Time to speak openly on Afghanistan – Yasmeen Aftab Ali


By Yasmeen Aftab Ali*

If any political settlement is to be reached reference Afghanistan, it’s time to speak openly especially about issues that are either voiced in hushed tones or ignored altogether. Those advising Trump on this issue need to discuss it with intellectual honesty laying threadbare related and intertwined issues. Without this, a greater mess will be the only outcome.

Lisa Curtis, a senior Think Tank expert (Heritage Foundation) was selected by Trump administration to advice not only on South West Asia Region but also specifically on Pakistan’s relations with the United States and her dealing with Afghanistan and India.

In an article by both Lisa Curtis and Hussain Haqqani; Pakistan’s former Ambassador to US carried by Hudson Institute (February 6th, 2017) they state: “The new Trump Administration must review its policies toward Pakistan in order to more effectively contain, and eventually eliminate, the terrorist threats that continue to emanate from the country….. Unfortunately, Pakistan never changed its policy of supporting certain militant groups that fight Afghan and coalition forces, thus making it impossible for the United States to achieve its objective of keeping Afghanistan from reverting to a safe haven for international terrorism. ….”

John McCain has earlier been quoted in the following words in a leading national English daily newspaper, “If Pakistan does not stop supporting the Haqqani network, the United States should change its ‘behaviour’ towards the Pakistani nation,” visiting to Islamabad from Kabul.

The policy of drone strikes in Pakistan, as being promoted by certain quarters too will back-fire. According to Jo Becker and Scott Shane, “…….Mr Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties that did little to box him in. It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent” (published NYT May 29, 2012).  To jog memories; damning evidence against the intelligence gathering, targeting the militants in Pakistan via drone was brought to light in March 2011 when 40 people were killed in a drone attack attending a tribal meeting in North Waziristan, mostly civilians. The intelligence gathering on potential targets is obviously faulty.

A consensus has been built up in carefully and craftily in Washington that Pakistan is part of the problem not the solution. The unsavoury truth is, it is Washington’s misguided policies that have been the problem. Unless and until this is acknowledged and then sensible policies developed, the situation in Afghanistan will just become worse.

First who is supporting TTP/Daesh/Jamaatul Ahrar and similar outfits to destabilise Pakistan? A video confessional statement released by Liaqat Ali alias Ehsanullah Ehsan, a former spokesperson of the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA) and Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed that “TTP and JuA have been coordinating with Indian and Afghan security agencies to move freely in Afghanistan and have been guided by the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), India’s apex spy agency, in infiltrating into Pakistan.”

Garikai Chengu, a research scholar in Harvard writes, “Much like Al Qaeda, the Islamic State (ISIS) is made-in-the-USA, an instrument of terror designed to divide and conquer the oil-rich Middle East and to counter Iran’s growing influence in the region. Robin Cook told the House of Commons that Al Qaeda was unquestionably a product of Western intelligence agencies. Mr. Cook explained that Al Qaeda, which literally means an abbreviation of “the database” in Arabic, was originally the computer database of the thousands of Islamist extremists, who were trained by the CIA and funded by the Saudis, in order to defeat the Russians in Afghanistan.”  (Global Research, September 19, 2014)

Hillary Clinton alone from among the top American leadership had the guts to admit on record that Al-Qaeda is an organization US funded. That US has a history of going in and out of Pakistan. Then leaving Pakistan with a host of related problems upon their exit.

Second there is no denying that there is a proxy war between Pakistan and India. When US decided to give greater space to India in Afghanistan- it upped the ante of the powerful Pakistan military. The core issue here is Kashmir. ‘The Pakistan government finds it difficult to take a firm action against these militant groups when India-Pakistan relations are marked by high-level hostility and India is publicly demanding action against these groups. Improved India-Pakistan relations and resolution of major disputes, including Kashmir, will make these militant groups irrelevant and increase the Pakistani government’s ability to curb them.’ (Council on Foreign Relations July 13, 2009) Yet US has steered clear of trying to bring any kind of understanding between the arch rivals on this issue. Instead it has chosen to threaten Pakistan at different levels. Cutting off military reimbursements is one step; threat to take away the title of a “major non-NATO ally” status is another.

Third, with China looming big in Pakistan’s economy and Russia flexing her muscles and ready to befriend Pakistan, these steps by US will not work. There is no incentive for Pakistan to come to heel at the crack of the American whip. Especially in light of consistently ignoring Pakistan’s valid concerns of India’s involvement in Afghanistan. The repeated attitude of treating Pakistan as a ‘lesser ally’ is rankling.

Fourth, Pakistan’s setting up barbed wire on the 2,400 miles of Pak-Afghan border along with mining and manning combination is an effort to curb easy ingress into her borders by sponsored terrorists. Pakistan needs space to enforce its writ. Pakistan needs economic and political stability. For this reason Pakistan has reached out to Russia and China. It is reaching out also to Iran.

USA needs to take into account all these factors when thinking of an Afghan strategy if it wants to stabilise Afghanistan. Peace without Iran and Pakistan is not possible. India will never replace Pakistan in creating a stable Afghanistan.

*The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ She can be contacted at: and tweets at @yasmeen_9






  1. Spot on. True analysis of environment.
    No point sticking your head in the sand. .
    Tansferring all blame on to Pakistan might assuage public opinion in US but that won’t help stabilising Afghanistsn.

  2. There is a principle in Management called “Kiss”.. Yasmeen you have communicated to USA using it knowingly or unknowingly…
    Undeniable Facts cited in your article also put dust on the intellectuals who are misleading US policy in the region. If not corrected will eventually result in diminished role/influence of USA. That might only be filled in by further destabilization of Afghanistan..
    Having said that.. @Yasmeen is not it too late for USA to change its policy towards Pakistan(Although its never late to mend fences in international relations/politics)? Why? Because choices have been made in wake of geoeconomic; geosecurity and geopolitical interests..
    Even if USA shows little flexibility in its policy.. Pakistan will have very little to reciprocate it..
    Ultimate looser because of myopic vision of Advisors might be The Supper power.
    Another well researched article based on facts and ground realities.
    *BTW “KISS” stands for “Keep It Simple Stupid”

  3. Brilliant article and you summed it up perfectly in your last sentence
    India will never replace Pakistan in creating a stable Afghanistan.

  4. YAA Brilliant, You have emerged as one sane voice on ground realities of the Afghan imbroglio.
    As long as the UN maintains pressure on Pakistan not to push back Afghan refugees, Taliban and Haqqani network will continue to get recruits and maintain their families in Pakistan. Obviously when the families are here as registered refugees their male fighting age members will keep crisscrossing. It’s an impossibility for Pakistan to keep them away
    I think when US invaded Afghanistan in 2001, their policy planners were looking far ahead. My analysis is that they thought with their military strength and International backing they will decimate the Al Qaeda and Taliban in a matter of days and than eat the strategic cake or placement ever after. Afghanistan has a Geostrategic centrality and for any major power to articulate its strength in CARs, ME, Sub Continent, Iran and China Russia border regions, control over Afghanistan is vital. Afghanistan sits on the energy corridors and the shortest logistic routes. Now the situation is very different from what was planned. Taliban have turned out to be much more than a push over, US does not have the kind of control it desired. Getting out would be a final acceptance of defeat. Afghanistan is a hostile Iran’s backdoor and US cannot afford to exit at this stage. Also drugs business is another US compulsion to maintain presence.

  5. American strategy towards Afghanistan has changed in the past few years. US doesn’t want peace in Afghanistan anymore to justify its presence there. The strategy to keep US forces in Afghanistan is to contain Chinese and Russian influence in the region.

  6. You have said in the first part that fortunately Pakistan supports militants fighting Afghan, coalition and American troops in Afghanistan. How have you arrived at this conclusion and what is the source of such I formation.

  7. A well researched and well articulated writeup.
    Fight against terror in Afpak region has to be closely coordinated between Pakistan, Afghanistan and USA. Current situation is actually promoting more terrorism by every stakeholder promoting and supporting its own proxy.
    I also think that US is not interested to resolve this issue and wants to keep the region burning, look at the advantages that it draws? Same is the case with India. We should brace for a long haul.

  8. Excellent piece.Objective of Indian lobby in DC is clear obviously. To convince American policy makers to punish and weaken Pakistan while strengthening India and assigning more and more to India. Anyway Yasmeen Bibi has touched all points. Very nice piece in the ongoing debate. For me gaining more control on our borders and on our territories within is a big deal. Rest Afghans will take care of themselves and our Indian neighbours

  9. : @⁨Yasmeen Ali⁩ you are 100% right. For peace in Afghanistan it is very necessary to have Pakistan and Iran on board.
    Indian involvement at the cost of Pakistan is and can never be acceptable. US and all those wishing this should note it down.
    But Pakistan should also try to have and follow a balanced approach in Afghanistan. Instead of backing up a particular group or mindset we should make ourselves acceptable to all. Hostility of the Northern Alliance should be done away with by addressing their concerns.

  10. It is a thoroughly searched article about present position in Afghanistan. Pakistan has done everything nice for Afghan people and government since Russian invasion in 1979. Unfortunately Americans have always coaxed
    Pakistan to do more but never accepted our sacrifices. We sheltered countless Afghan refuges. A large number
    of Pakistani civilians and military personnel’s lost their lives. Now times has come how to come out of this
    from this unending war.

  11. a-m malik
    10:23 AM (3 hours ago)

    A well written and a thought provoking article. However it is not stabilization that US desires in Afghanistan but destabilization. This would continue to justify her stay in this strategic region to be in the backyard of Russia,CAS China Iran and even India for some foreseeable future.

    She does not want to exit any sooner. But would continue to play a blame game to hide her true intentions and what better than point finger at Pakistan and even at Iran. With pliant and corrupt deal makers like AAZ and MNS the going treachery becomes much easier. Of late Senator Dan and Khan of Kalat met Altaf Hussain in London and discussed thread bare with their action plan with Pakistan’s map in front. AH was only too happy to consider himself of any relevance.

    Presently it is but necessary that we take the case to the Gen Assembly for the word to know what is cooking and we must use the world fora extensively. And why are we not cementing up with Russia – a much reliable country to be friendly with. We cannot stay in slumber. The proxies of AH and khan kalat be caught and hung without undue litigation. We have to extremely vibrant on our diplomatic front and cannot overlook this vital area – presently being ignored sans any Foreign minister

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