Rana Athar Javed
The traditional dichotomy in US national security policy reflects multiple layers of strategic objectives in Afghanistan. The application of cross-border terrorism as a policy instrument can be characterized as the “new” destabilizing factor in South Asia, even though hundreds of thousands of US and NATO soldiers are present to curtail the so-called Taliban insurgency. From the Pakistani perspective, the regular incursions by Afghan troops and Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants have now become the sole reason of further instability in the region. The Cross-border attacks on Pakistani territory from Afghanistan have unjustifiably been killing Pakistani soldiers, and the actions of terrorists are inappropriately connected to domestic security matters of Pakistan, a US national security policy, which needs a serious rethinking and revision. Not only that Pakistan’s territorial integrity is being compromised, but these incursions also terminate the impression that Afghan troops are trained enough to subdue insurgents on its soil. The dubious role of NATO patrolling forces in the area reflects yet another misleading strategy, which casts doubt about stabilizing efforts of allied forces.
The most important problem in this scenario is that it is increasingly becoming risky to identify threats to the US national interests in Afghanistan. The case of sanctuaries of TTP in Afghanistan is such a threat that is the product of manipulative probability of its utility in a future terrorist event in Pakistan. This does not make the threat only “real” for Pakistan, but the terrorist may interpret their “own” interests inside Afghanistan, if the planned terrorist events are failed to succeed in the desired country. For this reason, taking stock of what Pakistan demands should become core-concept in the US national security strategy for Afghanistan. Much of passionate discourse about halting drone attacks is surprisingly converted into an abstract argument of future risks, and hence pre-emptive strikes on Pakistani territory.
The result of this debate has been paradoxical for both the US and Afghanistan, because whereas the US carries out anticipatory and defensive strikes throughout the world, it most certainly does not consider the urgency to use drone against Taliban leadership and warlords in Afghanistan. From this perspective, focusing only on the FATA region is primarily a way of demonstrating that the US is authorized to violate international law and thereby encroaching on the human rights of inhabitants of that region. However, the proliferation of cross-border terrorism might even become dodgier because the frequency with which the drone attacks are in operation, the chances to bring the normalcy to FATA are diminishing. On the other hand, the Pak-US security interests are also attached to neutralizing safe havens and sanctuaries of TTP in Afghanistan, it is therefore important that cross-border infiltration must not become a policy instrument against Pakistan. The assumption that such a policy will enforce political doctrine of proxy states and their intelligence agencies in FATA and Baluchistan is inherently flawed and can fully destroy the ongoing system of security relationship between all parties involved including the US.
The question is that what a scheme of cross-border infiltration from Afghanistan has to do with national security of Afghanistan and the US. Given the emerging nature of war on terror, a fair assessment is that powerful states are aiming to construct cross-border terrorists program as part of the non-state actors (NSAs) battalion, because these groups do not confine their activities to a particular territory or ideology. Hence, instead of classifying them an explicit global orientation, their location is preferred to be determined by the closest border region, so movement of funds and recruitsfrom one location to anotherbecomes an easier task for the sponsors.
Consider a combination of rogue Afghan troops and TTP militants, which arenow best known for creating new assembly line of terrorists and extremists in Pakistan, is increasingly a kind of “brand name”, which infamouslyattacking Pak-military. Their movement fromthe bases in Afghanistan, and thendistributing resources for its networks of individuals in Pakistancan be severely weakened or effectively defeated, if the US grants suffice technological means (e.g. drones) to Pakistan.The dichotomy between a peaceful withdrawal of US and NATO forces and engaging Taliban is giving rise to an impression that the US andNATO seek to hold both grounds, that is, unilaterally accepting the Taliban leadership and reconciling with their authority in major provinces of Afghanistan. Yet there is a tendency to overlook the overall question of creatingsuitable conditions for peace to be accepted by the wider Afghan population. Meanwhile, the individual state sovereignty has been reduced by a renewed collaboration of private armies, mercenaries and non-state actors – with sponsorship scheme from the most resourceful and powerful countries.In short, cross-border attacks could become a tactical advantage to rogue elements in Afghanistan, and thereby justification for a formal endorsement to “controlled” terrorist entities, especially in favor of intervention in areas which are already under drone attacks.
The most important conclusion is that the new phenomenon of cross-border attacks from Afghanistan not only undermines the military authority of the US and NATO forces, but it also feeds off the collapse of state authority in Afghanistan. By not creating a distinction between the national security and the political good of Pakistan, the US will just create a vacuum of capacity and authority in Afghanistan, hence a more volatile South Asia in post-2014.
—The author is a Denmark-based National Security Expert & Defence Analyst.http://www.sananews.net/english/afghanistan-cross-border-terrorism/
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