Afghanistan - Pakistan Relations
Pakistan trained and equipped the Taliban to fight against US-led international troops in Afghanistan. Pakistan sees itself as grappling with the Moghul legacy and uses the Taliban as a lever to maintain Islamic influence in the region against India.
During the war against the Soviet occupation, Pakistan served as the primary logistical conduit for the Afghan resistance. In 1994, the Taliban attacked and defeated local warlords and acquired a reputation for order and military success. From that point onward, until they seized Kabul in September, 1996, the Taliban fought against several militias and warlords, eventually defeating them all. Pakistan's role in the Taliban success is controversial, as it is generally believed that several Taliban military victories are directly attributable to armed Pakistani intervention. Pakistan initially developed close ties to the Taliban regime, and extended recognition in 1997.
However, after September 11, 2001 Pakistan altered its policy in support of coalition efforts to remove the Taliban. Although frictions and suspicions persist, Afghanistan and Pakistan are engaged in dialogue to resolve bilateral issues such as border security, immigration, and trade. Regular meetings are held at the head of state and ministerial levels through a trilateral dialogue between Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Turkey. The main issue of contention between Afghanistan and Pakistan is the sanctuary Afghan insurgents enjoy in Pakistan’s mountainous border regions.
Long-term relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have been strained by the ongoing separation of the Pashtun tribes and by disagreements on border procedures and smuggling. A United States–sponsored Tripartite Commission is the main arena for discussion of these issues. Major ongoing issues are the continued presence of Taliban and al Qaeda forces in Pakistan’s border provinces and Afghanistan’s willingness to have closer relations with India. In 2008 relations were strained further when President Hamid Karzai implicated Pakistan in an assassination attempt on him and threatened to pursue Taliban forces into Pakistan. In an effort to improve border security, in early 2008 the first of six small U.S.Afghan-Pakistani border security posts was opened on the Afghanistan–Pakistan border.
Pakistan has publicly committed to playing a positive role in a genuine national reconciliation that is Afghan-led and Afghan-owned. However, Pakistan’s selective counterinsurgency operations, passive acceptance - and in some cases, provision - of insurgent safe havens, and unwillingness to interdict material such as IED components, continue to undermine security in Afghanistan. Pervasive mistrust, long-standing tensions, and divergent strategic interests continue to make genuine cooperation difficult. Insurgent efforts - including assassinations of Afghan officials and attacks on Afghan and coalition forces emanating from the safe havens in Pakistan (particularly those sheltering the Haqqani Network and other Taliban affiliates), continue to threaten the emergence of a durable and stable political solution in Afghanistan.
Pakistan continues to seek a stable, secure Afghanistan, an Afghan government with primacy for Pashtuns, and limited Indian influence. To this end, Pakistan allowed an insurgent sanctuary in its border areas to persist, offering a safe haven to Afghan Taliban and associated militant groups including the Haqqani Taliban Network in North Waziristan Agency. Pakistani leaders have tolerated this due to their concerns that Pakistan will be left alone to confront an unstable, an unfriendly, or an Indian-influenced Afghanistan on its borders. Accordingly, Pakistan seeks to play a key role in the peace and reconciliation process to advance a political settlement that considers Pakistani interests.
Both partners have a vital stake in friendly relations: for Afghanistan, Pakistan remains a vital corridor to the Arabian Sea, and for Pakistan, Afghanistan is a vital connection to the hydrocarbon and other resources of Central Asia.
President Karzai went to Pakistan to witness the 09 September 2008 swearing-in of President Zardari, and engaged in talks with Zardari and his senior leadership. Zardari told Karzai he and his government realized Pakistan's success depended on strong regional ties and stressed his commitment to closer relations with Afghanistan. Zardari would be unable to make meaningful progress on security cooperation with Afghanistan unless he secured the support of the Pakistani Army.
The Afghanistan-Pakistan relationship remains tenuous and leaders from each country have accused the other of harboring terrorists and allowing the planning of attacks from their soil. The United States continues to encourage both countries to work together to solve common problems, such as border security, but deep-rooted mistrust remains a significant barrier to progress. The 06 April 2018 completion of negotiations over the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS) marked a slight improvement in relations but was unlikely to change security conditions.
Although Pakistani military operations have disrupted some militant sanctuaries, certain groups — such as the Taliban and the Haqqani Network — retain freedom of movement in Pakistan. The United States continues to convey to all levels of Pakistani leadership the importance of taking action against all terrorist and militant groups.
Increased collaboration between Afghanistan and Pakistan is critical to maintaining pressure on militant and terrorist groups and for meeting the enduring security requirements on both sides of the shared border. The trust deficit resulting from Pakistan’s support of and inaction against Afghan-oriented militants, and Pakistan’s concerns about terrorist attacks launched from Afghanistan, hamper the bilateral military collaboration required to achieve enduring security.
Since the beginning of President Ghani’s tenure, leaders from both countries attempted to improve relations and to address mutual security interests, such as the threat from various terrorist groups that reside in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, more effectively. These efforts have been inconsistent, interrupted by security incidents on both sides of the border, and public statements by each government disparaging the other. Each country publicly claims that the other provides sanctuary to certain militant groups and lacks the will to combat them.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani appointed hard-line opponents of neighboring Pakistan to two top security posts, potentially complicating U.S. efforts to revive peace talks with the Taliban ahead of the withdrawal of 7,000 American troops. Ghani announced 23 December 2018 that Amrullah Saleh will be the next interior minister and Asadullah Khaleed will be defense minister. Both are former intelligence chiefs who have blamed Pakistan for the Taliban's resurgence in recent years.
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