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Pakistan exploits troubled US effort in Afghanistan


* Afghan officials say Pakistanis are pushing various other proxies, with Kayani personally offering to broker a deal with Taliban
* Pak official says Taliban, including Haqqani group, ready to ‘make a deal’ over al Qaeda
* Analyst says Haqqanis’ willingness aimed at thwarting military action in NWA

Daily Times Monitor

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is exploiting the troubled United States military effort in Afghanistan to drive home a political settlement with Afghanistan that will give Islamabad important influence there but is likely to undermine US interests, Pakistani and American officials said, according to the New York Times.

The dismissal of General Stanley McChrystal will almost certainly embolden the Pakistanis in their plan as they detect increasing American uncertainty, Pakistani officials said. Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani preferred McChrystal to his successor, General David H Petraeus, whom he considers more of a politician than a military strategist, say people who have spoken recently with Kayani.

Pakistan is presenting itself as the new viable partner for Afghanistan to President Hamid Karzai, who has soured on the Americans.

Proxies: In addition, Afghan officials said the Pakistanis were pushing various other proxies, with Kayani personally offering to broker a deal with the Taliban leadership, New York Times reported.

Washington has watched with some nervousness as Kayani and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lieutenant General Ahmad Shuja Pasha shuttle between Islamabad and Kabul, telling Karzai that they agree with his assessment that the US cannot win in Afghanistan, and that a post-war Afghanistan should incorporate the Haqqani network, a long-time Pakistani asset. Despite McChrystal’s 11 visits to Kayani in Islamabad in the past year, the Pakistanis have not been altogether forthcoming on details of the conversations in the last two months, making Islamabad’s moves even more worrisome for the US, said an American official.

“They know this creates a bigger breach between us and Karzai,” the official said.

Although encouraged by Washington, the thaw heightens the risk that the US would find itself cut out of what amounts to a separate peace between the Afghans and Pakistanis, and one that does not necessarily guarantee Washington’s prime objective in the war, denying al Qaeda a haven, New York Times reported.

The network of Sirajuddin Haqqani – an ally of al Qaeda who runs a major part of the insurgency in Afghanistan – has long been Pakistan’s crucial anti-India asset and has remained virtually untouched by Pakistani forces in their redoubt inside Pakistan, in the Tribal Areas on the Afghan border, even as the Americans have pressed Islamabad for an offensive against it.

At a briefing this week at the ISI headquarters, Pakistani analysts laid out a view of the war that dovetailed neatly with the doubts expressed by Karzai. They depicted a stark picture of an American military campaign in Afghanistan “that will not succeed.”

The offer by Pakistan to make the Haqqanis part of the solution in Afghanistan has now been adopted as basic Pakistani policy, said Riffat Hussain, a professor of international relations at Islamabad University, and a confidant of top military generals. “The establishment thinks that without getting Haqqani on board, efforts to stabilise the situation in Afghanistan will be doomed,” Hussain said. “Haqqani has a large fighting force, and by co-opting him into a power-sharing arrangement a lot of bloodshed can be avoided,” he added, according to the New York Times.

The recent trips by Kayani and Pasha to Kabul were an “effort to make this happen,” he said.

As for the Haqqanis, whose fighters stretch across eastern Afghanistan all the way to Kabul, they are prepared to break with al Qaeda, Pakistani intelligence and military officials said.

Deal: The Taliban, including the Haqqani group, are ready to “make a deal” over al Qaeda, a senior Pakistani official close to the Pakistan Army said. The Haqqanis could tell al Qaeda to move elsewhere because it had been given nine years of protection since the 9/11 attack, the official said. But this official acknowledged that the Haqqanis and al Qaeda were too “thick” with each other for a separation to happen. They had provided each other with fighters, money and other resources over a long period of time, the official said.

The Haqqanis may be playing their own game with their hosts, the Pakistanis, Hussain said.

“Many believe that Haqqanis’ willingness to cut its links with al Qaeda is a tactical move which is aimed at thwarting the impending military action by the Pakistan Army in North Waziristan,” he said, according to the New York Times.

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