I had the ‘honour’ of waiting in traffic while Hamid Karzai was taken to Islamabad airport yesterday after his trip in which he met both Gilani and Zardari. The meetings were an attempt to create a better relationship between the two nations and it may have also included discussions concerning the place of the Taliban in a post-American withdrawn Afghanistan. He had a huge patrol taking him to the airport which included military police instead of city police. The airplane took off very quickly as well, as other flights were delayed for him to travel back to Kabul.
Karzai had come to convince the Pakistani government in assisting the American forces in forcing the Taliban to a compromise. According to Karzai, “The brotherly role of Pakistan … together with us in defeating extremism and terrorism and working with us to bring stability in both countries would go a long way…” Afghanistan and the United States would like if Pakistan would stop playing the ‘double game’, but that will not end because the current government (Karzai’s) is not only weak and has little control over Afghanistan, Pakistan does not want to cut ties with the future potential leaders of the country. That being said Pakistan claims to be willing to back the Afghan lead reconciliation process with negotiations between the United States and the Taliban. There have been rumours in the past that the Taliban on numerous occasions have been trying to negotiate for peace with the United States through Karzai, however the Obama Administration has refused to accept.
Including the Taliban within the current government is the best option it seems, and one that Karzai is willing to work with. Luv Puri on Foreign Policy states that India should also support the reconciliation process with the Taliban. Through such actions they would be able to cement their partnership with Afghanistan as well as create a similar wavelength with Pakistan concerning Afghanistan.This to some extent could be true, but does Pakistan trust India enough to want it to partake in any reconciliation process that decides the future of their western fragile border. Puri also recommends that India seek the assistance of the ANP party in Pakistan, a primarily Pashtun party, to assist in any reconciliation with Pakistan- that is almost impossible considering the ANP holds power in Khyber Pakhtun (and wants to keep it) and considering the turmoil in North Waziristan, the federal government will not react well to Pashtun’s pressing for peace with India.
It is not that Pakistan will not consider peace with India, its just the wrong issue at the wrong time. The ANP holds familial and cultural links with many Pashtun’s in Afghanistan, which could lead to better relations between the two countries, but in reality it could just fuel the flame of Pashtun reunification if anything. That is an issue that Pakistan is still seething about.
At the end of the day, I do not blame Pakistan for being skeptical about the situation in Afghanistan, especially with Karzai’s army and police force and what little power they really have in the area. Let’s not forget Spiegel’s article on the deteriorating situation in the north that the German’s are facing. With sleeper cells that can be activated at anytime in both the army and the police force and 7% of these soldiers also sympathize with the Taliban, why would Pakistan even think for a second to jeopardize such crucial links?
With Peshawar continuing to burn due to the actions of the primarily Pashtun Tehrik-e-Taliban, and Waziristan is still under continuous drone attacks, the War against Terror is a lot closer to Islamabad then it is to the United States, and as such any hopes of ‘reconciliation’ will only be met when Pakistan’s security is guaranteed. I was in Peshawar on monday, and it is a war zone with road blocks, military police and bomb detectors around the airport and military run areas. Even with Taliban reunification in Afghanistan, the TTP will continue to attack the military. So while Pakistan may vow support to Afghanistan, their main concern is the future of Taliban and the security of their western borders. And security is something Karzai cannot promise.