Taliban attacks cast doubts on US’ Afghan strategy

It seems as if there is no end in sight to the spate of deadly attacks occurring relentlessly in Afghanistan, killing scores and throwing lives in disarray. Is the new US strategy responsible for this spike in terror?

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Afghanistan: IS militants attack Kabul military base

A string of brutal attacks over the past several weeks, killing and injuring hundreds of innocent Afghans, have shown the world the fragile and worsening state of security in Afghanistan and made it once again a staple of international headlines.

The incidents have plunged war-weary Afghan citizens into a state of despair and highlighted the limitations faced by the government in Kabul in ensuring public security.

Both the Taliban and the so-called “Islamic State” (IS) have claimed responsibility for the violence.

A bloody start

2018 did not start on a positive note for the nation ravaged by the vagaries of conflict and turmoil over the past several decades. Many Afghans believe the attacks they have witnessed in January mark only the beginning in the latest bout of violence. Fears abound about the number of casualties rising in the coming months. The alleged peace talks that were mentioned only a few weeks ago are now but a distant memory.

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Deadly blast in Kabul

What are the reasons for this surge in violence?

The latest attacks can be regarded as a response to the recent US military offensive in the Afghan provinces Helmand, Nangarhar, Kunduz and others, said A.D. Mohammad Arif, an Afghan security expert.

“The Taliban usually start their offensive after the winter (as a spring offensive), but they have now brought it forward in response to the US’ new Afghanistan strategy. They want to show that they are far from being defeated,” Arif told DW.

Unlike in previous years, the US, along with Afghan security forces, began its offensive against the insurgents in the winter this year. The move is part of the US’ new Afghan strategy, unveiled by President Donald Trump in August 2017.

Trump then affirmed that he would increase the number of US troops in Afghanistan and remain engaged in the country until it no longer needed them. The US president also blamed Pakistan as the main reason for the lack of progress in Afghanistan.

To lend weight to his words, Trump even froze US military aid to Islamabad.

Washington’s stated objective is to put pressure on Pakistan until Pakistani authorities revoke their alleged support to outfits like the Afghan Taliban and other insurgent groups.

The right solution?

At a press conference on Monday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani indirectly blamed Pakistan for the recent series of attacks. “(The Taliban) have claimed responsibility without hesitation, as per their masters’ wish. These masters have made it clear that they will not bow to pressure from the outside,” said Ghani.

Read more:

–  Trump is good for Afghanistan, tough on Pakistan, say experts

– What Donald Trump can really do to ‘rein in’ Pakistan

Nicole Birtsch, an Afghanistan expertat the Berlin-based German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), is also of the view that the recent attacks could be a reaction to the air strikes and anti-insurgent operations the US military and Afghan security forces have been jointly carrying out against the Taliban.

Birtsch is unconvinced about the effectiveness of the US strategy to pressure Pakistan. “The strategy does not lead to a conducive environment for the US, Afghanistan and Pakistan to hold talks on an equal footing.”

The analyst says she is not optimistic about the near future, suspecting that the coming weeks will continue to be characterized by escalating violence. “I fear that people in Kabul, in particular, are losing hope for a more stable future because of the violence. They are therefore merely surviving rather than living.”

 

COURTESY: DW

Why is ‘Islamic State’ targeting Shiites in Afghanistan?

“Islamic State” has once again chosen to target Shiites in its latest Kabul bombings that killed at least 40 people. Experts say the group is trying to create sectarian rifts in the country and use them to its advantage.

Attack in Kabul on Thursday, December 28 (Getty Images/AFP/S. Marai)

Afghan officials first acknowledged Islamic State (IS) as a security threat as early as 2015. IS, officials claimed at the time, was confined only to the eastern Nangarhar province, where it controlled most parts of the Achin district.

The government subsequently launched military operations in the area and declared victory against the militant group in March 2016. In August of the same year, Washington and Kabul confirmed that Hafiz Saeed Khan, IS’s regional chief for the group’s so-called Khurasan branch, which includes Afghanistan, Pakistan and parts of Central Asian countries, had been killed in a US drone strike.

The Pentagon confirmed in July 2017 that Abu Sayed, head of the IS terror group in Afghanistan, had been killed in a US airstrike in Kunar province. US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Sayed’s death was a significant blow to IS.

In , almost 700  were killed in the first 9 months of the year (2017), @UNICEFAfg

Clashes with the Taliban, a much stronger and older Islamist group in Afghanistan, also hindered IS’s progress in the war-torn country. Due to these reasons, Afghan officials were hopeful that IS would not be able to establish itself in their country.

But things haven’t turned out exactly the way the Afghan government had hoped for. IS fighters continue to launch deadly attacks in the country.

The group claimed the Thursday suicide bomb attacks in the capital, Kabul, which killed at least 40 people and wounded over 30. The target of the assault was a public gathering at a Shiite cultural center.

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Kabul: Dozens killed in IS-claimed attack

Sectarian divisions

It was not the first time that Islamic State, a largely Sunni militant group, targeted Afghan Shiites. Afghanistan’s Shiite minority has witnessed several attacks in 2017. Hundreds of people have been killed in attacks on their mosques and religious ceremonies. Among them were three attacks on Shiite mosques in Kabul in August, September and October.

Kabul-based security analyst Wahid Muzhdah believes the jihadist group is trying to create sectarian rifts in Afghanistan.

“IS is facing a huge challenge from the Taliban, who are a potent militant force in the country,” Muzhdah told DW.

“To establish itself in Afghanistan, IS needs support from local extremist Sunni groups. IS is targeting Shiites to distinguish itself from the Taliban,” Muzhdah added.

“This gruesome attack underscores the dangers faced by Afghan civilians. In one of the deadliest years on record, journalists and other civilians continue to be ruthlessly targeted by armed groups” – @birajpat

Afghan security experts fear IS could divide the country along sectarian lines. Muzhdah, however, believes it won’t be an easy task for the jihadist group.

“After each IS attack on Afghan Shiites, religious leaders from all Islamic sects have come forward in support of the victims,” he said. “But if the government doesn’t do anything to stop such attacks, the sectarian split could deepen,” Muzhdah warned.

Read more: Donald Trump’s Afghanistan strategy raises the stakes

Bildergalerie IS in Afghanistan (picture-alliance/dpa/G. Habibi)IS fighters continue to launch deadly attacks in Afghanistan

From Middle East to South Asia

The IS focus on Afghanistan was quite inevitable after the group suffered heavy losses in Syria and Iraq in 2017. After IS’s defeat in Iraq, experts had warned that a large number of its fighters could move into Afghanistan and Pakistan from the Middle East.

“As a result of setbacks in Iraq and Syria, we will most likely experience a major influx of IS fighters into Afghanistan and Pakistan looking for new areas of operations,” Siegfried O. Wolf, a South Asia expert at the University of Heidelberg, told DW.

IS presence in Afghanistan is no longer confined to Nangarhar province. According to new reports, the group has increased activities in other parts of Afghanistan as well, including the relatively safe northern regions.

IS or IS-linked attacks have also spiked in Pakistan. Experts say the group could get support from Pakistan-based militant outfits that are against Shiites and the Iranian influence in their country.

Read more: Shias in Pakistan’s Parachinar caught in the middle of proxy wars

Afghan authorities have repeatedly accused Islamabad of supporting the Taliban and other militant groups and sending them into Afghanistan to destabilize the government. Experts say that although Pakistan does not consider IS an ally or a group which can fulfill its strategic interests in the region, things could change in the future as the hardline Saudi Wahhabi ideology could be a binding factor.

Read more: What is Pakistan’s militancy issue all about?

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Suicide bomber kills cadets in Afghanistan

Fifteen cadets have died in the second deadly suicide bomb attack in the capital, Kabul, within 24 hours. An attack on a mosque on Friday evening claimed at least 56 lives and injured some 55 more.

Firefighters and soldiers near the scene of Saturday's attack (Getty Images/AFP/W. Kohsar)

A suicide car bomber killed 15 Afghan army cadets as they left their military base in Kabul on Saturday, in the second deadly attack in the capital within 24 hours.

“This afternoon, when a minibus carrying army cadets was coming out of the military academy, a suicide bomber on foot targeted them, martyring 15 and wounding four,” said Defense Ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri.

It was not immediately clear who carried out Saturday’s attack, but a resurgent Taliban has been attacking military posts and installations with devastating effect, while Islamic State (IS) militants have stepped up attacks against Shiite mosques.

Watch video00:38

Suicide bomber attacks Shiite mosque in Kabul

IS claimed responsibility for Friday evening’s suicide bomb attack inside a Shiite mosque, which left 56 deadand another 55 injured.

Over the past five days there have been seven major attacks that have left more than 200 dead.

The barrage of deadly assaults underscores the deteriorating security situation across the country.

NATO’s Resolute Support mission tweeted that the latest strike was an “attack on the future” of Afghanistan and its security forces.

“This attack in #Kabul shows the insurgents are desperate and cannot win” against Afghanistan’s security and defense forces, it said.

This attack in  shows the insurgents are desperate and cannot win against  on the battlefield (2/2)

Attacks on the rise

But among the recent attacks, one of the deadliest — claimed by the Taliban — killed about 50 Afghan soldiers during an assault on a military base in the southern province of Kandahar on Thursday.

The militants blasted their way into the military base using two Humvees packed with explosives. It was one of three such attacks this week, according to officials.

The base, in the Chashmo area of Maiwand district, was razed to the ground, according to the Defense Ministry.

Afghan security forces secure the site of a Shiite mosque after a suicide bomb attack.More than 50 people were killed in Friday’s attack on the Imam-e-Zaman mosque in Kabul

On the same day, Taliban militants surrounded a police headquarters in the province of Ghazni, attacking it for the second time in a week.

Afghan security forces have endured soaring casualties as they struggle to hold back the insurgents. Their casualty rate has accelerated since NATO withdrew its combat forces from the country at the end of 2014.

The number of casualties jumped 35 percent in 2016, with some 6,800 soldiers and police officers killed, according to SIGAR, a US watchdog.

Insurgent attacks against security forces have become more sophisticated over the past year. SIGAR described Afghan casualty rates in the early part of the year as “shockingly high.”

People inspect the aftermath of a suicide bomb attack inside a Shiite mosque in Kabul.Friday’s mosque attack underscores the fragile security situation in Afghanistan

An attack on a military base in Mazar-i-Sharif in April was devastating, killing 144 people. Similarly, an attack on a military hospital in Kabul in March killed as many as 100.

People are growing increasingly angry at the government’s inability to protect them, particularly in Kabul, where nearly 20 percent of the country’s civilian deaths in the first half of the year occurred.

“If our government officials cannot protect us, they have to resign and let other competent officials take charge,” said an eyewitness to the mosque bombing Friday night.

bik/tj (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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Dozens dead after ‘IS’ attack on Shiite mosque in Kabul

Islamic State fighters have killed several people and injured many more at a Shiite mosque in Kabul. The attack lasted for four hours before security services could kill the assailants without harming hostages.

The scene of the attack in Kabul

At least 20 people were killed when militants loyal to “Islamic State” (IS) stormed a mosque in the Afghan capital, Kabul. This was the latest in a string of attacks targeting Afghanistan’s minority Shiites.

The attack occurred during afternoon prayers and reportedly lasted for four hours, with the death toll expected to rise due to the dozens of seriously wounded victims who were brought to local hospitals.

Two assailants blew themselves up inside the mosque, while a further two were shot dead by Afghan security forces.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said that IS terrorists were turning to attacks on places of worship because they were losing on the battlefield, and called on all Islamic clerics in the nation to condemn the violence.

One of the first groups to do so was actually the Afghan Taliban, which is fighting an armed insurgency against Ghani’s government. Spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid made it clear in a phone call to the news agency AP that his group had nothing to do with the attack and did not approve of it.

US promises more troops

The attack comes on the heels of US President Donald Trump announcing his new strategy for America’s longest war. After promising a complete removal of troops during his campaign, Trump said on Monday that after speaking with advisors, he realized a pullout was simply not feasible.

He added that he would send more troops to the region, but did not give a specific number.

Trump said that the removal of US soldiers from the country would leave a “vacuum” that could allow both the Taliban and IS to make gains against Ghani’s democratically elected government. He added that the US would focus on “killing terrorists” instead of “nation building,” without clarifying what he meant by either of those terms, though he did say he believed the future of Afghanistan should lie in the hands of its people and not Washington.

Trump’s speech received mixed reactions from allies in Kabul and around the world. For its part, Ghani’s government agrees that prolonged US presence is necessary as it continues its asymmetrical conflict with two armed Islamist insurgencies.

es/rt (AP, dpa)

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Trump’s Afghanistan plan: Can it actually work?

Trump acknowledges flip-flop on Afghanistan
Trump acknowledges flip-flop on Afghanistan 00:45

(CNN)On Monday night, President Donald Trump unveiled his new strategy for American involvement in Afghanistan — a country that has been the stage for a seemingly unwinnable war for 16 years.

There was not much in terms of specifics, though Trump did reveal that more US troops would be deployed and the military would have more freedom to fight America’s opponents as it sees fit. He also singled out Pakistan as part of the problem — implying that unless the Pakistanis stopped providing safety for terrorists, they might lose financial aid from the United States.
Perhaps the most significant revelation was Trump’s desire to find a political solution to end the war — one that includes bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table.

What’s new in Trump’s plan?

Trump’s Afghanistan plan
  • Five key pillars of Trump’s plan
  • OPINION: The view from Islamabad
The new plan for American engagement in Afghanistan that Trump announced is — until he puts more meat on the bones — the same old plan, only with less accountability to Washington.
Yes, Trump more publicly called out Pakistan as being part of the problem. But he failed to lay out any serious detail, making it hard to see exactly now this plan differs from existing US policy and how it will succeed where the old one failed.
On the other hand, the lack of clarity may keep the enemy guessing: no drawdown dates, no troop numbers, only the threat that the enemy cannot win on the battlefield.

How realistic is it?

Trump said: “Someday after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan.”
A political solution to the fight with the Taliban is the only realistic way for US forces to leave Afghanistan and not give a free hand to al Qaeda and ISIS. In acknowledging this, it is clear that Trump is now listening to the advice of his generals.
If you listened carefully, you’ll have noticed that Trump differentiated between his enemies. This is key to leaving the door open for a political deal with the Taliban. He said that his objectives are to “obliterate ISIS,” “crush al Qaeda” and “prevent the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan.”
The Taliban have responded by seemingly leaving the door open for talks. They couched their threat to keep fighting the United States by saying, “If the US keeps following a war strategy, we will keep fighting them.” That careful use of the word “if” may come to be incredibly important.

Will the tough talk on Pakistan work?

Pakistan fears that India would like Afghanistan to become a client state on the Pakistani border.
Pakistan has long supported the Afghan Taliban to prevent this from happening and as a result has a controlling influence in the Afghan government.
Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, the Taliban have complained that Pakistan has prevented their efforts at negotiating peace on their own terms.
Trump’s demand that Pakistan stop offering a haven to criminals, terrorists and other groups is not new.
Trump: US in Afghanistan to kill terrorists
Trump: US in Afghanistan to kill terrorists 00:54
But when the United States has previously blamed Pakistan for supporting the Taliban — and in particular the Haqqani network — it has not worked out so well: Vital US troop resupply routes that run through Pakistan have been shut down, local tribes have protested and the government has closed the border.
In such situations, the United States has turned to Russia for help. Russia has allowed resupply trains to run across its territory to Afghanistan. But the Russia route is not ideal because it takes much longer — supplies can take more than a month to arrive, as opposed to days from Pakistani ports.
And the political situation today means that Russia is far less likely to allow United States the luxury of a backup path for supplies, should Pakistan close its borders again.

What does success look like?

Success for the United States in Afghanistan would be a negotiated political solution that sees the Taliban as a political entity in the Afghan government.
It is something the Taliban have demanded in the past. The group is seeking ministerial places as well as senior positions in the army.
The Taliban are a national force that has a nationalist agenda, unlike al Qaeda and ISIS, which both have international ambitions.
Recognizing that — as Trump appears to have — is key. Certainly, it wouldn’t guarantee success, but it would help create conditions where success may be possible.
Haley: Trump listened to his generals
Haley: Trump listened to his generals 01:32
It would certainly require more diplomatic heavy lifting than the United States has managed in the past. The Taliban have a vested interest in seeing ISIS defeated and al Qaeda diminished — both are threats.
Both groups share a broadly common conservative Islamic philosophy and, to a significant degree, their fighters in Afghanistan and Pakistan are drawn from the same Pashtun ethnic group, with similarly strong cultural beliefs. This makes it even more important for the Taliban to gain recognition as a political force to represent their community and shut down sympathy for ISIS and al Qaeda.
And that’s the Taliban’s value to the Afghan government and to Trump: to co-opt them into denying territory to terrorists.

What will it take to achieve the plan?

Trust between all parties is central to this plan working.
Pakistan will have to feel that it can trust the United States to act in Pakistan’s interest as well as its own — something that will be complicated because of Trump’s huge appeal in India.
First, the United States cannot afford to make any mistakes — by this we mean civilian casualties that further damage its reputation. Second, it needs to practice quiet diplomacy and try to build a working relationship with the Taliban — which has suffered the most from American intervention.
India has to hold its venom on Pakistan, which it came close to doing in its statement Tuesday responding to Trump’s address.
And the Afghan government needs to win the confidence of its own people through curbing corruption and cronyism.
This is the only way it can build an army that thinks it has a country worth fighting for.
The fate of Afghanistan has always been in the hands of the generals who are invading it.
Trump’s announcement Monday night has done nothing to change this.
Courtesy, CNN

Taliban storm police headquarter in eastern Afghanistan

Taliban gunmen and a suicide bomber have attacked a police headquarters in eastern Afghanistan, killing at least five officers and injuring 22. The assault comes as the US is preparing to send more troops to the country.

Afghanistan Selbstmordanschlag (Reuters/S.Peiwand)

The attack began Sunday morning when a suicide bomber detonated a car laden with explosives at the main entrance of the police headquarters in the eastern city of Gardez in Paktia province.

The blast cleared the way for the other six attackers who stormed the police station and targeted Afghan officers.

Najib Danish, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said two gunmen were immediately killed by Afghan police, while the other others held out for hours. It took Afghan security forces most of the day to kill the last gunmen.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement.

“Around 6:20 (local time) this morning, a martyr attack was conducted by our mujahideen against a special forces base in Gardez, Paktia,” Mujahid said.

“First a car bomb detonated then our mujahideen entered the building, opening fire on police,” he added.

In April, the Taliban launched their “spring offensive” against Afghan and international forces stationed in the war-torn country.

Read: Opinion: Observe and reflect on Afghanistan

Deteriorating security situation

The so-called “Islamic State” (IS) militant group and the Taliban have launched numerous attacks in Afghanistan in the past few months, with experts saying that President Ashraf Ghani’s government is failing to protect citizens.

Read: ‘China and Russia want US out of Afghanistan’

“The security situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated further. Afghan security forces control only about 57 percent of the country’s territory. Around 2.5 million people live in areas controlled by the Taliban and nine million more live in contested areas,” Nicole Birtsch, an Afghanistan researcher at the Berlin-based think tank, the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), told DW.

“The number of civilian victims, including many children, remains high. And many people are internally displaced due to the fighting between government forces and the Taliban,” she added.

Sunday’s attack came as the Pentagon is getting ready to send some 4,000 additional US troops to Afghanistan.

The latest wave of US troops will mainly be deployed to train and advise Afghan forces, following warnings by top US commanders in the region that the local military was facing a resurgent Taliban and a rising threat posed by IS.

Read: Afghan soldier attacks US troops near Mazar-i-Sharif

Watch video25:59

Quadriga – Afghanistan – No way forward?

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Afghans rail against Kabul, Islamabad over deadly blast

Anti-Pakistan sentiment runs high in Afghanistan following the huge bomb blast in Kabul’s diplomatic area that claimed over 90 lives. The Afghan government blamed Pakistan-based militant Haqqani Network for the attack.

Aghanistan Kabul Protest Demonstration (Reuters/M. Ismail)

“For how long we will have to tolerate this bloodshed in our country?” a Kabul resident said Thursday, a day after a deadly vehicle bomb killed and wounded hundreds of people in the capital’s highly secure area.

“I have lost my brother in the blast, and the government is constantly failing to provide us with security,” he added.

More than 1,000 demonstrators took to the streets in Kabul on Thursday and Friday, many carrying pictures of bomb victims, chanting slogans against the leaders of the national unity government –  President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah.

Protesters demanded answers from the government over the perceived intelligence failure leading to the attack.

As a demonstration in the city turned violent, police fired into the crowd, killing at least three protesters, according to local media reports.

No militant group claimed responsibility for the Wednesday bombing, but the Taliban and self-styled “Islamic State” (IS) groups have staged large-scale attacks in Kabul in the past.

Read: Opinion: Observe and reflect on Afghanistan

After initial investigations, Afghan authorities said Pakistan-based militant Haqqani Network carried out the attack, and that the Pakistani military’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) security agency was also responsible. A source close to the Afghan presidential palace said that President Ghani had signed an order to execute 11 imprisoned Haqqani Network and Taliban convicts following the attack.

Apart from the Afghan government, a number of independent Afghanistan experts and Western officials have pointed to the ISI-Haqqani nexus.

Sediq Siddiqui, the spokesperson for Afghanistan’s interior ministry, told media the role of Pakistan’s ISI had been established in Kabul explosion. “We have nailed Pakistan’s ISI role (in Kabul blast). Afghanistan expects Pakistan to crack down on Haqqani Network. The attack will surely impact ties between the two (Afghanistan, Pakistan) countries,” Siddiqui said.

Rahmatullah Nabil, the former chief of Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security intelligence agency, alleges that Pakistan has been “playing a deadly game in Afghanistan.”

“Pakistan wants to find new support for its proxy jihadists. It also wants to convey a message to the US that without Pakistan’s help, Washington is going to fail in Afghanistan,” Nabil told DW.

Read: Angela Merkel announces temporary halt on Afghan deportations after Kabul bombing

Pakistan on Thursday dismissed the allegations that its intelligence agencies were behind Wednesday’s truck attack. “We reject the baseless allegations. The accusatory approach is unhelpful towards efforts for peace,” Foreign Office spokesperson Nafees Zakria said at a weekly news briefing in Islamabad.

Watch video01:38

Grief and outrage in Kabul

Pakistan and the Haqqanis

It is not the first time that Afghan officials have accused Islamabad of giving Islamists logistical and military support to launch attacks on Afghan soil. Afghanistan and Western countries have long accused Pakistan of distinguishing between “good and bad jihadists” – the ones that attack Pakistani soldiers, and the ones that it allegedly uses as proxies in Afghanistan and India-administered Kashmir.

Pakistan continues to deny it is backing Haqqani Network, which is largely based in its Waziristan region close to the Afghan border. Pakistan no longer believes in separating the “good” and “bad” Taliban, a senior government official said in 2015.

Last year, President Ashraf Ghani’s government blamed Haqqani Network for a major terrorist attack on the headquarters of an Afghan security agency in Kabul. The attack near the US embassy and government ministries killed at least 64 people and wounded over 300.

The attack infuriated the Afghan government to an extent that President Ghani had to say that his country “no longer expects Pakistan to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table” – a clear indication that the Afghan authorities no longer trust Islamabad in the fight against Islamic militants.

Mujahed Andarabi, the head of news for the Kabul-based 1TV, said the Wednesday bombing was part of a “big game” being played by the Taliban, Haqqani Network and some regional countries, including Pakistan. The Afghan government needs a clear-cut approach toward Pakistan, he underlined.

Andarabi says there is an international consensus against Pakistan, which is being isolated regionally and globally. Ghani’s government should use this opportunity to make Afghanistan more independent, he stressed.

Read: Iranians show solidarity with Afghan neighbors after Kabul attack

Afghan expert Miagul Wasiq believes the success of the Afghan peace process largely depends on Pakistan’s role. If Pakistan really wants to bring the Taliban into negotiations, it would be impossible for the militants to turn them down, he told DW.

“It is clear that the Taliban leaders are based in the Pakistani cities of Peshawar, Karachi and Quetta. Pakistan hasn’t forced them to shun their activities and stop using its soil,” said Wasiq. “If Pakistani officials stop backing them, I am sure the militants will have no option but to join the peace talks.”

But Naufil Shahrukh, a researcher at the Islamabad-based Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), says that Pakistan has practically no influence over the Taliban leadership. “Such preconceived notions should be cleared before any meaningful initiative can take root,” he told DW. “We must admit that the Taliban are still a potent force in Afghanistan. They control, and have public support, in several Afghan provinces.”

History of mistrust

The ties between Afghanistan and Pakistan have never been worse. Apart from allegations and counter-allegations that the other country is backing armed militants, the two neighboring countries have been engaged in sporadic border clashes.

Amid worsening ties with Afghanistan, Pakistan announced in March it had started building a fence along the volatile Afghan-Pakistani border. Islamabad said the move was aimed at restricting the movement of Islamist militants that cross over the porous border and launch attacks on Pakistani soil.

In fact, there has been a long history of mistrust between the two nations.

“History has proven that Pakistan wants a weak government in Afghanistan so it can remain as the only mediator for the crisis in its neighborhood for the international community,” Ahmad Zia Ferozpur, a lecturer at the Balkh University, told DW, adding that the only time Pakistan was happy with Afghanistan was during the Taliban regime.

“In 2001, Islamabad agreed to join the campaign against the Taliban due to international pressure but started a double game of supporting the Islamist insurgency and the international effort in Afghanistan simultaneously,” Ferozpur underlined.

But he emphasized that Afghanistan’s anger is directed against the Pakistani military and the ISI, not its people,

According to Sadaf Gheyasi, an Afghan journalist and activist, social media has played a big role in how the Afghans see Pakistan now. “The Afghan government has provided ample proof of Pakistani interference in Afghanistan through social media,” she said.

But things can change now under President Ghani’s government, believes Shukria Barakzai, an Afghan parliamentarian. “What we ask from Pakistan is not impossible: We want Islamabad to sign a transit agreement with Afghanistan and stop interfering in Afghanistan’s security,” she told DW. “Afghanistan has tried all options with Pakistan. If Pakistan does not change its policies, our last option will be to consult the United Nation’s Security Council,” she warned.

Additional reporting by Ahmad Hakimi and Masood Saifullah.

Watch video01:40

Truck blast rocks Kabul diplomatic district

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