cardio surgeons who will remain unnamed here. He can do some homework to make sure she is in good hands. My phone is still funky but we can email.

      March 9, 2014 at 3:30 pm | Reply
    • john

      Then why are you here posting your knucklehead messages instead of taking care of your child? Did you kidnap a little girl?

      March 10, 2014 at 12:44 am | Reply
      • banasy©

        Why do you care if it doesn't involve you? Answer: you're a d- bag who enjoys schadenfreude. Get a life.

        March 10, 2014 at 3:10 pm |
  13. chrissy

    Ah i texted you awhile ago and no answer.

    March 9, 2014 at 5:51 pm | Reply
    • john

      Take your silly chat somewhere else, bit*h. How is this related to this news article?

      March 10, 2014 at 12:43 am | Reply
      • banasy©

        I like your username. Slang for toilet. Fitting.

        March 10, 2014 at 3:07 pm |
  14. chrissy

    My CHILD is 35 years old ya moron! And thats what friends DO...they talk to each other! But since you obviously have none you wouldnt know! And it takes a "healthy" person to call someone they dont know, a b–t-h??? I think not ya sicko!

    March 10, 2014 at 10:54 am | Reply
  15. chrissy

    But if you thought i was one before...look out, cuz its on and poppin now! What YOU DO jackin peoples user names...makes up dozens of others...and talkin to YOURSELF...answerin YOURSELF...now THATS a healthy mind!!!! Freakin pud!

    March 10, 2014 at 12:21 pm | Reply
    • john

      You are posting all kinds of drivel and you can't even figure out what this news article is about. You are so pathetic. Get yourself locked up in a mental hospital for the sake of others.

      March 10, 2014 at 12:33 pm | Reply
      • banasy©

        Judgemental moron whose son and granddaughter want nothing to do with him. Wonder why?

        March 10, 2014 at 3:04 pm |
  16. chrissy

    Lol thank you @ banasy! Amazing that HE posts all kinds of filth and then bashes others for talking about LIFE! Youre right hes a d'bag!

    March 10, 2014 at 3:21 pm | Reply
  17. Marcus

    Deployed twice in Afghanistan: 2012 & 2013. Cross border attacks from Pakistanis terrorists continued to persist almost every week. Most coalition forces have to fight with one hand tied behind their backs. These Pakistanis were no "ally". How I wish we could respond freely to these cowards without having to worry about this "ally" crap. Terrorists are terrorists – you can't sugarcoat it.

    March 10, 2014 at 3:47 pm | Reply
    • Zach

      The true tragedy here Marcus, is that we should never have invaded Afghanistan in the first place! The real reason we went in is to get hold of Afghan underground mineral resources but the news media never talks about. George W. Bush used 9/11 as the official excuse for this incursion. Now we need to just pull out like the Russians did in 1989.

      March 11, 2014 at 11:52 am | Reply
      • B Fleisner

        Muslim terrorists used Afghanistan and Pakistan as a launching pad for their terror attack on 9/11. Kicking their behinds by invading them was the right option. Look at them now!! Both Afghanistan and Pakistan had to be beaten to a pulp and humiliated. The whole world laughs at these incompetent fools now. That kind of complete humiliation was a necessity because the Muslim terrorists had to be taught that there will be dire consequences if they attack us again. Muslim terrorists will think 10 times before attacking the US or the coalition countries. Seals just strolled in undetected and got OBL while his Pakistani Muslim protector army was sleeping. Can you imagine the psychological impact? It was worth every penny – Just look at them now!!

        March 11, 2014 at 5:59 pm |
  18. david

    In short.......... pak nurtured snakes to send other side of borders (afg&ind mujahedins) now these snakes became BLOOD THIRSTY ANACONDAS (talibans) still pak foolishly thinks they can control anacondas

    March 11, 2014 at 1:10 am | Reply
    • B Fleisner

      These Muslim geniuses are paying for it dearly but they are so uneducated that don't even realize that. Most of these Muslims are illiterates and Taliban is shooting students, their teachers and blowing up their schools. They are already behind the rest of the world and without education they are falling farther behind the rest of the world. The problem is that Muslims are happy living in stone age and seem to revel in their daily blood bath and mayhem.

      March 11, 2014 at 6:13 pm | Reply

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