Deteriorating Situation Of Afghanistan And The Emerging US-Pakistan Ties

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US Secretary of Defense James Mattis during his visit to Afghanistan

Context

PoliTact’s Chief Analyst Arif Ansar discusses the emerging positions of Pakistan and the US on Afghanistan in a VOA Urdu Program ‘View 360’. Other guests included Marvin Weinbaum of the Middle East Institute, Shuja Nawaz from the Atlantic Council, and Adil Najam from Boston University.

In the aftermath of the January 20th attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, US conducted a drone strike in the Kurram Tribal Agency of Pakistan. US claims the attack targeted commanders linked to the Haqqani Network, while Pakistan stated that the drone strike was aimed at an Afghan refugee camp.

Pakistan went on the add the drone strike validate its claim that there are no safe havens for Afghan Taliban on its territory. However, Haqqani Network can hide or merge with the Afghan refugees, and therefore they need to be repatriated quickly. US was quick to deny this assertion that it struck an Afghan refugee camp in the area.

Strategic Insight

In all likelihood, each time there is a significant attack in Afghanistan, Pakistan will be targeted in some fashion. One of the ways Pakistan will respond is by speeding up the Afghan refugee repatriation, which will inflict a cost on the Afghan government. The Ghani government is usually quick to blame Pakistan for supporting the Afghan Taliban to conduct these attacks in Afghanistan.

This pattern will likely continue when the next attack happens, as the one that took place today in Kabul using a bomb-laden Ambulance. Media reports indicate close to 95 people were killed and 158 wounded. Will the US restrict itself to drone strikes in the tribal areas, and how Pakistan will react, could further escalate tensions.

It remains unclear how this pattern will impact the budding Afghan peace process. Representatives from the Afghan Taliban have recently met with Pakistani, Chinese, and Turkish officials. One could assume that this emerging trend may be to establish an upper hand on any peace talks.

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