Afghanistan Affects US-Pakistan Dance, Signing Agreement With India; US Met With Haqqani Network

The never-ending twists and turns in the relationship between the US and Pakistan continues, with Afghanistan now entering the picture by signing an agreement with Pakistan’s chief rival India.  Also, it is being reported that earlier this summer, Pakistan’s ISI helped to arrange a meeting between US officials and the Haqqani network.  This is a remarkable development since the relationship between the ISI and the Haqqani network has been the central feature of the latest dispute between the US and Pakistan.

While still in New Delhi after signing the agreement with India, Afghan President Hamid Karzai realized he needed to reassure Pakistan, whose biggest fear is that India will have more influence than Pakistan in Afghanistan after the US exit:

“Pakistan is our twin brother, India is a great friend. The agreement we signed with our friend will not affect our brother,” Karzai said in a foreign policy speech in New Delhi.

“This strategic partnership … is not directed against any country … this strategic partnership is to support Afghanistan.”

The Reuters report goes on to characterize the agreement:

Karzai and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sealed an agreement on Tuesday that spanned closer political ties to fighting terrorism and allowed India to help train its police and army.

It signals a formal tightening of links that may spark Pakistani concern that India is increasingly competing for leverage in Afghanistan.

In another very remarkable development, the Wall Street Journal is reporting this morning that earlier this summer, Pakistan’s ISI arranged a meeting between the US and the Haqqani network.  That article is behind a paywall, so here is how Pakistan’s Express Tribune reports on the development:

US officials met with leaders of the Haqqani network in a meeting arranged by the Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) earlier this summer, The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.

The meeting was held “in an effort to draw” the group into talks “on winding down the war.”

The fact that the US would meet with the Haqqani network is stunning, given the strong rhetoric the US has used in accusing the ISI of aiding the Haqqani network attack on the US embassy and ISAF headquarters.  As a result, the story of the meeting seems full of internal inconsistencies:

Officials from Pakistan and the US said the initiative did not yield much. Washington had earlier also said that the group was “beyond reconciliation.”

The report states that the US had come to terms with the fact that targeting the group was not the solution and that they would have be drawn into peace talks.

Given the current rhetoric, it is hard to accept that ” the fact that targeting the group was not the solution” is still the operative belief held by the US.  In fact, there are reports this morning of the US taking out a major leader of the Haqqani network in an airstrike near the Pakistan border in Afghanistan.  Despite the overwhelming evidence that the US position now appears to be one of attacking the Haqqani network until it is decimated, the Express Tribune article carries this quote from a US official describing the decision to meet with the Haqqani network:

We’ve got no illusions about what the Haqqanis ultimately are. The war is going to end with a deal. That’s what we’re trying to make inevitable. The more parties involved in talking, that’s probably going to make for a better deal.

It would be interesting to know whether the summer meeting, followed by the enhanced rhetoric this fall, represents evolution in the consensus of US leaders, where an attempt at negotiation was found to be fruitless or, alternatively, whether there are competing camps within US leadership who continue to hold to advocate opposite approaches favoring violent or peaceful solutions.  Only time will tell.

14 replies
  1. Jim White says:

    Oh my:

    Afghanistan’s intelligence agency said on Wednesday it had thwarted a plot to assassinate President Hamid Karzai after arresting a bodyguard and five people with links to the Haqqani network and al Qaeda.

    The plotters, who included university students and a medical professor, had been trained to launch attacks in the capital Kabul and had recruited one of Karzai’s bodyguards to kill the president, the National Directorate of Security (NDS) said.

    “A dangerous and educated group including teachers and students wanted to assassinate President Hamid Karzai,” spokesman Lutfullah Mashal told a news conference


    This will not go well with the folks who prefer to “bomb them to the table” as PeterW suggests above.

  2. rugger9 says:

    Well, IF the three-way connection described by Karzai can hold, it could be the best chance for peace in the area, because the lines of communication and mediation would be improved. Big IF, however, dependent on just how truthful Karzai is being here. It also depends on the factions in the three countries uniting behind this idea, something I consider remote, given Jim White’s observation.

    Why are we in the middle of the snakepit again, if not the central Asian pipeline so the oil companies don’t have to pay for security?

  3. MadDog says:

    Karzai is just now seeing a connection between his Indian love affair and a Pakistani-supported Haqqani network assassination attempt?

    The Mayor of Kabul only dimly sees the light.

  4. sona says:

    thre seems to be a preoccupation from many posters to treat the entire indian subcontinental region as playing stupid politics, particularly don bacon

    far from it, the recorded history of the subcontinent goes back to at least 6th century bc so US american perceptions founded on little knowledge is not that relevant either now or in the future and have not ever been in the past to date
    i am an aussie but do know the region very very well and its historical legacies and mighty epics and i do know that ‘hindu’ is not necessarily a religious identity but a cultural one that embraces a multiplicity of perceptions that are termed ‘divine’, that which the thinking homo should be encouraged to emulate – how that divinity is perceived is irrelevant in the bigger picture but the abrahamic faith based movements miss that point and create a misogynistic male godhead too insecure to embrace at least 50% of its demographics but assuages its misogyne by erecting make believe pedestals for the dispossessed
    hindus who come from the east of the indus river (that’s where the word comes from as sindh signifies the west of the river) are not immune to that misogyne, nonetheless, hinduism is a culture and not a religion that lets the individual the freedom to imagine an image of divinity that embodies qualities that thinking homos deem important to emulate in their lives – this is not polytheism butr acceptance of diversity and individualism

  5. rugger9 says:

    Not really saying the subcontinent politics are stupid any more than other political areas, what we are noting is the following:

    * India and Pakistan are mortal enemies since the partition, incidentally having fought several wars over Kashmir and also Bangladesh. The religious issue underpins the partition and contributed to the ferocity of feeling on both sides.
    * Within each of the countries there are very powerful factions [something we have here in the USA] that will work against the other factions, sometimes just because they can. Some of these factions and/or tribes will have justifications for doing what they do stretching back a very long time. Some of these factions are also targeting USA/NATO/ISAF troops because we are preventing what thy want to do.
    * There is no real compelling strategic interest for us to be in-country there especially when one considers that it wasn’t important for the USA to eject the Russians from Afghanistan back in the day. However, apparently there is a pipeline that is intended to go through the area, and the oil companies want security for that line they don’t have to pay for. As far as the declared war aims go for Afghanistan, the Taliban is out of power, OBL is fish food in the IO, and there wasn’t anything else. We aren’t doing anything about the status of women there, which was floated briefly by Bu$h as another reason to hang around. There is no reason to be there, and Karzai has said he wants us gone. He should get what he asks for.

    It’s not a religious issue, it’s the waste of soldiers on missions that are useless.

  6. Jeff Kaye says:

    The fact that the US would meet with the Haqqani network is stunning…

    Oh, really. The U.S. has played a double or triple game for as long as I can remember. Consider all the backdoor deals with the Muslim Brotherhood over the decades, for instance. The only aim the U.S. has in what it does is to further the goals of the U.S., and that they would embrace murderers, reactionaries, nationalists, tribespeople, mullahs, labor unions, etc., is not that amazing.

    An interesting book on U.S. and British collaboration with the Islamic right is Robert Dreyfuss’ Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Islamic Fundamentalism. The book is out of print, unfortunately.

  7. sona says:

    agree it’s not a religious issue as you say but a political game to see who can withstand the attrition to be left the last man standing, nonetheless, there are some issues that should inform:
    – afghanistan is not so alien to india – the land that lies to the east of the indus – the epic, mahabharata, has the princess from gandhara (gandhari), present day kandahar, as the mother of one of the warring clans
    mughals of india were uzbeks/timurids from tamerlaine, originally from samarkhand, who made india their home and akbar, the greatest of them, was born of a hindu mother as was shah jehan, the builder of the taj mahal, however, unlike akbar’s mother, shah jehan’s mother, nur jehan, converted to islam – interfaith liaisions and marriages were not that uncommon until the brits established their empire on the strength of driving a wedge that destroyed the din e elahi concept underlying the mughal dynasty since the 12th century and aurangzeb, the one who killed his brothers and imprisoned his father, shah jehan, to claim the throne, played into their hands but by then the mughals were finished
    – india and pakistan need not be ‘mortal enemies’ since pakistan will never and has not yet won in combat but when the entire rationale of a nation state hangs on the hatred of others who do not share your religious tribe, reason becomes irrelevant
    – this didn’t have to happen if the USA didn’t support pakistani military dictator, zia ul haq, to shred the pakistani constitution and establish an overt islamic republic rather than a democratic one because the cold war realities made the USA and pakistan allies against india that professed to be socialist
    now it’s a humongous mess

  8. rugger9 says:

    True enough, and a damn good reason to leave. That’s why I observed [#3] that if Karzai could swing the dialogue it would be a good thing.

    CIA shenanigans are old news, and of dubious worth to the USA, and not just in South Asia.

  9. Don Bacon says:

    The US remains in the Afghanistan quagmire after ten years of failure, and no hope in sight, because that country is key to the US South/Central Asia strategy. Afghanistan is is in a central location for energy transfers, for one thing, from the -stans to energy-hungry Pakistan and India. The US now has a resurrected “Silk Road” strategy to tap into the riches of Central Asia.

    Pakistan and India are enemies but they also have diplomatic relations and they have increasing trade ties. Kashmir is a problem and so is Afghanistan. India had better relations with Afghanistan than Pakistan did for many years, because the Pashtuns are a significant community in Pakistan and are also in Afghanistan, but they are separated by the A/P border, the arbitrary Durand Line drawn by the Brits.

    India gained favor after 9/11 when Karzai was made president after the overthrow of the Pak-created Taliban government. The Taliban had assassinated Karzai’s father in Pakistan, and Karzai had long lived in India and had even obtained an undergraduate degree from Himachal Pradesh University. Consequently, India had much reason to be pleased with his emergence as both the consensus and the U.S.-supported candidate for president of Afghanistan.

    The India influence was noted by General McChrystal in his Aug 30, 2009 assessment. “Indian political and economic influence is increasing in Afghanistan, including significant efforts and financial investment. In addition, the current Afghan government is perceived by Islamabad to be pro-Indian. While Indian activities largely benefit the Afghan people, increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan is likely to exacerbate regional tensions and encourage Pakistani countermeasures in Afghanistan or India.”

    And that’s what has happened. Pakistan’s worries have increased recently as a result of Karzai’s increased weakness as a result of assassinations of people close to him, and Karzai’s respone to cozy up to India. Karzai has not been a US favorite for a long time, and India will still be there after the US leaves.

    What does Pakistan do when its security is threatened by an India client state on its western border? Ex-president Musharraf was recently asked if Pakistan needed the support of the powerful insurgent family led by Jalaluddin Haqqani. He said: “If I was in government I would certainly be thinking how best to defend Pakistan’s interests. Certainly if Afghanistan is being used by India to create an anti-Pakistan Afghanistan, we would like to prevent that.”

    Who can argue?

  10. sona says:

    @Don Bacon: i do
    i question the entire rationale of your argument that pakistan needs to defend its interests through the bogey of a mortal enemy – excuse me, from where i sit, the only mortal threat to pakistan is itself and arguments that make less sense than the white knight talking backwards while the mullahs are off with everybodies’ heads, including their own, not that they had much to preserve in the first place
    in a way, you are one of those who have kept that pakistani fantasia of ignoring reality into a sublime political clusterfucked artpiece that is ultimately self destructing – for pakistan – not for you who will spin and pontificate knowing nothing and caring even less

  11. alansar says:

    There’s too much hulabaloo on the Indian deal with Afghanistan. This is Karzai alienated by America, shunned by Pakthuns listening to N.Alliance elements in his government like Saleh and Abdullah Abdullah. Karzai knows post American Afghanistan will have him on the run so he’s looking for somewhere to run too.

    The deal if looked into is insignificant and the ground reality is stability inside Afghanistan rests with a US – Pakistan agreement with the Pakthuns and all of them including Hekmatyar, Haqqanis and Mullah Omar and also to those aligned to Iran. The Northern Alliance have always been the enemy of a united Afghanistan and are used as a tap to turn on and off. On to incite a civil war based on ethnic war by namely India. If US, Pakistan and even Iran remain committed to a united stable Afghanistan the Northern Alliance and India are insignificant. Reconciliation with the largest ethnic group Pakthuns is the only solution. There are more Pakthuns inside Pakistan than Afghanistan therefore Pakistans role is akin to the linch pin – pivotal. The hidden message was to tell India outside the N.Alliance you have no influence inside Afghanistan sugar coated as meaning so much more to give India a graceful good bye from Central Asia.

  12. alansar says:

    Pakistans economy suffered for the first time to the benefit of India because of this war. Pakistani infrastructure damaged by Indian backed Tereek-e-Taliban which they coin as Pakistani Taliban aided by Blackwater and CIA. 33000 Pakistani dead and 6000 soldiers sacrificed nobody can deny Pakistans cost.

    Haqqanis are an American creation and still in contact with the CIA. The fact the united front against America led by Mullah Omar incorporating Haqqanis and many more do not want to talk to America is another thing altogether. It is said 90% of Afghanistan is under Mullah Omars control and the surge is a failure. Rabbani was not killed by Pakistan nor America and nor the Taliban. Rabbani represented the Northern Alliance and a genuine reconciliation with the Taliban. The Taliban too seek a united Afghanistan seemed to be engaged with Rabbani the likely hood of a united Afghanistan seemed a possibility. Thus the proponents of a divided Afghanistan struck and have derailed this opportunity. Karzai is a face without a voice, no representation shunned by all. He now seeks to suckup to thd proponents of a divided Afghanistan to see if this can give him leverage. Karzais fate is that of Najibullah he has no place and is seen as beyond redemption by all his chameleon like tactics backfire every time. So he may have bought time from the killers of Rabbani but his insignificance remains. There was nothing extraordinary in his meeting with India. Besides these agreements are void when the new government will emerge in 2014. The key is to get Haqqanis on track and Taliban to reconcile with America. The Northern Alliance are a hinderance an unwanted proxy political mercenaries to switch agendas to bring Taliban to the table. Better to so without them and their backers.

  13. sona says:

    yes alansar – you are a good megaphone for pakistani fantasia that always shifts responsibility onto others but never raises the ethical issues involved in pakistani delusions that it can use afghanistan as it pleases

    and as for that gem that pakistani taliban is an indian construct – well, i certainly have your measure to ignore all your pontifications completely to remain sane and rational

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