Amid growing optimism regarding the revival of stalled Afghan peace talks with the mediation of Pakistan, former US diplomats have said it would be unlikely for the Pakistani military to close down the Taliban and Haqqani network operations and imprison Afghan militant leaders willing to pursue violence.
“Pakistani military has never been willing to take the very steps most likely to advance the process, which are to close down Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network operations in Pakistan and imprison any of their leaders not actively negotiating peace with the government in Kabul,” Zalmay Khalilzad, a former American ambassador to Afghanistan and U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations, said in a joint Op-Ed written with former diplomat James Dobins.
The Op-Ed in Newsweek weekly magazine further added “Why does the Pakistani military want to maintain cooperative relations with the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network? This policy likely stems from some combination of opportunism and fear. It sees the Taliban/Haqqani as surrogate forces that could protect and advance Pakistani interests in Afghanistan, while combating Indian influence.”
“But Pakistani authorities also fear that if they put too much pressure on the Afghan Taliban, it might join forces with the Pakistani Taliban in the latter’s effort to overthrow the Pakistani government and introduce a radical Islamist regime,” the two diplomats added.
The Op-Ed has been published as efforts underway to draw a road map for the Afghan reconciliation process with the representatives of the United States, China, Afghanistan and Pakistan to meet in Islamabad on Monday.
The two diplomats argued that US and Afghanistan should focus less on fostering talks and more on persuading Pakistan to take action against those engaged in terrorism and violence.
“While opening peace talks could be a positive step, it will only yield fruit if Pakistani authorities also begin to close down Afghan Taliban military operations,” they asserted.
Pakistan hosted the first round of direct peace talks between the Afghan government and Taliban group earlier in July last year.
The Afghan officials were expecting to sit-in for the second round of peace talks with the Taliban group representatives in Pakistan at the end of the same month.
However, the process was delayed with the sudden disclosure of the Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar’s death shortly before the second round of talks.
Mullah Omar’s death confirmation led to widening rift among the Taliban leadership which resulted to suspension of peace talks.
A series of deadly attacks also rocked capital Kabul earlier which left scores of people dead or wounded and resulted into deteriorating relations between Kabul and Islamabad.
Frustrated with the rampant Taliban-led insurgency using their safe havens outside the country, the Presidential Palace in Afghanistan released a statement earlier in September last year, slamming Pakistani officials for rejecting the Afghan insurgent groups have safe havens in Pakistan.
“The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan believes that one of the major differences between Afghanistan and Pakistan is regarding the presence of terrorist groups, specifically the Haqqani Network in Pakistani soil,” the statement said, adding that “The recent remarks by Pakistan’s National Security Advisor Sartaj Aziz, suggesting that the Haqqani Network has been decomposed following military operations, are repeated claims by Pakistani officials during the past one decade,” the statement said.
The Palace insisted that documents and evidences shows that the network’s leadership, commander and control, supportive infrastructure and sanctuaries are still operational in Pakistan.
The statement further added that the government of Afghanistan has repeatedly handed over evidences regarding the Haqqani Network operations in Pakistan and has urged the Pakistani government to take action.