Pak-Afghan relations —Agha H Amin


Tihar Jail
Oct 2, 2009
Pak-Afghan relations —Agha H Amin

I fail to understand how some of the country’s leading analysts can dub Afghanistan as being Pakistan’s backyard. Afghanistan is an independent state that boasts a great history. Seen in this context, how would Pakistanis feel if India tried to coin Pakistan as its backyard?

Since Pakistan’s foreign
minister does not control a substantial part of Pakistan’s foreign policy — the part that concerns Afghanistan and India — Pakistan’s army chief, General Kayani is also visiting Washington for a Pak-US strategic dialogue.

Pakistan’s military establishment has survived and thrived because of Afghanistan’s ongoing wars since 1979. The first of these wars started in December 1979 and then entered a new phase after 9/11. In both cases, the Pakistani military juntas of Zia and Musharraf who were internationally, as well as domestically, isolated orphans, found godfathers in the US. Pakistan was thus, if not a banana republic, a pistachio republic. The Pakistani military junta of General Zia, with the stated aim of jihad and the real aim of political survival, had chosen to follow a policy of active interference in Afghanistan’s internal affairs as a Saudi or US proxy back in 1979-88.

One of the country’s leading analysts, Syed Talat Hussain, dubs Afghanistan as Pakistan’s backyard (‘Pakistan’s new Afghanistan outlook’, Daily Times, March 18, 2010). Afghanistan is an independent state that boasts a great history. Seen in this context, how would Pakistanis feel if India tried to coin Pakistan as its backyard? How can Pakistan or, for that matter, any of Afghanistan’s neighbours be allowed to have a louder voice in Afghanistan than the country itself? One may suggest that any analyst who says so is hinting towards crude and anachronistic concepts like ‘strategic depth’.

One could hypothesise that Afghanistan might just prove to be Pakistan’s Achilles’ heel if Pakistan continues to interfere in Afghanistan’s internal affairs through proxy disturbances and wars. This may not happen in the immediate future, but when the US withdraws from Afghanistan or if the US decides to embark on another Afghan strategy that views Pakistan as part of the problem rather than a solution. As they say, history does not move in straight lines.

Lately, Pakistan’s establishment rediscovered the sanctity of the Afghan border, badly shaken by a tribal war in FATA and blamed India, Israel and even the US and NATO for aiding anti-Pakistan groups like the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). These are all acts that Pakistan itself has actually been doing all along in Afghanistan, right from 1978.

One is at a loss to understand which comprehensive border planning Mr Talat Hussain is talking about when referring to the Pak-Afghan border? The entire 800 km Pak-Afghan border in the Pakistani Balochistan province has sparse Pakistani military presence and the Taliban from Kandahar, Helmand and Kabul — where the vast bulk of the US forces are stationed — move freely, back and forth. Here I am referring to the so-called ‘good’ Taliban.

The ongoing FATA operation by the Pakistan Army has, in no way, attacked the vast bulk of the Taliban based in Afghanistan, the FATA Taliban being a mere five to six percent of the total mass of the Taliban. Even the US, despite much trumpeting and bravado, has hardly touched any of the Taliban based in south Afghanistan, apart from a few symbolic media efforts like in Marjah. The US policy in Afghanistan seems ambiguous. Does the US see the Taliban in south Afghanistan as future proxies against Iran, Russia, Central Asian Republics and even China?

It is again debatable to state that the Pakistani military presence in FATA is a position of strength when all along, from Operation Curzon in 1948, to regular army withdrawals from FATA till the 2003 Musharraf quixotic FATA faux pas, FATA was controlled by the Pakistani state without a single regular soldier. And, above all, this area called FATA was Pakistan’s major logistic and military base in aiding insurgents called the mujahideen who fought against the de facto government in Afghanistan from 1978 to 1992.

The hard reality that the Pakistani establishment needs to understand is that the role of Pakistan may not be decisive or even central in Afghanistan’s future. Pakistan needs to concentrate seriously on its internal issues, which are social justice and equality.

Not much should be expected from the forthcoming US-Pakistan strategic dialogue. Pakistan needs an internal dialogue, which is sadly non-existent.

The writer has authored several books and can be reached at [email protected]


Regular Member
Oct 2, 2009
This guys speaks a lot of sense and is asking the questions no one else seems to be thinking about


Tihar Jail
Oct 2, 2009
Changing realities of Afghanistan

It is highly probable that arrests of key Taliban leaders were meant to scuttle a deal being negotiated between Kabul and the insurgents without Pakistan’s involvement. Therefore, Pakistan has established the fact that no deal in Afghanistan can be negotiated without its involvement

Pakistan is going into a strategic
dialogue with the US, believing that it has staged a policy coup against India with reference to Afghanistan. There are many versions of the coup, making it hard for commoners like us to believe which one is true. Furthermore, the question arises if Pakistan’s new or rehashed policy is based on emerging economic realities in Afghanistan or the old assumptions.

One version of the policy coup against India tells us that Pakistan has shown the US that it has all the cards to set the future policy in Afghanistan by establishing its writ in Swat, Malakand and South Waziristan and by arresting key Taliban and al Qaeda leaders. It is highly probable that arrests of key Taliban leaders were meant to scuttle a deal being negotiated between Kabul and the insurgents without Pakistan’s involvement. Therefore, Pakistan has established the fact that no deal in Afghanistan can be negotiated without its involvement.

The US may have no better choice but to go along with Islamabad, despite knowing fully well that Pakistan may have nabbed the Taliban and al Qaeda leaders from safe houses. India’s conspicuous exclusion from London talks and the Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao’s cold reception in Washington this month shows that, for now, Washington has decided to accept Pakistan’s position and ask India to remain low key in Afghanistan.

The second version is rather intriguing, which goes like this: Pakistan’s ISI has won over the Northern Alliance leaders — usually preferring India over Pakistan — and convinced the grandson of king Zahir Shah, Mustafa Zahir Shah, to come together to form the government in Kabul. Proponents of this version claim that Pakistan has made a significant shift from its Pukhtun-Taliban-centric approach to include other nationalities as well.

Whichever version is true, Pakistan seems to be enjoying its newfound power to negotiate with the US. However, the question is that even if the US goes along with its preferences, has Pakistan framed its policies on emerging economic realities of Afghanistan?

Afghanistan’s political economy is drastically changing. The investments by China, India, Central Asian countries and Iran are changing the future prospects of Afghanistan. Furthermore, the Afghans’ migration to Western countries and socio-political experiences of millions of refugees in Pakistan, Iran, India and other countries are going to impact the future orientation of the Afghan society.

Expatriate remittances have played a great role in supporting, or some say sustaining, Pakistan’s fledging economy. If this is true, then Afghanistan’s expatriate remittances in 2006, around $ 3.4 billion, are proportionately much higher than Pakistan’s $ 6.4 billion because its population of 28 million is one-sixth of its neighbour’s 180 million: on per capita basis, Afghanistan gets $ 121 against Pakistan’s $ 35 as expatriate remittance. Like Vietnam and South Korea, once occupied by the US, the Afghan expatriate remittances are going to grow much faster than Pakistan. Therefore, the Afghan economy will be helped to sustain itself by a large amount of foreign remittances in difficult times.

Furthermore, several countries are making substantial investments in Afghanistan. For example, China has invested $ 3 billion in the Aynak copper mine and is in the process of constructing of a new railroad between Afghanistan and its Xinjiang province, and an electricity station. The trade linkages are likely to grow and China would like to invest in other key industrial inputs like coal, iron, aluminium and many others that the country is endowed with: Afghanistan has large deposits of natural gas, petroleum, coal, copper, chromite, talc, barites, sulphur, lead, zinc, iron ore, salt, and precious and semiprecious stones. Consequently, to protect its economic interests and control a 1990s-like insurgency in Uighur province, China will be least tolerant of the Taliban in this area.

After the construction of a half-mile long bridge over the Pyanj River, the trade between Tajikistan and Afghanistan has increased by 700 percent. After opening of the Friendship Bridge between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan, Afghanistan’s trade with the Central Asian countries has increased manifold. Russia is also planning to link Afghanistan with Europe through rail, which already goes up to Uzbekistan.

Most of these investments and trade linkages are taking place in northern and western Afghanistan. Eventually, these parts of Afghanistan will become a separate economic unit with new prosperity and fresh world outlook. If religious militancy continues, it will be limited to southern and eastern Afghanistan bordering Pakistan.

Even southern Afghanistan will have a new outlook because of a new trade route to the Arabian Sea. India completed a 135-mile long road from Nimroz to Iran’s Chabahar seaport. This means that landlocked Afghanistan will not be dependent on Karachi’s port. As a matter of fact, Chabahar seaport will much closer to the major Afghan cities than Karachi. Sooner or later, the closer seaport will be preferred over a very long route, resulting in less dependence over Pakistan.

Besides these economic developments, the Afghan society is changing very fast. A very long war has destroyed many traditional professions, forcing the people to change their lifestyles. For example, animal husbandry or herd breeding, once the profession of a large portion of Afghan population, has decreased a whopping 80 percent. Similarly, many other traditional means of living have changed due to continuing war.

The Afghan mindset is in the process of transformation. Many recent visitors to Afghanistan have indicated that refugees who have returned back have brought new sets of ideas that they were exposed to while living abroad. They have picked up experiences of living under relatively modern states where democratic ideals are pursued. For example, the Afghan refugees living in Pakistan have had new experiences of yearning for democratic values, equality and the right to protest even under military dictatorships. Therefore, Taliban or no Taliban, Pakistan has to deal with a changed Afghanistan. Pakistan will remain relevant to Afghanistan only if it becomes a well-governed modern state with an expanding economic potential.


Tihar Jail
Oct 2, 2009
Beradar, Pakistan, and the Afghan Taliban: What Gives?

Ashley J. Tellis
The recent arrests of several high profile Afghan Taliban leaders by Pakistan have raised expectations
that Islamabad’s longstanding support for the “Quetta shura” may at last be waning. The arrests have
prompted the view that Pakistan has indeed changed its traditional strategy of protecting the Afghan
Taliban leadership. Unfortunately, the realities are less encouraging. A closer look at the recent arrests
suggests that:
• The seizure of Mullah Beradar and some others was prompted by U.S. intelligence initiatives,
was entirely fortuitous, and certainly not part of any premeditated detention plan by Pakistan.
• Although several other arrests have taken place entirely on Pakistani initiative, some of these
detentions involve low-level al-Qaeda associates, whose arrests are consistent with Islamabad’s
standing policy of aiding the United States.
• Of the remaining Afghan Taliban leaders arrested independently by Islamabad, many are either
not particularly significant or represent a housecleaning by Pakistan’s military intelligence.
As a result, the Afghan Taliban’s leadership in Pakistan is certainly not decimated. Nor do Pakistan’s
actions constitute the “sea change” in its behavior, as some observers have argued. Instead, they
represent a recalibration of Pakistan’s evolving policy: rather than supporting the declared U.S. goal of
defeating the Taliban, the recent arrests exemplify a Pakistani effort to seize control over the process of
negotiations and reconciliation that its military leaders believe is both imminent and inevitable in the
Afghan conflict. And it is emphatically motivated by the conviction that India, not the Afghan Taliban,
is the main enemy to be neutralized in the Afghan endgame.
The author thanks Robert D. Blackwill, Jack Gill, Daniel Markey, Aroop Mukharji, and George Perkovich for their
thoughtful comments on this paper. Special thanks are also owed to B. Raman for discussions about
Pakistan's actions regarding the Afghan Taliban.
March 2010
Over a month ago, the New York Times broke the dramatic news that Mullah
Abdul Ghani Beradar Akhund, the Afghan Taliban’s second-in-command and
the head of its military committee, was apprehended in Karachi in a secret
joint operation by Pakistani and U.S. intelligence operatives. Initial reports
about the arrest were confusing, but the news was certainly welcome: the
arrest was the first detention of a rahbari shura (leadership council) member
since the arrest of Mullah Obaidullah Akhund in 2007, and this operation was
apparently led by Pakistan’s military intelligence agency, the Directorate,
Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).1 The ISI traditionally played a key role in
protecting the fugitive Afghan Taliban leadership in Pakistan and for this
reason, its role in this operation raised questions about whether Islamabad’s
longstanding strategies toward New Delhi and Kabul were at last changing.
Beradar’s surprise arrest was quickly followed by a wave of other detentions:
Maulavi Abdul Kabir, the former Taliban governor of Nangarhar and the
eastern provinces and also a member of the rahbari shura, was picked up a
few weeks later, and within a month the Christian Science Monitor was
reporting that “nearly half of the Afghanistan Taliban’s leadership” had been
arrested by the ISI, “dealing what could be a crucial blow to the insurgent
Pakistan’s sudden cooperation in targeting the Afghan Taliban’s core
leadership—after almost a decade of feigning ignorance about the shura’s
presence within the country—surprised many and raised expectations in
Washington that Islamabad’s decision signaled a quiet but decisive shift in
Pakistan’s geostrategic policy. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman
Senator John Kerry argued that the Beradar operation represented “a new
level of cooperation”3 between Pakistan and the United States. Bruce Reidel,
the convener of President Barack Obama’s task force on Afghanistan and
Pakistan, was more expansive: speaking to the New York Times, he asserted
that Islamabad’s action regarding Beradar constituted a “sea change in
Pakistani behavior,”4 also claiming subsequently that it “was not a one off or
an accident, but a turning point in Pakistan’s policy towards the Taliban.”5
David Ignatius, writing in the Washington Post, reported that many White
House officials held similar views, some even maintaining that Pakistan’s
latest decisions constituted a “strategic recalibration”6 of the U.S.–Pakistan
relationship to include renewed cooperation on counterterrorism. And White
House press secretary Robert Gibbs even offered a reason why when he
declared that Islamabad’s newly rejuvenated effort against the Afghan Taliban
shura is rooted in “the recognition on the Pakistani military side that
extremists in their country posed not simply a threat to us, but an existential
threat to them.”7
Making Sense of the Arrests
Were the above claims true, it would be great news indeed, not only for the
United States and Afghanistan, but also for Pakistan’s long-term political
prospects. But is it? And does Pakistan’s recent targeting of the Afghan
Taliban truly represent a “turning point” in how it views the value of this
insurgency? The answers to these questions are vital, particularly as the
United States commits to sustained military operations in Afghanistan. If
Islamabad has in fact changed course and put an end to the state-supported
sanctuary that had benefited the Taliban, the impediments to the insurgency’s
success increase considerably.
Unfortunately, the realities are less encouraging—at least on the issue of
whether Pakistan is in fact changing course strategically with regard to the
Afghan Taliban. First, one must evaluate the facts surrounding the arrests.
Although the arrest of Mullah Beradar was in fact a joint operation conducted
by the ISI and U.S. intelligence, there is little doubt now that Beradar’s
Pakistani captors had no idea that he was among the individuals apprehended
at the Karachi madrassa at the time of his capture. Although the operation
itself was initiated in response to a U.S. tip, it is as yet unclear whether even
U.S. intelligence officials knew for a fact that Beradar would be present at this
location when the operation began.8 That the ISI partnered in the operation
and physically made the arrest itself is not surprising, given that the United
States has no legal authority to apprehend, detain, or interrogate anyone in
Pakistan. In fact, joint ISI-CIA seizures of terrorism targets in Pakistan
invariably take this form: U.S. sources provide critical data about the suspect
and the ISI directorates that liaise with U.S. intelligence then collaborate to
complete the arrest.9
Weeks after the event, enough information has now surfaced to suggest that
the Pakistanis held Beradar for some time before even realizing his identity.10
Because U.S. intelligence assets were deeply involved throughout in this
operation, albeit in ways respectful of Pakistani sensitivities, it would have
been difficult for the ISI to simply release Beradar after he was discovered.11
(This has occurred in several other instances when individuals too
embarrassing to detain have simply been released quietly by their ISI captors.)
The news leaks of his capture soon after he was identified in custody made it
even more difficult for the ISI (and its more shadowy directorates) to simply
“lose” him surreptitiously.
Whatever else may be at issue, Beradar’s arrest was certainly not part of any
premeditated detention plan by the ISI—and as such cannot be counted as
evidence of any dramatic change of course by Pakistan, or at least one that
involves conclusively turning its back on the rahbari shura. As if to make this
point plain, the ISI did two other things even as Beradar’s detention in
Pakistani custody was underway. First, it continued to release other Taliban
leaders who managed to get inadvertently caught in other counterterrorism
dragnets elsewhere in Pakistan.12 And, second, it began to warn key Taliban
protectees about the enhanced counterterrorism sweeps underway, pushing
some operatives even further underground while warning others to exercise
better operational security, given the mishaps that had just befallen Beradar
through his (and his cohort’s) careless communications.13
But don’t these actions run counter to all the other arrests of Afghan Taliban
leaders by the ISI? Indeed they do—and therein lies a tale. To be sure, the
Pakistani intelligence services apprehended several other individuals in the
aftermath of Beradar’s seizure, although some of these arrests have yet to be
confirmed independently. The earliest such detentions, however, including the
two Afghan Taliban “shadow governors,” were not products of any Pakistani
initiative. Rather, they resulted from information secured through Beradar’s
interrogation, which was kept secret for as long as possible because, as one
news report put it, “American officials … were determined to roll up as much
of the Taliban’s leadership as they could.” 14 This questioning, initially
conducted by the ISI, was closely monitored by the United States, and even
though U.S. intelligence was denied physical access to him at the very
beginning, grilling Beradar nonetheless yielded fruit because, odd as it may
Key Arrests in Pakistan in 2010
1. Mullah Abdul Ghani Beradar - Second-in-command of the Afghan Taliban
2. Maulavi Abdul Kabir - Commander of Taliban fighters in eastern Afghanistan
and former Taliban governor of Nangarhar province
3. Mullah Abdul Qayoum Zakir - Former Guantanamo Bay detainee
4. Mullah Muhammad Hassan - Former Taliban minister
5. Mullah Ahmed Jan Akhunzada - Former Taliban governor of Zabul
6. Mullah Abdul Raouf - Taliban leader in northeastern Afghanistan
7. Agha Jan Mohtasim - Former Taliban finance minister
8. Mullah Abdul Salam - Taliban ‘shadow governor’ of Kunduz
9. Mullah Mir Mohammed - Taliban ‘shadow governor’ of Baghlan
10. Mullah Muhammad Younis (a.k.a. Akhunzada Popalzai) – Former Taliban
police chief in Kabul
11. Ameer Muawiya - Osama bin Laden associate in charge of foreign al-Qaeda
militants in Pakistan’s border areas
12. Abu Hamza - Former Afghan army commander in Helmand province during
Taliban rule
13. Abu Riyad al Zarqawi - Liaison with Chechen and Tajik militants in
Pakistan’s border area
14. Abdolmalek Rigi - Jundallah leader
15. Chota Usman (aka Iliyas) - Taliban commander accused of operating a
Taliban court in the Mohmand Agency
16. Umar Abdul Rehman - Taliban operative
17. Abu Yahya Mujahdeen al-Adam – al-Qaeda operative
seem at first sight, some ISI directorates are actually more cooperative with
their U.S. counterparts on counterterrorism matters than some others.
Several subsequent arrests, however, took place entirely on Pakistani initiative,
but there may be less here than meets the eye. For example, although the
international press has widely trumpeted the notion that half of the Taliban’s
“top” leadership is now behind bars, these claims are grounded largely on
either Pakistani claims or poor information about the composition of the
rahbari shura and the structure of its relationships with the four regional
shuras and their subordinate formations. Even a cursory survey of those
Taliban leaders detained by Pakistan since mid-February shows that besides
Mullah Abdul Ghani Beradar Akhund and Maulavi Abdul Kabir, none of the
other captives are likely members of the rahbari shura. Two of the
individuals arrested, Mullah Abdul Salam and Mullah Mohammad, are
Taliban “shadow governors” who, however impressive these titles sound, are
neither involved in formulating Taliban strategy or directing its military
operations against coalition forces in Afghanistan. Shadow governors in the
Taliban structure are essentially “enforcers.” They are responsible principally
for meting out the harsh justice that is the Taliban trademark in the areas
under its control, rather than making strategic decisions or planning military
activities against the coalition. Thus the arrest of the two shadow governors is
less significant from a political and an operational point of view than it
Of the remaining fifteen-odd detainees, the most interesting captures are those
who might be problematic for Pakistan’s evolving national strategy toward
Afghanistan. At least two of the individuals arrested, Mullah Abdul Rauf
Aliza and Mullah Ahmed Jan Akhundzada, are Durrani Pashtuns who, besides
being members of the same tribal confederation as President Hamid Karzai,
arguably were potential threats to the Gilzai Pashtun leadership of the ISI’s
key protégé, the Afghan Taliban’s emir Mullah Mohammed Omar. These men
also are among the more moderate voices within the Taliban and reputedly
have been supporters of Mullah Beradar’s efforts to explore Karzai’s
overtures at reconciliation. 15 As Thomas Johnson and Chris Mason have
acidly concluded, these particular arrests do not signify particularly
transformative actions on the part of Pakistan. Rather, as they put it, “the
Quetta Shura has used the ISI, its loyal and steadfast patron, to take out its
trash. Those few mullahs suspected of being amenable to discussions with the
infidel enemy and thus ideologically impure have now been removed from the
jihad. This is not cooperation against the Taliban by an allied state; it is
collusion with the Taliban by an enemy state.”16 The remaining detainees are
low-level al-Qaeda associates whose arrest by the Pakistanis is quite
consistent with Islamabad’s longstanding policy of aiding the United States to
target al-Qaeda in the settled areas of Pakistan, even as it protects the senior
shura of the Afghan Taliban simultaneously.
On balance, therefore, the recent arrests in Pakistan do not signify
Islamabad’s turn against the Afghan Taliban leadership writ large, only a turn
against some of its members, as it has done intermittently before. In the most
important cases, the arrests now touted as evidence of a “sea change” in
Pakistani behavior happen to be fundamentally accidental and, in some
instances, unavoidable consequences of initially fortuitous events. The
seizures that seem to have been entirely a product of Islamabad’s initiative
appear to be either self-serving or the continued targeting of acknowledged
adversaries such as al-Qaeda. The purported shift in Pakistan’s approach to
the Afghan Taliban, then, turns out to be less a change in its national strategy
than a recalibration—and certainly not of the kind that some American
officials imagine or hope for. The fact that the most significant captures in
Pakistan were inadvertent and the less noteworthy ones intended to clean
house while simultaneously signaling Islamabad’s continuing centrality for
success in Afghanistan suggests that the reorientation is not intended to bring
Pakistan closer to the declared U.S. goal of defeating the Taliban but, rather,
to better reposition Islamabad in what it believes is now the endgame in
Afghanistan. As Carlotta Gall and Souad Mekhennet summarized succinctly,
“Pakistan’s arrest of the top Taliban military commander may be a tactical
victory for the United States, but it is also potentially a strategic coup for
Pakistan…. Pakistan has removed a key Taliban commander, enhanced
cooperation with the United States, and ensured a place for itself when parties
explore a negotiated end to the Afghan war.”17
Pakistan’s Policy Calculus
A genuine transformation in Pakistan’s strategy toward the Afghan Taliban
would involve two components: first, an acceptance of the notion that the
Taliban, and not India, represents the biggest threat to success in Afghanistan;
second, and flowing from that foundational principle, a willingness to
sacrifice the rahbari shura in order to help defeat the insurgency so that the
current U.S. stabilization effort in Afghanistan might succeed. Nothing in
Pakistan’s current actions suggests an acceptance of these two elements. To
the contrary, the recent captures seem little more than a Pakistani response to
the belief that because an early American exit from Afghanistan is inevitable,
Islamabad must do everything within its power to inject itself ever more
vigorously into the strategic direction of the insurgency. The urgency for such
forceful intervention is driven by the conviction that if a “reconciliation” with
the Taliban is to define the termination of the Afghan conflict, Pakistan must
not find itself, as its officials now tell Western interlocutors, “standing in the
wrong corner”18 when the music finally stops.
This concern has in fact become central to Islamabad’s calculations since
President Obama’s December 1, 2009, speech on U.S. strategy in Afghanistan.
Prior to that address, Pakistani defense and intelligence officials were coming
around to the possibility that the United States would remain militarily
involved in Afghanistan over the long term. Obama’s December speech,
however, with its formal enunciation of a July 2011 deadline for beginning
the drawdown of American forces, put paid to those expectations. All of a
sudden, Pakistani security managers had to reckon with the possibility that the
United States would once again precipitously depart Afghanistan, leaving
their hated rival, India, in an established position of privileged access in Kabul.
All taken together, New Delhi’s substantial reconstruction efforts in
Afghanistan, the consistently high support among Afghans for India’s
development contributions, and the warm relationship India enjoys with the
Karzai regime unnerve Islamabad and arouse fears that a withdrawing United
States will leave behind a hostile Indian presence on its western borders and
increased threats in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and in
Balochistan. Further, the emerging certainty in Islamabad that the Afghan
conflict will end not through a political-military victory that brings the
Taliban to the negotiating table on coalition terms but through a
“reconciliation” process has only strengthened the Pakistani conviction that it
cannot afford to lose out in Afghanistan at the tail end, when it had done a
remarkably good job thus far of protecting its interests by keeping the Afghan
Taliban’s shura more or less safe and in line during the last decade of intense
The January 2010 London conference was, in many ways, the turning point in
this regard. As a result of conspicuously absent American leadership, the
meeting’s British hosts were able to position political reconciliation with the
shura as the centerpiece of the Afghan endgame. This approach differs
considerably from the current U.S. stance, which views any reconciliation—if
it can be consummated at all—as either the culmination of political-military
success in the contested areas or contingent on key conditions that the Taliban
has rejected historically: renunciation of all ties with al-Qaeda; acceptance of
the Afghan constitution; laying down of arms and the cessation of rebellion;
and agreement to the Afghan government’s oversight of the reconciliation
process. Because this American position was eclipsed at London by the
British drumbeat for early negotiations with the shura itself, the perception
that the Afghan conflict was rapidly turning in the direction of reconciliation
with the Taliban leadership—in order to facilitate a speedy coalition military
exit from the country—began to deepen in Islamabad. 20 This view is
undoubtedly far removed from official U.S. expectations of how the Afghan
conflict is likely to evolve. Most American policy makers expect energetic
counterinsurgency operations for some time to come, a U.S. military presence
in Afghanistan that lasts many years, enhanced efforts at reintegrating the
Taliban’s rank and file (vice negotiating with the shura on the latter’s terms),
and a progressive strengthening of the Afghan state to ensure a relatively
uneventful exit of coalition forces eventually.
This is categorically not the expectation in Islamabad. Policy makers there
imagine that an American departure is far more imminent than advertised and
that Washington, consequently, is looking to smoothen that exit by attempting
negotiations directly with the shura itself. Given these perceptions, the recent
Pakistani arrests of some Taliban leaders represent an adjustment that is
intended to serve two objectives simultaneously.
First, it signals the United States that Islamabad can reach the Taliban
leadership as and when required, despite years of denying any knowledge of
its whereabouts. No other inference is yielded by the fact that Islamabad could
rapidly roll up half a dozen wanted fugitives—individuals who ostensibly
could not be found for the better part of the decade—within two weeks once it
put its mind to the task. By apprehending them so rapidly, Islamabad seeks to
highlight its centrality to the future of American success in Afghanistan even
as it subtly reinforces the importance of Washington accepting General
Ashfaq Kayani’s offer of the ISI as the principal mediating conduit for all
discussions on reconciliation with the shura.21 Islamabad believes that any
reconciliation would require that Pakistan’s primary clients, the Ghilzai
Pashtuns represented by Mullah Omar, be given a formal share of power in
Kabul. This integration at the highest levels of the Afghan state would occur
as part of a complex bargain wherein the Taliban promise to renounce al-
Qaeda and give up their armed struggle in exchange for the exit of all
coalition forces from the country.22 Whether these assurances can be enforced
once NATO departs Afghanistan is another matter, but the attractiveness of
such a deal from Islamabad’s point of view is obvious: by placing its clients in
the seat of power in Kabul, an ISI-brokered reconciliation allows Pakistan to
acquire a key role in shaping Afghanistan’s strategic direction, which above
all would be conditioned by the exigencies of Pakistan’s ongoing struggle
with India.
General Kayani candidly spelled out Islamabad’s aims in a rare press briefing
recently by stating, “We want a strategic depth in Afghanistan.” Elaborating
further, he noted that “‘strategic depth’ does not imply controlling
Afghanistan,” but “if Afghanistan is peaceful, stable and friendly, we have our
strategic depth because our western border is secure…. [Then,] you’re not
looking both ways.” 23 This fervid struggle for strategic depth has
characterized Pakistan’s policies toward Kabul since at least the time of the
Soviet Union’s departure in 1989. It drove Pakistan’s efforts to support the
Taliban throughout the 1990s and it has undergirded the ISI’s decision to
protect Mullah Omar and his cohort since their ejection from power in
December 2001. Today, as the departure of the United States from
Afghanistan looms large in Islamabad’s perception, the Pakistani military
anxiously seeks to control the transition in order to secure the three elements
essential to strategic depth: a friendly government in Kabul (one that
preferably includes Pakistan’s clients in its inner sanctum); the ejection of
India from Afghanistan or, failing this, a sharply reduced Indian presence and
influence; and, finally, the acquisition of preponderant influence, if not a
formal veto, over Afghanistan’s strategic choices and geopolitical direction.
These goals, which are important enough for Pakistan to warrant the country’s
protection of the Afghan Taliban leadership for years, are still vital enough to
justify the arrest of a few Taliban leaders, if such actions promise to bestow
on Islamabad increased influence in shaping the final outcome in Afghanistan
to its advantage.
Second, seizing some Taliban officials who do not serve Pakistan’s current
purposes is a signal to the Afghan Taliban’s rahbari shura that all discussions
about reconciliation with Karzai (and with the coalition more generally) must
occur solely through Pakistani interlocutors and in a manner that is mindful of
Pakistani interests. Such a reminder, even to the senior shura, which has long
been protected by the ISI, is essential from Islamabad’s point of view because
this group has on many occasions declined to blindly follow Pakistan’s
directives or pursue Islamabad’s aims when these conflicted with its own
interests. Throughout the years when the Taliban have been both in and out of
power, they have often behaved as unruly agents pursuing goals not favored
by their principals in the ISI and the Pakistani military. Whether these
pertained to the surrender of Osama bin Laden, the destruction of the
Bamiyan Buddhas, the strict implementation of sharia in Afghanistan, or the
regressive attitude toward women’s education, the leadership of the Afghan
Taliban frequently pursued autonomous policies that undermined and caused
much embarrassment to their Pakistani sponsors. Preventing a recurrence of
such behavior on the issues that matter—when Islamabad judges the endgame
to be underway in Afghanistan—is critical to Pakistani strategy because it
could impact Pakistani efforts to limit the spread of Indian influence in
Afghanistan. It will also determine whether Islamabad can resolve its own
outstanding disputes with Kabul on favorable terms.
From Pakistan’s point of view, the stakes are simply too high. And given their
significance, focusing the shura’s attention on its vulnerabilities through a
few pointed arrests would be certainly worth the sacrifice if it elicits a
stronger Taliban commitment to Islamabad’s interests in Afghanistan. Playing
hardball in this way is not new to the ISI. But under the present circumstances
it also reflects a dramatic upsurge in confidence in Islamabad.24 Most Western
observers, engrossed by Pakistan’s increasing economic woes and its unstable
internal circumstances, appear to have overlooked the self-assurance that has
characterized Pakistan’s strategy since the London Conference―an event that
conclusively highlighted India’s international isolation on the key issues of
defeating the insurgency and negotiating with the Taliban. This vindication of
Pakistan’s advocacy of integrating the Taliban into Afghan governance
structures occurred at a time when the Pakistani military too feels increasingly
confident that it has, thanks to American assistance, put its most dangerous
internal threat, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, on the defensive. Its successful
military operations in the troubled Federally Administered Tribal Areas now
unambiguously reinforce, in Pakistan’s view, Islamabad’s standing as a
credible ally on counterterrorism. This belief has empowered Pakistani leaders
not only to demand—as Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi
phrased it—that the United States “do more” to help Pakistan since the latter
has “already done too much,”25 but also to require of their Afghan Taliban
clients greater concord with Islamabad’s own interests.
Not surprisingly, the most recent round of Pakistani arrests appears to be
accompanied by earnest internal negotiations between the movement’s
representatives and the ISI. Even if Islamabad’s maneuverings eventually
result in a formal Taliban presence within the Afghan government, there is of
course no guarantee that this regime would become a puppet of the Pakistani
state. Based of past events, it is likely that such an authority would, despite
being beholden to Islamabad, retain sufficient freedom of maneuver. As a
further example, even the Taliban government that held power in Kabul from
1996–2001 refused to accept the legitimacy of the Durand Line, much to the
chagrin of its protectors in Pakistan. Pakistan’s relations with the Afghan
Taliban are therefore delicate, to say the least. Yet in spite of the group’s
obduracy and its antediluvian worldview, Islamabad will continue to support
it because that remains the best of all available options today—while
concurrently attempting to discipline it in order to shape its political choices
and bring it more firmly in line with Pakistan’s own strategic interests. An
occasional seizure of a few Taliban leaders may be just the thing to
concentrate the shura’s attention.
The dramatic captures of some Taliban officials by Pakistan during the last
several weeks have turned out to be less significant than they first appeared.
Far from presaging surrender, or the demise, of the Taliban’s senior shura,
these arrests—at least those that were not accidental—represent an effort by
Islamabad to exert control over the process of negotiation and reconciliation
that all Pakistani military leaders believe is both imminent and inevitable in
the Afghan conflict. And it is emphatically motivated by the conviction that
India, not the Afghan Taliban, represents the main enemy to be neutralized in
the Afghan endgame. Given these complex impulses, the recent seizures of a
few Taliban leaders by Pakistan isn’t much of a turning point in Islamabad’s
traditional strategy after all.


Tihar Jail
Oct 2, 2009
Karzai's tilt toward Tehran

It's wretched enough that our "friend" Ahmed Chalabi has become Iran's point man in Iraq. Now "our man in Kabul," President Hamid Karzai, is quietly shifting his loyalty to Tehran.
Beyond Iranian President Mahmud Ahmedinejad's recent chummy visit to Karzai -- reported by the media but downplayed by Washington -- Iran's been training Taliban forces to kill our troops more efficiently.
Karzai hasn't complained. Nor has he objected to Tehran's expansion of its support for its clients in western Afghanistan. He wants that support for himself.
Far from being a gleaming apostle of democracy, Karzai's just another hustler from the lands that perfected the con. Like Chalabi, he knew the magic words to say to Americans, then did whatever he wanted for himself, his fantastically corrupt family and his cronies.

A growing alliance: Afghan President Hamid Karzai embracing Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Kabul earlier this month.

Publicly, the Obama administration continues to support Karzai, since the White House doesn't have a Plan B. But no end of US officers fresh from the combat zone are disgusted with the latest emir in Kabul and his government's shenanigans. For their part, our generals mutter among themselves and cross their fingers.
Karzai's people despise him; his allies distrust him; his enemies mock him. And our troops keep him in power. Does that sound like a formula for success?
Pakistan's in on Afghanistan's new deal, too, along with Islamabad's favored Mujaheddin terrorist faction, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-i-Islami (as I predicted in The Post last month). Our government's even welcoming Karzai's negotiations.
Splinter groups from the Taliban also will join behind-the-scenes talks in the coming months -- at Karzai's public request. Afghanistan's opium kings and warlords will get their cut of the settlement, too (if somewhat more quietly).
And what will we get, after a decade of pouring out blood and treasure in our madcap attempt to civilize barbarians? We'll get to go home. Empty-handed.
And the new Afghan national anthem will be taken from The Velvet Underground's first album -- Lou Reed's "Heroin."
Pressured gently by a hand-wringing Obama administration to reform his government and deliver services to his people, Karzai's plainly decided that he can't count on us for protection much longer. Double- and triple-dealing, corrupt elections, family drug deals, massive graft, phenomenally poor governance . . . sooner or later, even Washington wakes up.
So Karzai's rushing to cut multiple deals to maintain his throne in Kabul. It may well work in the short term. In the longer term, he'll be dead or in exile (bemoaning the lack of American support for his crusade for democracy . . .). Scamming Americans is one thing, playing Iranians or Pakistanis another. We send sniffy diplomatic notes. They send assassins.
Also noted in previous columns, Pakistan's making a grand show of helping us by busting senior Taliban and al Qaeda officials (which they could have done years ago). Islamabad's not doing it out of solidarity with Uncle Sam, but because it needs to weaken Taliban elements and leaders it can't control in order to close the hoped-for Afghan deal.
Coming perhaps as early as this year (certainly within the next few years), the Karzai Compromise will at first look like this:
* Karzai remains the titular head of the Kabul regime.
* Iran "owns" western Afghanistan.
* Pakistan replaces the United States as the Kabul government's security guarantor.
* NATO grabs the excuse of "national reconciliation" to dash for home.
* The United States won't be far behind NATO, although we'll continue to pour in aid to "avoid destabilizing the situation."
This being the Greater Middle East, the deal won't last. Karzai holds too weak a hand; national ambitions are in conflict; the hatreds go too deep. Here's what will come next:
* The Iranians and Pakistanis will struggle for influence. The next phase of the endless Afghan civil war will be a proxy fight between Tehran and Islamabad (alongside the internal factional warfare).
* Al Qaeda will align with Pakistan, gaining clandestine sponsorship.
* Karzai will be replaced by a tougher ruler backed by Pakistan, while the Iranian side elevates its own contender for power based in Herat.
* India will side with Iran. China will support Pakistan.
* Pakistan will find itself unable to control its Afghan proxies, after all. Another military regime will take power in Islamabad, as Pakistan finds itself bogged down in an Afghan morass and violence spreads at home.
* The Taliban will fight everybody and outlast everybody.
As our troops surge slowly into Afghanistan to save the inept Karzai government, they may already be irrelevant. We're no longer in on the deal. Everybody knows it but us.
Ralph Peters' new book is "Endless War: Middle Eastern Islam vs. Western Civilization."

Read more:


Tihar Jail
Oct 2, 2009
India concerned about US-Pakistan talks on Afghanistan

New Delhi : India is not bothered so much about Pakistan's hunger for a nuclear deal with the US, but is closely watching the outcome of the strategic dialogue between Islamabad and Washington for any sign of a secret deal on Afghanistan's future.

'We are not worried about Pakistan's pitch for nuclear deal. That won't happen due to Pakistan's proliferation record. But we are closely following the US-Pakistan strategic dialogue, specially on issues relating to Afghanistan,' a government source said.

'The situation in Afghanistan is of direct concern to India. Any deal with the Taliban can push that country back into medieval barbarism,' the source said.

After the Jan 28 London conference that envisaged reintegration of the Taliban in the political mainstream, concerns have been raised in India's strategic establishment about a hidden deal between the US and Pakistan to the detriment of India's interests in that country.

Pakistan arrests suspects in British boy's kidnapping

'They (US) have given Pakistan a veto over the future of Afghanistan. It's a big setback for India,' Satish Chandra, a former deputy national security adviser and a former envoy to Islamabad, told IANS.

The ongoing US-Pakistan strategic dialogue, Chandra pointed out, showed that the US was mollifying Pakistan to win its full support for the battle against Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

On record, the US has lauded India's role in the reconstruction of war-torn Afghanistan and denied there were attempts to marginalise New Delhi in the emerging power play in that country.

But this hasn't cut much ice with strategic experts here.

'Pakistan wants to become the sole spokesperson of the Taliban. Pakistan has eliminated all potential mediators between the Taliban and the US so as to be the sole mediator with the Taliban,' says Alok Bansal, a Pakistan expert at the National Maritime Foundation, a think tank. 'It's a cause of grave concern for India.'

Pakistan was one of only three countries that recognized the Taliban after it seized power in Kabul, the other two being Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. This was when India, along with Iran and Russia, backed the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance.

Once the Taliban was ousted from power after 9/11, Pakistan covertly took the Islamist militia and Al Qaeda remnants under its wings. At the same time India came out in full support of President Hamid Karzai, re-igniting an India-Pakistan proxy war in Afghanistan.

10 militants killed in Pakistan

New Delhi is also concerned about a 'multi-year security assistance package' the US has announced for Pakistan that could include cutting-edge weaponry running into billions of dollars.

India has time and again pointed out that the weapons the US has given to Pakistan are used against Indian assets, but Washington has not paid much heed.

'The Taliban is not going to be fought with these weapons. Where are they going to use these weapons?' asked Chandra. He then went on to answre his own question: 'Against India.'

National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon has been blunt, saying that giving military aid to Pakistan was like giving alcohol to an alcoholic. Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao aired these concerns during her trip to Washington this month.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said after talks with Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmmod Qureshi in Washington Wednesday: 'Our goal is a multi-year security assistance package, including foreign military financing, based upon identified mutual strategic objectives, which would further strengthen our long-term partnership with Pakistan.'

But she ruled out any mediatory role for the US in resolving the Kashmir dispute and described Pakistan's plea for 'non-discriminatory access to energy' - an euphemism for an India-like nuclear deal - as a 'complicated issue.'


Tihar Jail
Oct 2, 2009
Pak-US dialogue: a Pakhtun perspective —Farhat Taj

Basically, the jirga is saying that it does not trust the military establishment, which is leading the dialogue with the US. The military establishment will follow the policy of strategic depth in Afghanistan, which is the key cause of the sufferings of Pakhtuns on both sides of the Durand Line

Days before the Pak-US strategic dialogue in Washington on the issue of terrorism, a grand tribal jirga was held in Peshawar. The jirga was participated in by civil society members, lawyers, doctors, students, minorities, tribal leaders and elders of the anti-Taliban peace committees and representatives of anti-Taliban political parties, the Awami National Party (ANP), the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), the Awami Party (AP) and the National Party (NP). Each and every political agency of FATA and district of the Pakhtunkhwa province was well represented. The participants included women and religious and sectarian minorities. As defiance of the Taliban’s ban on music and dance, the jirga commenced and ended with traditional Pakhtun dances and music.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Kayani are leading the delegation that is holding the strategic dialogue with the US. There is no Pakhtun representative in the delegation and, therefore, the jirga demanded representation of the Pakhtuns in the dialogue. It seems that the PPP, which represents a large Pakhtun vote bank, has given up or has been compelled by the military establishment to stay away from foreign policy formulation. There is, therefore, no hope that the head of the Pak-delegation, Foreign Minister Qureshi, would highlight the Pakhtun perspective in the meetings with the US authorities. The perception of the jirga members was that the foreign minister would toe the line dictated by the COAS.

The jirga members categorically expressed the apprehension that the strategic dialogue would come out with a short-term and selective solution of terrorism. The solution would be aimed at sparing some terrorists, targeting others, shaking hands with some and leaving the helpless people of FATA and the Pakhtunkhwa province at the mercy of the Pakistan Army and its intelligence agencies.

This solution can help President Obama to win another term in office and can also facilitate General Kayani to get further extension in his service as COAS, but it cannot bring real peace to the region or the wider world.

Whatever is the mutually agreed upon anti-terrorism strategy of the US and Pakistan, the jirga members were unanimous that they would measure the decrease or increase in terrorism on the criteria set in the Peshawar Declaration jointly approved in a similar grand jirga in December 2009. The two key causes of terrorism identified by the Peshawar Declaration are: strategic depth policy of the military establishment of Pakistan; and the Arab expansionism embodied by al Qaeda under the garb of global Islam. To end terrorism, the policy of strategic depth has to be given up and al Qaeda has to be crushed.

Killing or capturing al Qaeda terrorists may not be a difficult task. To give up the strategic depth idea would be a great deal of work. This implies that targeted military operations have to be undertaken in several parts of Punjab, like Muridke, Jhang, Dera Ghazi Khan, Rahim Yar Khan and Bahawalpur, etc. The Punjab-based militant organisations that are banned, but continue to function under new names, have to be really banned and crushed. To root out the terrorist mindset, the state will have to eliminate the curriculum and literature taught in Pakistani schools and madrassas, which is based on hatred of women, Jews, Hindus and Shias and violent jihad against them and, last but not the least, all the Taliban infrastructure and their important leaders in FATA and Pakhtunkhwa province have to be eliminated through targeted military operations.

Moreover, the jirga demanded that the international aid given to Pakistan in the name of terrorism must be spent in FATA and the Pakhtunkhwa province. People of this area, who disproportionately suffer much more from terrorism than people in any other area in Pakistan, must receive the benefits of the aid in terms of education, health and jobs. Furthermore, whether in the military or the government of Pakistan, people who are responsible for corruption in the aid money must be made accountable and punished.

Hardly any jirga member was confident that the state is ready to initiate all these measures. Therefore, they agreed to convene another grand jirga within the next few months to address the evolving situation, following the Pak-US strategic dialogue.

Basically, the jirga is saying that it does not trust the military establishment, which is leading the dialogue with the US. The military establishment will follow the policy of strategic depth in Afghanistan, which is the key cause of the sufferings of Pakhtuns on both sides of the Durand Line. In this context, the jirga expressed misgivings over the US role in the ongoing strategic dialogue. The jirga members said that either the US does not understand the problem of terrorism in Pakhtunkhwa, including FATA, or has some ulterior motives that the superpower wants to achieve through the strategic dialogue at the cost of Pakhtun blood.

A common agreement in the jirga was that the US and NATO forces want to leave Afghanistan. The London Conference in January 2010, the NATO, Russian and Pakistani military chiefs’ meeting in Brussels in the same month and now the US-Pakistan strategic dialogue are all steps in this direction. The problem with this approach is that it does not pay attention to the grievances of anti-Taliban Pakhtuns in FATA and the Pakhtunkhwa province and the role of the intelligence agencies of Pakistan in it. If something is not done to curtail that role, the Pakhtun will continue to suffer death and destruction; Islamist extremism will grow and the ultimate beneficiaries will be al Qaeda and the military establishment of Pakistan.

The writer is a research fellow at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Research, University of Oslo, and a member of Aryana Institute for Regional Research and Advocacy. She can be reached at [email protected]


Tihar Jail
Oct 2, 2009
India's interests in Afghanistan cannot be same as Pak: Qureshi

WASHINGTON: Arguing that it shares cultural, linguistic and ethnic commonalities with Afghanistan, Pakistan has claimed that it has more stakes in the war-torn country than India.

"Obviously, their (India's) interests (in Afghanistan) cannot be the same as ours because we share a border," Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told the popular Charlie Rose Show telecast on PBS news channel.

"They (India) do not share a border (with Afghanistan). We have been impacted (by the events in Afghanistan). They (India) have not been impacted to that extent, because even today we have three million Afghan refugees living in Pakistan," he argued, when asked how he measures India's interest in Afghanistan.

Noting that Afghanistan is a land-locked country, Qureshi said that bulk of their trade is carried through Pakistan. "Practically our economies are one. Culturally, linguistically, ethnically, there are commonalities which Afghanistan shares more with Pakistan than India."

Asked about the relationship between ISI and Taliban in Afghanistan, Qureshi said the Pakistani intelligence agency is no longer considered a friend of the outfit.

"The way the ISI has been operating, and the way the ISI is being targeted by Taliban is in front of you. Look at their casualties. Look at the number of people that have been injured in the last year-and-a-half directly -- you know, ISI operators."

"Look at the way their different officers have been attacked at Peshawar, in Lahore, in Multan. It is very obvious that our side is no longer considered to be a friend of theirs," he argued, referring to a series of attacks on the intelligence agency's facilities.


Regular Member
Mar 31, 2009

In Afghan end-game, India gets that sinking feeling

By Alistair Scrutton

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Disquiet is growing in India that Pakistan is gaining the upper hand in a "proxy war" in Afghanistan as the two juggle for influence in an end-game that risks a political vacuum if the U.S.-led war winds down.

Escalating distrust over Afghanistan may threaten tentative India-Pakistan peace talks and herald more militant attacks on Indian soil, experts say. There are also signs it is all gnawing at New Delhi's once strengthening ties with the United States.

Last week's high level strategic dialogue between Pakistan's military and U.S. politicians in Washington, praise for Pakistan's crackdown on Taliban commanders and promises of swifter U.S. aid have added to India's sense of playing second fiddle.

Underlying this is a perception that Western powers need Pakistan more than India to broker any deal with the Taliban if there is any U.S. troops withdrawal, creating a potential flashpoint in relations between the emerging Asian economic power and the West.

"There is a sense in India that Pakistan is increasingly cocky," said former secretary Lalit Mansingh. "Pakistan has a lot more self-confidence they will have a major role in Afghanistan, and America will be dependent on them to deliver.

New Delhi saw a militant attack on a Kabul guest house that killed six Indians in February as a signal of increased Pakistan assertiveness. It was the third major attack against Indian interests in two years.

Islamabad denies Pakistan-based militants were involved. In a sign of what is often labelled a proxy war between the two over Afghanistan, Pakistan media has accused India of being behind the killing of some Pakistani workers in Kandahar in March.

Pakistan's officials have long accused India over covertly helping Baluch separatists and claims several new Indian consulates in Afghanistan are spy centres.

"India has to be marginalised. India has no role in Afghanistan," said former Pakistan foreign secretary Shamshad Ahmed Khan. "Americans ... also have recognised that Pakistan's role in any future Afghan settlement is crucial.


Both India and Pakistan have for decades sought to secure influence in this Central Asian geopolitical crossroads and President Barack Obama's public, if vague, time-table to start to withdraw military forces has added to an urgency to gain leverage.

With the Taliban in power during the 1990s, India lost sway in Afghanistan. Under Afghan President Hamid Karzai, India used economic clout, some $1.3 billion in aid, to up it presence with new consulates and the construction of power lines and highways.

For New Delhi, it helped guarantee Afghanistan would not become a harbour of militants who could cross over to Kashmir.

But the London conference on Afghanistan in January was a turning point for many in India. It ushered in the idea that Europe and the United States could accept getting certain Taliban commanders involved in a deal to bring stability to Afghanistan.

"There is a genuine sense of disappointment - even disbelief - that the US perspective on reconciling the Taliban evolved all too abruptly, contrary to what Delhi was given to understand," said M.K. Bhadrakumar, a former Indian diplomat who has worked in Islamabad and Kabul.

While a significant number of other Afghanistan watchers say the euphoria over London was overdone, and question especially whether Washington significantly softened its position on reconciliation with the Taliban, Bhadrakumar's view is common in India.

Karzai also hinted he was now focused more on Pakistan.

"India is a close friend of Afghanistan but Pakistan is a brother of Afghanistan. Pakistan is a twin brother," Karzai said after meeting Pakistan Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani in March.

It wasn't always like this. After the 2008 Mumbai attacks, the United States pressurised Islamabad to rein in militants. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was feted in Washington months after Hillary Clinton visited New Delhi in 2009.

Now many Indians criticised what they saw as a tepid response by Washington to what they saw as a clear Pakistani link to the attack on the Kabul guest house.

"It is unfortunate that the Obama administration has forgotten its fine rhetoric about strengthening the forces of democracy in Pakistan," said Bhadrakumar. "The US has reverted to good old-fashioned geopolitics. The US current AfPak approach has begun casting shadows on US-India ties."

It may not all go Pakistan's way.

"Islamabad believes that this stepped-up cooperation will enable it to win long-term concessions from the US, which would give Pakistan a geopolitical balance against India," Eurasia analyst Maria Kuusisto wrote in a report. "The US is likely to adopt a highly cautious approach to these Pakistani requests."


Indian officials believe that while Islamabad is winning the PR war, India has room for manoeuvre -- and the Indian Express reported on Monday that New Delhi may be willing to reach out to some Taliban elements to counter Pakistan.

"Of course Pakistan is better at shouting from the rooftops," said one Indian senior government official. "But we are not on the defensive. They will not get what they want.

But tension with Washington has surfaced, with India mulling legal action to force the United States to grant it access to David Headley, who admitted in a U.S. court this month that he scouted targets for the Mumbai attacks, which killed 166 people.

In a front page story, the Indian Express warned that the U.S. companies could fail in their bids for a $10 billion contract for 126 fighter aircraft -- one of the world's biggest arms contracts -- if aircraft sales went ahead with Pakistan.

Washington has been irked by India's parliament stalling a bill limiting nuclear firms' liability for industrial accidents, delaying entry of U.S. firms into a $150 billion market.

"The worry is caused by a feeling in the policy establishment that the U.S. wants to get out (of Afghanistan) as soon as possible," Brajesh Mishra, India's former National Security Advisor. "Pakistan wants to broker a deal. The worry is that would lead us back to the 1990s.

(Additional reporting by Kamran Haider in Islamabad; Editing by Paul de Bendern and Sanjeev Miglani)

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