The US is needed to battle terror in Afghanistan
Afghan’s experience shows that Pakistan-based terror groups continue to operate from their safe havens.
“Any man and any nation that seeks peace and hates war, and is willing to fight the good fight […] will find the United States of America by their side, willing to walk with them – walk with them every step of the way.”
More than five decades ago, the 36th president of the US, Lyndon B. Johnson addressed the United Nations General Assembly and reaffirmed the US’ commitment to global peace and stability.
But fast-forward 52 years, and this commitment is exactly what Afghanistan – a country the US has been engaged with militarily for 14 years – is waiting to see fulfilled.
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Now, more than ever before, the absence of a genuine US commitment with Kabul in its “good fight” against terrorism is pushing Afghanistan and the region further into turmoil.
For years, Afghanistan has been crying out for US action against state-sponsored terrorist attacks from Pakistan on its soil.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani recently called upon the military and civilian leadership in Pakistan to have the “same definition of terrorism in regard to Afghanistan”, as it has for itself.
In his recent remarks, Ghani said “The suicide training camps and the bomb making facilities used to target and murder our innocent people still operate, as in the past, in Pakistan.”
Afghan political leadership pointed the finger at Pakistan after a chain of deadly attacks in Kabul on August 8 killed over seventy people and left hundreds injured.
The US state department was quick to rebuff Kabul, stating that Washington did not have “specific intelligence” to conclude whether Pakistan was involved in the deadly attacks on the Afghan side of the border.
Kabul has long been at odds with Washington over its policy vis-a-vis terrorist safe havens and training camps in Pakistan.
After all the blood and treasure the US and its NATO allies spent in Afghanistan, why this US reluctance and unwillingness with regards to dealing with terror sanctuaries and state-sponsored terrorism?
How much longer will Washington gloss over Pakistan’s state-support of terrorism?
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President Ghani has remained a steadfast US ally who authorised the signing of a major bilateral security agreement between Afghanistan and the US right after taking office as president.
But there was one simple message for Washington in his recent remarks – which must not go unnoticed: The US anti-terrorism strategy is not degrading nor destroying terrorist safe havens in Pakistan.
A decade-old Afghan experience shows that Pakistan-based terror groups continue to plan, organise, recruit, indoctrinate, train, raise funds and operate from their safe havens, killing thousands of Afghans and foreign citizens in Afghanistan, including Americans.
Washington’s lack of clarity in its overall policy towards Pakistan, including Islamabad’s political will in denying terrorists safe havens and limiting the Afghan Taliban’s ability to operate freely on its soil, severely damaged Afghan-US relations under the former President Hamid Karzai.
Abetted by Washington after 10 months of sincere cooperation and concessions to Islamabad, the president of the Afghan National Unity Government faces the same impediments to peace as his predecessor.
“Pakistan still remains a venue and ground for gatherings from which mercenaries send us message of war,” Ghani said on August 10, referring to the open meetings held by the Taliban in Pakistan after the announcement of the death of spiritual leader, Mullah Omar.
In Afghanistan, the US' 'good war' is turning into public discord at a fast pace. Washington must avoid the growing perception of the US' double-dealing in regard to Pakistan.
As all Afghan political leaders, from the former to the current president, see eye to eye on Pakistan, the US state department urges both countries to “eliminate safe havens”.
“It is in the urgent interest of both countries to eliminate safe havens and to reduce the operational capacity of the Taliban on both sides of the border,” said its spokesman.
I am dumbfounded by Washington’s statement asking “both countries to eliminate safe havens”.
Until just last year, the US had a very strong military presence and full control over ground and air in every part of Afghanistan.
It should know and answer all the whys and hows of “safe havens” on the Afghan side of the Durand line – if there are any answers.
After more than a decade of injecting cash to Islamabad for its role in the “war on terror”, Washington is still asking it to “eliminate safe havens”.
Since 2001, under the Coalition Support Fund (CSF), Pakistan has received nearly $13bn from the US alone for its “role in combating a Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan”.
Just last month, it received $337m under the CSF as the first tranche for the current fiscal year.
The US is committed to combating “terrorism” and its “safe havens” in its Security and Defence Cooperation Agreement signed with Afghanistan.
What does this pact serve?
Some, including the Afghan national security advisor, may respond by stating that the purpose of the agreement is not “contribute to peace in Afghanistan”.
They will argue that it’s primary goal is to provide more than $12m a day to Afghan security and defence institutions.
I would counter-argue that.
According to the pact, the US intent is to “strengthen security and stability in Afghanistan, contribute to regional peace… combat terrorism, and achieve a region which is no longer a safe haven for al-Qaeda and its affiliates”.
Afghans endorsed the security pact with the US, expecting that it would strengthen security in their country and protect them against an imposed war.
The Afghan people always knew – as it was recently stated by President Ghani – that “the war in Afghanistan is fought for and by others and that the so-called Amirul Momineen [Mullah Omar], who apparently led and commanded the war, might not have even existed.”
In Afghanistan, the US’ “good war” is turning into public discord at a fast pace.
Washington must avoid the growing perception of the US double-dealing in regard to Pakistan.
Terrorists and their harbourers are the common enemies of all mankind, and stopping Pakistan from its state-sponsored terrorism will save innocent lives in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Aimal Faizi is an Afghan journalist and former spokesperson for former Afghan President Hamid Karzai from 2011-2014.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.