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In an exceptionally disastrous fashion, Kabul has experienced 12 consecutive days of terrorist attacks, resulting in the deaths of many innocent civilians - foreign and Afghan.

For most Afghans - and perhaps for President Ashraf Ghani as well - the recent spike in Taliban attacks comes as a surprise following his official visit to Pakistan last month, where he took an unprecedented step by directly reaching out to Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff, General Raheel Sharif, to help stem the insurgency and help push for a peace deal.

Ghani may have believed that by not espousing the past and ignoring the historic realities clouding contemporary relations between the two countries, he would get a promise of peace from Rawalpindi. Cynics hoped this would reduce the level of

In an exceptionally disastrous fashion, Kabul has experienced 12 consecutive days of terrorist attacks, resulting in the deaths of many innocent civilians - foreign and Afghan.

For most Afghans - and perhaps for President Ashraf Ghani as well - the recent spike in Taliban attacks comes as a surprise following his official visit to Pakistan last month, where he took an unprecedented step by directly reaching out to Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif to help stem the insurgency and help push for a peace deal.

Ghani may have believed that by not espousing the past and ignoring the historic realities clouding contemporary relations between the two countries, he would get a promise of peace from Rawalpindi - the military headquarters of Pakistan's armed forces. Even cynics hoped this would reduce the level of violence, and open up the way for a strategic relationship and partnership between the two countries.

But this time, the Taliban were quick to freeze hopes for our side. In a quest to demonstrate their presence on Afghanistan's strategic landscape, they launched an unprecedented winter offensive by indiscriminately targeting foreigners and Afghans alike.

Winter offensive

Ghani's hope that his trip to Pakistan would put a stop to a Taliban summer offensive in 2015 is fast evaporating, unless the Afghan political class reaches a consensus soon on a realistic strategy to push the negotiations agenda forward with necessary measures from key international stakeholders to facilitate sincere cooperation in the region.

Deadly attack on Kabul guesthouse ends

For now, the primary aim of the terror campaign in Kabul and other regions are to force out foreign civilians, shatter the sense of optimism, scare investment away, and remind both Afghans and their allies that the Taliban are creeping at the gates, not about to just fade away through niceties with Pakistan's decision-makers.

The attacks which targeted a volleyball match in Paktika (and left more than 80 young men dead), a British embassy vehicle in a crowded Kabul city street, a female member of parliament, a mosque, an army base, a funeral, security posts along key highways, and a guesthouse where a South African family were gunned down this week, show the hand of a sophisticated network at work.

The attacks also demonstrate training and expertise in casing, targeting, logistics and communications. These skills are usually not taught in religious madrassas. My experience tells me that invisible hands within our neighbouring intelligence circle are helping with the planning.

For the first time, in some of these attacks, advanced explosives have been used - a rare commodity only available to the military and intelligence services. The terrorists also seem to have learned from past mistakes, and studied the capabilities of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and their US/NATO mentors.

Unlike most previous attacks, the suicide bombers and ambushers leave little or no evidence at the crime scene, depriving our forensics teams of material that can help us trace them and disrupt plans in motion.

Most successful counterterror attacks by the ANSF end up in the neutralisation of local cells, leaving the sanctuaries and master networks intact across the Durand Line.

The inability on the part of the Afghan government, and the lack of political will on the side of US and NATO to take the anti-terror war into sanctuaries that operate deep inside urban and rural areas, have not only caused massive frustration and disappointment for counterterror practitioners, but also for the Afghan and Pakistani populations at large.

For the first time, in some of these attacks, advanced explosives have been used - a rare commodity only available to the military and intelligence services. The terrorists also seem to have learned from past mistakes, and studied the capabilities of the Afghan National Security Forces and their US/NATO mentors.

Soft targets

Tactically, the Taliban are instructed to avoid frontal attacks, concentrate on soft targets, bog down enemy forces through violence and hit-and-run assaults. Thus, they aim to increase the cost of war and security for an impoverished nation, and create fatigue at the international level.

These conventional tactics have emboldened the Taliban's support networks in our region, giving them hope that time is on their side. Perhaps reconciliation on their terms is what they aspire to as a political solution at the end.

Pakistan's intermittent and selective cooperation with the West based on their convenient definition of terrorism is the core reason for the un-attainability of strategic victory over terror, and an end to militant violence in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The West has invested significantly and generously in Afghanistan. The build-up of ANSF - a force to be reckoned with, but still fragile on the edges - the rise of a middle class and spread of education and freedom of expression, have politically defeated the Taliban, yet the agenda is set by terror networks that have yet to be defeated militarily.

The key question these days is why Pakistan may want Ghani to fail in his novel Pakistan policy, seen by most Afghans as conciliatory?

Has Pakistan's army lost control of the Taliban? Does Pakistan want to gain more concessions from the West and from Afghans by forcing Afghanistan into an unequal treaty limiting its foreign relations and defence posture? Is there an x-factor that needs to be unpuzzled?

Days after Ghani's visit to Pakistan, Sartaj Aziz, national security adviser to Pakistan's prime minister, referred to the Afghan Taliban as friends of his country from the 1990s who posed no security threat to Pakistan and thus merited no military crackdown by the Pakistan army. Mulana Fazel Rehman, the leader of the Pakistani Jamiate Ulema Islam party, seen as the godfather of the Taliban, went further by branding the violence in Afghanistan as a legitimate anti-foreigner struggle. In response, an emboldened Taliban unleashed a bloody winter offensive.

As a result, the Afghan public belief has been reinforced that Pakistan will not give up on its proxy war, nor cease to facilitate the activity of the Taliban and other terror groups at this stage. In other words, Pakistan is not ready to respect an Afghanistan asking for a relationship on equal terms.

The strategic aim of Pakistan has hardly changed since the 1970s. It remains focused on creating a strategic framework for legitimising the unequal relationship between the two countries. Pakistan believes that it has no, or very little, influence in the current political and military setup in Afghanistan.

But Afghanistan is a changed country. Both houses of the Afghan Assembly ratified the signing of the strategic partnership and bilateral security agreements with the US and NATO.

Tactically, the Taliban are instructed to avoid frontal attacks, concentrate on soft targets, bog down enemy forces through violence and hit-and-run assaults. Thus, they aim to increase the cost of war and security for an impoverished nation, and create fatigue at the international level.

Afghanistan's military alliance with the West is solid and popular. Similarly, Afghanistan has signed strategic partnership agreements with India, Turkey, European nations and Iran. The ANSF enjoys public support.

These facts are ignored or taken lightly by Pakistani decision-makers and their proxies. It is best for Pakistan to reciprocate the goodwill shown by the Ghani government (including Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah) by restraining the Taliban and ending the violence that affects both countries.

Policy of accommodation

There is political will and determination in the current Afghan unity government to pursue a policy of accommodation with Pakistan. Afghanistan has already placed all its cards on the table. In his address to the Pakistani business community in Islamabad last month, Ghani outlined four key areas for cooperation between the two countries, namely security, investment, trade and access to Central Asia.

This must be music to the ears of the deep-state in Pakistan, not drumbeats of war. Transforming Pakistan and Afghanistan into an energy hub, and making it possible for the TAPI pipeline to go live, will not be realised with more terror attacks.

Despite being Afghanistan's closest neighbour, and enjoying mass people-to-people contacts, the strategist community in Islamabad and Rawalpindi do not realise that framing us as a part of a sphere of influence policy is no longer a viable option, as Afghan resilience cannot be broken by pressure.

The Afghan psyche is set. It is time to say goodbye to the Cold War mentality, a policy of domination and big brother posturing. Any unequal treaty or imbalanced relationship forced upon this country through exploitation of our landlocked status and poverty will backfire. Afghanistan cannot be subdued.

Instead, it is time to shape a new paradigm. It is time to look forward and adopt new thinking and overcome strategic constipation. Afghans are ready, as demonstrated by the overtures of our new unity government, to say no to violence, extremism and backwardness. Is Pakistan ready?

Amrullah Saleh is a former Chief of Afghanistan's National Intelligence Service (NDS). He is currently the leader of the Afghanistan Green Trend party.

Source: Al Jazeera