NATO sees greater Pakistan role for Afghan war

Speaking with journalists in Brussels, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer emphasized the alliance’s relationship with Pakistan—espeically in terms of the mission in Afghanistan under the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Scheffer said NATO contacts with Islamabad were growing “since even before the horrible earthquake in Pakistan and we are discussing what we call Alliance Communication Agreement that Pakistan being in the specific geographical position can facilitate the support for the ISAF mission. NATO has excellent relations with Pakistan; being a seasoned politician myself I know the sensitivities in the region so India is kept fully informed.” (Pakistan Tribune, Nov. 28)

The insurgency in Afghanistan continues. On Nov. 27, an Afghan intelligence official was killed and several government buildings were damaged in a rocket attack by suspected Taliban militants in Sharana, the capital Paktika province. (Pakistan Daily Times, Nov. 28) That same day, an Afghan officer was killed when a police convoy was ambushed by Taliban guerillas in Zabul province. (Xinhua, Nov. 28)

2005 has been one of the worst for violence in Afghanistan since the Taliban were ousted four years ago. Some 1,100 people have died, including more than 50 US military personnel, so far in 2005.

Earlier this month, Afghan President Hamid Karzai went on TV to urge Taliban and other militants to end their insurgency and join a national reconciliation process.

So far, only a handful of middle-ranking Taliban officials have joined the political process. The most senior is Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil, a former Taliban foreign minister who surrendered to US-led forces and is now free after years in US military custody. Muttawakil, along with several other former Taliban figures participated in the televised conference on reconciliation together with cabinet ministers and provincial officials.

Sibghatullah Mojadeddi, who briefly served as president in 1992, said the insurgency along Afghanistan’s southern flank was due to foreign interference—a veiled reference to Pakistan, where many Taliban fighters took refuge after their defeat.

Now head of the Peace Commission, Mojadeddi said he would push for the release of hundreds more Taliban fighters. He said the commission had helped secure the release of some 275 from US custody in Afghanistan and eight others from Guantanamo Bay this year. (Reuters, Nov. 13; Reuters, Nov. 12)

So isn’t this interesting? NATO seeks to use Pakistan as a staging ground to fight the Afghan insurgency, while Afghan political figures see Pakistan as supporting that same insurgency. Who is taking whom for a ride here?

See our last posts on Afghanistan and Pakistan.