In the latest attempt to push Haqqani network to impasse, NATO forces said Saturday that they had captured a senior Haqqani network member in Afghanistan. US forces have recently embarked on some harsh measures against the brutal group led by Sirajuddin Haqqani. The group's aggressive attacks have triggered tensions between the US and her ally Pakistan. Mounting pressures are put on Pakistan over the country's intelligence service's alleged ties to the most violent militant group fighting against NATO and Afghan forces in Afghanistan.
Following US's outgoing Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen's blunt criticism against Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Agency, US president, Barack Obama, said Friday that Pakistan must "take care" of the extremist Haqqani network.
Obama said, "We are going to keep on pressing them to recognize it is in their interests, not just ours, to make sure extremists are not operating within their borders". In the meantime, the US sent a senior diplomat, Marc Grossman, US special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, to secure Pakistan's support against the Haqqani insurgent network and to persuade Afghanistan to continue three-way talks with the US and Pakistan on counterterrorism and economic development.
As demonstrated in their public speeches, US and Pakistani officials believe that US's relation with Pakistan has not been so bad for the last 20 years. Military occupation of Afghanistan by former Soviet Union helped strengthening ties between the United State and Pakistan's strong army intelligence.
They launched the hard joint campaign against Soviet Union's presence in Afghanistan. Since then, Pakistan's ISI has been in close relation with US's security agencies and thus has received huge military and economic aids.
Pakistan experts maintain that bulk of aids have been spent on reinforcing Pakistan's intelligence power and in fight against the country's archrival, India. ISI's role in Afghanistan is easy to understand in light of above facts. The Haqqani network is considered one of the most dangerous factions of the Afghan Taliban.
Following 2001 US presence in Afghanistan, the US has counted on Pakistan's cooperation in fight against terrorism and extremism. However, the course of relations between the two countries has witnessed great vicissitudes. According to many politician and military experts, the current level of trust and cooperation between the two countries remain at the lowest ebb.
Soon after the blowing statements by Adm. Mike Mullen before the senate, US congressmen called for revision of ties with Pakistan and US's aid to that country. However, Islamabad denied links with Bin Laden and his terror network. But, today the question is over Pakistani ISI links with the Haqqani militant network.
The group has launched a series of lethal operations against Afghan and American forces and institutions since the very first days of US forces presence here in late 2001. It is known as the most violent armed group fighting against Afghan government and its international allies. Recent terrorist attacks in Kabul, US officials say, left traces of attackers' link with Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency.
In view of that, Obama administration officials have stressed the need to put pressure on Pakistan for cutting ties with the militant group. It has seriously asked its Pakistani ally to take sufficient and immediate action against Haqqani militants using FATA safe havens in Pakistan. However, Pakistani army resists rebuffing allegations. They say Pakistani forces' death toll in fight against militants in the tribal areas demonstrates the country's commitment to peace and instability in the region.
At a special meeting of top military commanders chaired by Pakistan's Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani last weekend, the Pakistani military rejected the US's allegations and vowed to resist Washington's demands for an offensive in North Waziristan. "We have already conveyed to the US that Pakistan cannot go beyond what it has already done," an official told the Express Tribune on condition of anonymity.
While Pakistan's military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas acknowledged the military-intelligence apparatus's contact with the Haqqani network, he denied that Pakistan was supporting the militants. "Any intelligence agency would like to maintain contact with whatever opposition group, whatever terrorist organization … for some positive outcome," Abbas told CNN.
In the meantime, an All Party Conference (APC) was convened by Pakistan's Prime Minister, in spate of US-Pak simmering ties over Haqqani network and a number of other issues, in the capital city of Islamabad.
The APC came up on Friday with a unanimous declaration to hold talks with all militants groups, especially those working under the umbrella Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to pursue a paradigm shift in the security's policy. However, certain Pakistani politicians disagreed the common view of innocence.
The challenge came from Nawaz Sharif, the chief of Pakistan Muslim League-N, a staunch opponent of army's role in politics, and Mahmud Khan Achakzai, leader of Pakhunkhwa Milli Awami Party. Achakzai took on the ISI chief by thinking aloud and saying that if the ISI chief wanted, there would be peace in Afghanistan within a month.
Likewise, Afghan security officials have increasingly put pressure on Pakistan to stop interferences and help the peace building process in Afghanistan. With respect to the criticism and accusations, Pakistani government has responded with counteraccusations. Because of high level of distrust between the United State and its Pakistani ally, the process in Afghanistan has faced severe setbacks.
Insecurity has extremely deteriorated and the hope for a sustainable peace is fading quickly. Probing murder of Chief of Afghan High Peace Council, Afghan government has pointed at some elements inside Pakistan for murdering Burhanuddin Rabbani.
President Hamid Karzai has claimed individuals from Quetta were behind the killing and that a fact-finding delegation will travel to Pakistan soon to investigate the case. On Saturday, they said they had submitted evidences to the Pakistani government showing that Rabbani's assassination was planned in Pakistan. However, Pakistan denied it has received any evidence on the case.
Clearly, Pakistan can play a highly substantial role in dealing with Taliban, defeating militant groups 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. 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.
The problem gets serious as divergences arise when the US-led NATO forces are preparing to leave Afghanistan and handover security job to Afghan government by 2014. As seen clearly, the US and Afghan government acknowledges that Pakistan's function in fighting terrorism remains substantial.
Despite criticism and shortfalls, the US needs Pakistan's companionship to push forward the lagging process of peace building in Afghanistan. And president Karzai's government has also sought Pakistan's help over reconciliation process. To help the mission get accomplished successfully, to save Afghan and Pakistani nations and to secure the world, Pakistan requires taking more practical steps to uproot militancy there.