Posts Tagged ‘NDS’

The article was originally published in the Swarajya magazine here on 21 August 2015. 

In the wake of the recent gruesome attacks in Afghanistan – many allegedly traced back to Pakistan, the question many in the Afghan government and civil society are asking is, has President Ghani’s outreach to Islamabad failed? And if it has, what is the alternative now – especially in dealing with the Taliban?

The recent wave of attacks in Kabul saw at least 65 people killed and hundreds severely injured. The attacks began, on August 7, with a suicide bomber detonating explosives outside the National Police Academy killing at least 27 students. Then, a truck laden with explosives blew up killing 15 people and injuring 240 in Shah Shaheed area of Kabul following which an assault on Camp Integrity, a NATO military facility, killed nine, including a US soldier. Three days later, another five people were killed and 16 others injured when a suicide bomber attacked the main entrance gate of Hamid Karzai International Airport.

The gruesome attacks have evoked strong reactions from the Afghan government and civil society. President Ashraf Ghani in his televised address to the nation blasted Pakistan for its role in the attacks and said, “Pakistan still remains a venue and ground for gatherings from which mercenaries send us messages of war”. In a rare public rebuke of the neighbour, Ghani slammed Pakistan for supporting the Taliban insurgents in their 14-year war against Kabul. “The last few days have shown that suicide-bomber training camps and bomb-producing factories that are killing our people are as active as before in Pakistan,” he said.

Further, Afghan government’s CEO Dr.Abdullah Abdullah, in his interaction with the council of ministers, said that elements who commit crimes in Afghanistan are being financed and armed in neighboring Pakistan. He also criticised Pakistan for not making the peace process result-oriented.

The Afghan Intelligence – National Directorate of Security (NDS) has said that specific elements within the Pakistani army were behind the deadly attacks in capital Kabul, gesturing towards the country’s military intelligence – Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). The Haqqani terrorist network, nurtured by Pakistan, is also said to be involved in the attacks.

The attacks have come in just weeks after the Parliament attack in Kabul on June 22, which killed five people and injured 30 others. The NDS had reported then that the attack was masterminded by Mawlawi Shireen, the military commander of Haqqani network, allegedly with financial and logistical support provided by Bilal who is an officer of the ISI. It was also alleged that some 75 lakh of Pakistani rupees was spent on the Parliament attack.

Besides sponsoring and planning attacks inside Afghanistan, Pakistani military is also claimed to have been involved in direct attacks on the Af-Pak border, in spite of Afghanistan’s multiple protests at the diplomatic level. The border provinces of Kunar, Paktika and Nangarhar have all come under rocket and mortar attacks in the past two months, with as many as 43 missiles hitting areas in Kunar alone.

Earlier this week, Pakistani military is said to have attacked an Afghan police outpost in Narai District of Kunar resulting in atleast 13 casualties. The aggression by Pakistan Army on its Western border has been concomitant with its repeated ceasefire violations on the Eastern LoC with India. In another disturbing report, Interior Minister Noorul Haq Ullomi said that Pakistan is sending armed individuals disguised as Islamic State (IS) fighters to destabilise the country. In the worn torn country of Afghanistan, the arrival of IS has already caused great complication in the security scenario. With Pakistan trying to exploit this situation, stability in Afghanistan might become all the more elusive.

The general sentiment seems to be that Pakistan can never be trusted to bring peace. It was no surprise therefore that ever since President Ashraf Ghani reached out to Pakistan, after coming to power in September 2014, he has been coming under severe criticism at home and beyond. Civil society organisations in Afghanistan such as the Civil Movement for Social Justice have said that the government has failed to devise an effective foreign policy to deal with Pakistan. But in less than a year, Ghani seems to have finally understood why his people were never optimistic about his outreach to Pakistan as he is finally saying things which his people want him to.

Pakistan, on its part, is unwilling to let go of its ‘strategic assets’ – in the form of Taliban and other terrorist groups – any time soon, despite all the rhetoric that they support a stable Afghanistan. Despite Ghani banking nearly all his political capital on Pakistan to compel Taliban get to peace talks, Islamabad has at best responded with optics and hyperboles. Violence continues to wreck people’s lives in almost every corner of the country even as the so-called peace talks with Taliban are underway, raising fundamental questions on the effectiveness of such engagements to bring any peace. In fact this year’s fighting season has turned out to be the bloodiest ever, with the Taliban carrying out attacks and taking control of several districts even in the north.

However, with the confirmation of Mullah Omar’s death creating fissures within the Taliban, Ghani has an opportunity to turn the tables. He must use this moment of epiphany to course correct his approach to Pakistan and the Taliban. With Pakistan’s unabashed involvement in multiple attacks on Afghan soil coming out to the fore, the Afghan government would do well to talk tough and put pressure, both bilaterally and internationally, on Pakistan to rein in its state and non-state actors.

Commentators in Afghanistan have urged their government to turn to the UN Security Council for redress by exposing the depth of Pakistan’s destabilising activities. The role of international community is indeed crucial if Pakistan is to be made accountable for its actions, else violence in Afghanistan would continue to wreak havoc in the region.


This article was originally published in the US-based International Policy Digest here on 4 August 2015. 

On 29 June 2015, it was the first anniversary of the establishment of a ‘caliphate’ by the Islamic State, also known as the ISIS, ISIL or Da’esh. The Islamic State today holds a territory roughly equal to the size of the UK and commands a force of 30,000 fighters, besides being a fast growing ideological brand. It collects taxes and, according to some reports, has its own currency.

Throughout the past one year or more, IS has shown no hesitation in aggressive expansion – in terms of capturing territory on the ground, inspiring terrorism, and spreading its ideology across the world through a well-funded web and social media campaign. According to the 2014 Global Terrorism Index, it is one of the few terrorist groups that are responsible for the majority of death and destruction caused by terrorism in the past year. It has attracted youth from over 100 countries to join its ranks in Iraq and Syria, and inspired several other terrorist groups to swear allegiance to it including those which were previously associated with the Al-Qaeda. It has claimed attacks in Libya, Egypt, Nigeria, Algeria, as well as the recent bombing of a Shiite mosque in Kuwait and the concomitant ‘lone wolf’ attacks in Tunisia and France. Further, IS has threatened those Islamic organisations which it feels have not been stringent enough in their religious enforcement, such as Hamas in Palestine.

It is not hard, therefore, to predict similar gains for IS in the war torn Afghanistan. To those young Taliban fighters who may be disillusioned or marginalised by their leadership, IS offers a new brand of extremism. The Islamic State thus wasted no time before it begun tapping into this potential in Afghanistan, just as it did elsewhere. In December 2014, the group made it clear that it would expand into the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. In January this year, it was declared that the IS will establish the Khorasan province in the region as part of its larger caliphate. It even announced the leadership that would take the movement forward.

There have been several incidents involving the IS-affiliated militants in Afghanistan, who have been fighting against both the Afghan security forces and the Afghan Taliban, since the Khorasan declaration. The eastern Nangarhar province has emerged as the hotbed of Islamic State’s activity, where there have been heavy clashes between the Taliban and IS-affiliated militants. On June 16, the Taliban in a letter addressed to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi warned IS to stay out of Afghanistan. It insisted that that the jihad against the Americans and their allies must be conducted under “one flag and one leadership” and urged IS to stop recruiting in Afghanistan.

The Afghan government has also been taking note of IS related activity. President Ghani has constantly articulated, especially during his foreign visits, the need to check the rise of IS in Afghanistan. The National Directorate of Security (NDS) formed a Special Force to exclusively combat IS and has seen at least some successes since then. The US’s drone strikes have also been successful in targeting and killing IS commanders and fighters.

But with the weakening of Taliban following the confirmation of ‘Amir-ul Momineen’ Mullah Omar’s death, IS has got an opportunity to bounce back. While Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor has been declared as the new supreme leader of Taliban, a section within the Taliban wants Mullah Omar’s son Mullah Yaqoob to be the successor instead. This growing rift between the Taliban cadres might lead to a breakup of the group which would allow the Islamic State to re-launch itself among the young Taliban fighters and carve out its own sphere of influence in the region. The IS has in fact alreadyclaimed a breakthrough in its efforts to gain a foothold in Afghanistan. Their spokesman for Khorasan province has claimed that pledges of allegiance to Islamic State are taking place across the country.

The Islamic State’s trajectory in Afghanistan would be clearer once the current fighting season ends and different parties of the conflict take stock of the damage suffered and gains made. However, if the recent trends are any indicators of the future, the security situation in Afghanistan is headed to take a complicated turn that would further test the resolve and already dwindling resources of the Afghan government and security forces.

The outreach to Pakistan that President Ghani embarked upon after coming to power has clearly paid no dividends, at least until now. Pakistan is unwilling to let go of its ‘strategic assets’ – in the form of various terrorist groups – any time soon, despite all the rhetoric that they support a stable Afghanistan. Violence continues to wreck people’s lives in almost every corner of the country even as the so called talks with Taliban are underway, raising fundamental questions on the effectiveness of such engagements to bring any peace. In fact this year’s fighting season has turned out to be the bloodiest ever, with the Taliban carrying out attacks and taking control of several districts even in the north. Stepping into such turmoil is another deadly player, the Islamic State.

Saddled with challenges of corruption, illicit drug trade, illegal mining and pending electoral reforms, besides the rapidly deteriorating security situation across the country, the Afghan Unity government is finding it increasingly difficult to meet any of its objectives.