In Afghan society today there is a palpable sense of frustration about the state of the country and Pakistan’s role. In particular, Afghans resent their neighbor’s build up at the Durand Line, the border that Afghanistan has never accepted. Kabul claims Pakistan’s construction of checkpoints at the edge of the Goshta District of eastern Nangarhar Province are an incursion into its territory.
However, Afghans are more upset over what they claim to be Islamabad’s obstructive role in the peace process. The prevailing view in Afghanistan is that Pakistan is playing a destabilizing role in the country. According to this view, the peace process with the Taliban has failed to make headway as a result.
During a recent debate in Afghanistan’s senate, Deputy Foreign Minister Jawed Ludin came down heavily on Islamabad, saying that Pakistan represents the greatest threat to security in Afghanistan, and has sent conflicting messages during its talks with the government of Afghanistan.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
Cynicism prevails in Kabul over the Brussels talk that the U.S. has organized in the hope of reconciling differences between Afghanistan and Pakistan. On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hosted a meeting that brought Afghan President Hamid Karzai together with Pakistan army chief general Ashfaq Kayani and senior Foreign Ministry official Jalil Jilani, with the ultimate aim of bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table.
Afghan foreign ministry spokesman Janan Mosazai was quoted by the Guardian as saying, "Unfortunately Pakistan today is changing the goalposts on its support for the peace process once again. Pakistan somehow decided now to put down certain preconditions for its support for the peace process which are completely unacceptable to Afghanistan and to any other independent country."
According to the article, the establishment in Islamabad wants Kabul to sever ties with India, send its army officers to Pakistan for training and sign a strategic partnership deal.
Some have claimed that the goal is to give Taliban members based in Pakistan a greater say in the peace talks. Abdul Hakim Mujahid, a member of Afghanistan's High Peace Council, denounces the idea.
The Council was set up three years ago to initiate the peace process with insurgent groups. Mujahid, who was the former Taliban government’s ambassador to the UN, told The Diplomat, “There is no doubt that the Taliban movement in Afghanistan has its own agenda with the national interest in mind. Taliban (members) in Pakistan have their own agenda in their own country. So they are totally different. We are working for peace and reconciliation – not with the Taliban movement in Pakistan but with the Taliban movement in Afghanistan.”
He added, however, that he “hopes Pakistan will remain faithful to its promise of supporting the peace process.”
But Afghans are leery of trusting their neighbor.
“Tell me when Pakistan has thought about Afghanistan’s welfare,” Fathullah Naimzai, an educator in Kabul, told The Diplomat. “They have always thrived on destabilizing us and Pakistan’s intention is quite suspect. Had Pakistan not interfered in our country’s affairs we could have been really a peaceful country.”
Reports in Afghan newspapers also reflect the collective sense of helplessness surrounding efforts to engage Pakistan in Brussels. According to a report in Daily Outlook Afghanistan, the current atmosphere and accusations are not conducive to a positive outcome in Brussels.
When the High Peace Council came into existence there was a modicum of hope that the peace process would gain traction and help to stabilize Afghanistan following the withdrawal of foreign troops. In light of recent events, however, this hope looks increasingly forlorn.