Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Tuesday, July 17th, 2018

Quarrels Over the Militant Network

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Quarrels Over the  Militant Network

Indications that have appeared so far clearly suggest that the government-proposed peace talks have been travestied by Taliban. In different stages, they have intensified war and have vowed to continue war against afghan government and its international backing allies. Struggling to keep the unwanted peace offer alive, the government of Afghanistan and some of its backing allies have pushed to define dissident groups and launch the lagging discussions.

Taliban have attracted the major parts of efforts and have received bulk of advantages in return for coming to negotiation table. However, there have been some other groups rejecting to lay down arms. Haqqani group has proved the most stubborn one.

In a series of attempts beginning from last year, reports indicated that some representatives from president Karzai administration and the High Peace Council, Pakistan's military intelligence service, and Pakistan's army chief all had met with the al-Qaida-linked leader of the Haqqani Network, one of the most dangerous terror groups operating in the country. In the first move, they were reported to have met with Sirajuddin Haqqani to negotiate an end to the insurgency. However, later on, a spokesman for Karzai denied the reported meeting.

It is often said that the three major factions of the Afghan insurgency — the Quetta Shura Taliban, led by Mullah Mohammed Omar; the Haqqani Network; and Hezb-i-Islami, led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar — are all based inside Pakistan and have close links to Pakistan's intelligence service.

Pakistan claims it can rein in the Taliban factions and cajole them into renouncing al-Qaida. Intelligence says that Haqqani Network has extensive links with al-Qaida and the Taliban, and its relationship with Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency has allowed the network to survive and thrive in its fortress stronghold of North Waziristan.

The Haqqanis control large swaths of the tribal area and run a parallel administration with courts, recruiting centers, tax offices and security forces. They have established multiple training camps and safe houses used by al-Qaida leaders and operatives, as well as by Taliban foot soldiers preparing to fight in Afghanistan.

The Haqqani network, led by Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son, Sirajuddin, is one of the three main factions of the Afghan Taliban, which operates on both sides of Pakistan's border with Afghanistan. The group is blamed for several daring attacks on coalition and Afghan forces, including recent attacks in Kabul, and is allied with both Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda.

Named after its leader Jalaluddin Haqqani, the Haqqani Network is a group within the insurgency in Afghanistan that is based out of North Wazirstan in the Pakistani Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Washington calls the tribal belt on Pakistan's western border the global headquarters of the Al-Qaeda terror network and the most dangerous place on Earth.

The group has been active mainly in the east of Afghanistan—in Paktia, Paktika, Khost, Ghazni, Wardak and even Kabul provinces. U.S. military officials say the Haqqanis were behind most of attacks in eastern Afghanistan in recent years.

Following the shocking offensive attacks in Kabul on Tuesday, Afghanistan minister of interior and NATO officials linked the incident to certain backing sources in Pakistan. Afghan and U.S. officials suspect militants from the Haqqani network were behind Tuesday's rocket attack on the U.S. Embassy compound in Kabul, as well as a truck bomb last Saturday that wounded 77 American forces.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned Pakistan on Wednesday that the United States would "do everything we can" to defend U.S. forces from Pakistan-based militants staging attacks in Afghanistan. "Time and again we've urged the Pakistanis to exercise their influence over these kinds of attacks from the Haqqanis. And we have made very little progress in that area," Panetta said. He added, "I think the message they (the Pakistanis) need to know is: we're going to do everything we can to defend our forces."

Responding to Panetta's statement, Pakistani officials on Thursday fended off the warning, saying there was no proof of such cross-border operations. The comments could fuel tensions between uneasy allies the United States and Pakistan. Relations dropped to a low point after a unilateral U.S. Special Forces raid that killed Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani town in May.

Pakistani officials said it was the responsibility of U.S.-led forces to crack down on militants when they enter Afghanistan. Panetta, who was CIA director until July, has long pressed Islamabad to go after the Haqqanis, perhaps the most feared of the Taliban-allied insurgent factions fighting U.S.-led NATO and Afghan troops in Afghanistan.

Pakistan's Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence has long been suspected of maintaining ties with the Haqqani network, cultivated during the 1980's when Jalaluddin Haqqani was a feared battlefield commander against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Pakistan says it has no links to the group. Panetta said he was concerned about the Haqqanis' ability to attack American troops and then "escape back into what is a safe haven in Pakistan."

Likewise, Pakistani Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that the U.S. warning on militants based in Pakistan, blamed by Washington for this week's attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, works against counter-terrorism cooperation between the two allies. "We believe these remarks are not in line with the cooperation that exists between the two countries," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tehmina Janjua told reporters.

Clearly, Pakistan can play a highly substantial role in dealing with Taliban, defeating them or letting them grow further. But there have been criticisms on the way it cooperates with Afghanistan and the international community to end insurgency.

At the same time as asking Pakistan for help to push forward the peace bids, Afghan government has frequently accused agencies inside Pakistan of helping terrorists. Officials in NATO forces have backed such claims and certain research organizations and analysts have warned over longer violence in Afghanistan – and perhaps failure of NATO mission here – if terrorism hotbed is not uprooted in Pakistan and government supports are not stopped for militants there.

On the other hand, however, Pakistan herself remains a poor victim of terrorism. Militants have imposed great costs over the country for their uncontrolled presence in the tribal belt and the increasing violent acts across Pakistan.

It says it is genuinely cooperating with the Afghan government and the international community to put an end to terrorism. For that, it has mediated a series of talks with some insurgent leaders. Based on recent efforts, Afghanistan and Pakistan expresses hoped to shortly get the process on track.

Following Mullah Omar's statement on possibility of talks with Afghan government, on Saturday Reuters quoted Haqqani group's leader, Sirajuddin Haqqani, as saying the network would follow Taliban if they embraced peace talks with Afghan government.

"The Haqqani network, one of the most feared insurgent groups in Afghanistan, would take part in peace talks with the Kabul government and the United States only if the Taliban did," the Agency wrote. Yet, many Afghans and political pundits see the perspective as gloomy as ever before.

They say the armed militants, including Taliban, Haqqani network and Hizbi Islami, were over and over again invited to join the peace process and have been offered appealing incentives but they persistently undermine it by their fierce attacks. Therefore, the government needs to make out the reality that reconciliation process may not necessarily lead to a peaceful future; all options should be put on the table to avoid further slip-ups.

Nasruddin Memati is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook fghanistan. He can be reached at outlookafghanistan@gmail.com

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