The new report by the Pentagon reveals that Pakistan is aggressively countering Indian influence in Afghanistan by providing extensive support to the Taliban and the Haqqani terrorist network.
The new report issued by Pentagon on Monday for the January-March quarter pointed out that “Pakistan continues to harbour the Taliban and associated militant groups in Pakistan, such as the Haqqani Network, which maintains the ability to conduct attacks against Afghan interests.”
The report cites the DIA [Defense Intelligence Agency] saying that Pakistan’s strategic objectives in Afghanistan is to counter the Indian influence which allegedly destabilizes some parts of Pakistan.
Pakistan and India in Afghanistan
According to experts, Pakistan has had a key role in the uprising of Taliban in the 1990s when the militant group emerged from ashes to conquer the country with violent means, while India supports the elected Afghan government which raises conflicts between Islamabad and New Delhi.
Just a few days ago, as EurAsian Times reported, a senior Taliban leader had called India’s role as ‘negative’ in the region, while the government of Afghanistan dismissed the comments and recognised India’s significant role in the Afghan peace process.
“India and Pakistan pursue mutually exclusive objectives in Afghanistan and leverage sharply different tools to achieve their respective goals. Pakistan utilizes militant groups, including the Afghan Taliban, as strategic proxies, while India places considerable weight on its soft power influence among Afghans,” believes Zachary Constantino, former strategic adviser to the U.S. commander in Afghanistan.
While Islamabad welcomed the February 29 US-Taliban peace deal, however, the report reveals that “Pakistan encouraged the Afghan Taliban to participate in peace talks, but refrained from applying coercive pressure that would seriously threaten its relationship with the Afghan Taliban to dissuade the group from conducting further violence.”
The peace deal between the US and Taliban that seeks the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan under a Taliban guarantee that Afghan soil will not be used to threaten the security of the US and its allies.
However, experts believe that the situation stands as win-win for Pakistan. Siegfried O. Wolf, director of research at the Brussels-based South Asia Democratic Forum (SADF) told media that “Pakistan obviously hopes that it can benefit from the remarkable re-emergence of the Taliban in Afghanistan.”
The report confirms that “Pakistan likely views strengthened Taliban influence in Afghanistan as establishing its overall purposes and will seek to influence intra-Afghan peace talks in a direction desirable to Pakistan.”
Experts like Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon official claim that “From the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence’s perspective, a strong Afghanistan poses a threat to Pakistan, be it because of the Inter-Services Intelligence’s paranoia with regard to India or because Pashtun nationalists have long challenged Pakistan’s territorial integrity.” Much like the rest of the world, Rubin also believes the Taliban has relied on Pakistani safe haven.
From as early as the 1990s emergence of Taliban to the 2020 US-Taliban pact, experts have alleged the involvement of Islamabad to support the hard-line Islamist regime in Kabul. However, Pakistan has invariably denied the admission to any such allegations.
Meanwhile, in a candid interview, Sartaj Aziz, Pakistani PM’s foreign affairs adviser in 2016 admitted that “we have some influence over them (Taliban) because their leadership is in Pakistan and they get some medical facilities. Their families are here.”