The Afghan Proxy War on Pakistan

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The Afghan Proxy War on Pakistan
The Afghan Proxy War on Pakistan

Nowadays whenever Pakistani-Afghan relations are highlighted within the mainstream media, more often than not the focus will be on the series of events that took place between 1979 up to 2019, starting at the Soviet Afghan war time frame when Pakistan along with the United states started arming the Mujahedeen in a bid to overthrow the then established Russian puppet government and expel Soviet influence from the region. Meanwhile the chaotic Pakistan-Afghan history from 1947-1979 time frame is ignored which consists of a 26-year long proxy war perpetrated by the ethnically nationalist Afghanistan government in the name of Pashtunistan (1947-73) and trapped Pakistan in a geological struggle to maintain its structural integrity in FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (NWFP). The purpose of this report is to highlight that forgotten part of history and expose Afghanistan’s acts of aggression.

Context

The Afghan government for the most part in recent history has been dominated by highly ethnically Pashtun nationalists and this has had direct effects on the behavior of Afghan policy makers when dealing with Pakistan. When the Indian subcontinent was divided in 1947 after success of diplomatic calls for independence, Pakistan and India were created. Consequently, the internationally recognized boundary was established between Pakistan and Afghanistan now known as the Durand line. This meant that the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) was internationally recognized part of mainland Pakistan, however the Afghan government at the time rejected this fact and became the sole opposing party that voted against Pakistan becoming a member of the United Nations after its inception.

Durand Line Issue

Due to the ethnically Pashtun nationalist character of the Afghan leadership, it had clearly rejected to accept the Durand lines legitimacy. Additionally, it has always disliked the fact that ethnically Pashtun majority area of FATA, KPK (NWFP) and even parts of Baluchistan were now part of Pakistan. Hence, it had become a long-term objective of Afghan policy makers to demand the land be handed over to Afghanistan on historical and ethnic grounds, stating that Britain had taken those lands by force and must be returned. Aside from ethic and historic reasons Afghan also had a practical reason to acquire those regions. As a land locked state acquiring that region (Especially the demanded region of Baluchistan) grants Afghanistan access to the sea which can allow Afghanistan to secure its long-term economic goals. However, due to continuous efforts of the founding father Qaid-e-Azam and Islamic unity policy, the people of KPK had developed a sense of Pakistani nationalism and the Pakistan government had clearly expressed no compromise on structural unity. In response the Afghan government foreign policy towards Pakistan became increasingly anti-Pakistani resulting in numerous hostile actions. The main objective of these hostile actions was to break up the ethically Pashtun regions from Pakistan via use of proxy militants/military action and create the state of Pashtunistan which would later be absorbed into Afghanistan.

Hostile Actions

September 1947: Afghanistan became the sole country which had voted against Pakistan’s admission in the United nations as a member state. Pakistan a newly formed and then fragile state at the time was in process of getting accepted into the united nations with the foreign policy of establishing globally friendly relations. This attempt proved highly successful as almost all member states voted in favor of Pakistan expect Afghanistan which at that point showed the anti-Pakistan stance Afghan government was adopting.

Not long after the Pashtunistan flag was raised alongside Afghan national flag in Kabul. At that point Afghanistan had started forming, arming, and funding its proxies based within its border areas (Afridi Sarishtas and Ipi Faqir) next to Pakistan for the ‘Liberation of Pashtunistan.’ This led to many cross-border skirmishes between the newly formed Pakistan Frontier corps paramilitary forces and Afghan proxy militants.

The Waves of Afghan Militant Forces

June 1949: According to some reports while pursuing and hunting the Afghan militants who earlier attacked Pakistani border posts from within Afghanistan, a PAF warplane inadvertently bombed the Afghan village of “Moghulgai” next to the Waziristan border. This event intensified tensions on the border and more Afghan militants started crossing the largely unmonitored Pak-Afghan border into Pakistan.

July 1949: A meeting of the elders held by Afghan government at Kabul unilaterally denounced all treaties related to Pak-Afghan international border and officially announced full support for the Pashtunistan movement. 31st August was declared as “Pashtunistan Day” which was regularly commemorated by the Afghan government each year. Around the same time Afghan-supported proxies started announcement of the formation of ‘Pashtunistan’ in Tirah (Khyber district Pakistan) and Razmak (Waziristan, Pakistan), with Ipi Faqir as President

First Afghan Army Attack

1950: At the start of 1950, Afghan air force warplanes started dropping propaganda leaflets in support of Pashtunistan within Pakistani border areas. A few months later the Afghan army supported by with artillery suddenly attacked Dobandi area of Baluchistan province and occupied a strategic pass with the aim to cut off “Chaman-Quetta”Railway links. In response the Pakistani army sent a contingent of troops backed by armored support to the area and retook it after a week of fighting driving the Afghan forces back.

Irregular Afghan Forces Attack

1950-51: Three Afghan-led tribal armies attacked Pakistani areas across Durand Line. The Afghan government declared support for those tribal fighters referring to them as “Freedom Fighters”. Additionally, they used their official Radio and Press channels for non-stop propaganda in support if those tribal fighters. Those attacking tribesmen militia were held off at the border and eventually driven back by Pakistani paramilitary forces. In response to those hostile actions, Pakistan adopted a “go slow” approach on Afghanistan’s trade transit routes.

 October 1951: Pakistani Prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan was shot dead in Rawalpindi by an Afghan national named Said Akbar Babrak. The Afghan government disowned his act and denied any relation with the incident but continued Afghanistan’s material and propaganda support for its proxies fighting unabated throughout the 1950s.

March 1955: Pakistan’s diplomatic missions to Afghanistan in “Qandahar” and “Jalalabad” regions were attacked at the behest of Afghan government, and the Pashtunistan flag was forcefully hoisted on the chancery of Pakistani Embassy in Kabul. Later, in 1959. The Afghan prime minister Sardar Daud once again reaffirmed the Afghan governments support for Pashtunistan in front of Pakistani officials

Second Afghan Army Attack

September 1960: In another attempt Afghan army troops and irregulars attacked Pakistan’s border Bajaur area. At that time Afghanistan also concentrated some 70,000 reserve troops to Kunar province which borders Bajaur. The attack was initially repulsed by Bajauri resistance fighters supported by Pakistani special forces SSG deployed nearby in Chirat. Later, a new paramilitary unit known as Bajour scouts was formed and deployed with in the region. An account of the battle is also mentioned in the declassified US Embassy documents.

Third Afghan Army Attack

March 1961: Afghanistan started openly supplying arms and ammunition to new proxy groups led by a notable figure named Pacha Gul in Bajaur’s Batmalai area (Pakistan border) for a renewed uprising using anti Pakistan Afghan migrants. The ammunition dump was reportedly destroyed by a Pakistan air force aerial bombing operation. 2 months later a massive Afghan force of thousands (Troops with armored, artillery and limited air support.) attacked Bajaur, Jandul and Khyber areas of Pakistan in a massive concentrated attack. These attacks were initially held back by local people who took up arms with support of Pakistan Frontier Corps paramilitary and heavy aerial bombing by Pakistan air force warplanes. Soon the Pakistani army forces arrived and drove the Afghans back. After the event Pakistani President Ayub warned the Afghan side against unprovoked escalations. The skirmishes had ended with Afghan defeat and diplomatic relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan were cut off after Pakistan decided to restrict Afghan transit trade. Diplomatic relations resumed two years later in 1963 when Afghan president Daud (the main engine behind Afghanistan’s proxy war against Pakistan) left office. However, in September 1964 an Afghan elders meeting with the government was held and once again reiterated support for Pashtunistan, sending more militants to fight in Pakistan as previous administration had done (though much mildly than in the past).

1964-1972: Relative calm in relations was observed due to Afghanistan’s domestic power struggle issues and democracy experiments. The Pashtunistan issue went on the backburner of Afghan policy and Pak-Afghan relations normalized to such extent that Afghanistan remained neutral in 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pak wars.

1972-73: Afghanistan restarted support for Pashtunistan after intensifying Radio Kabul propaganda and started sheltering anti Pakistan activists led by Ajmal Khattak. In 1973 Sardar Daud led a bloodless military coup to overthrow King Zahir Shah declaring himself President. One of the reasons he quoted for the coup was Zahir Shah’s supposedly soft approach on Pakistan.

1973: In response to a renewed proxy war focus by Afghanistan, Pakistani Prime minister Z.A.Bhutto authorized a tit-for-tat response to Afghanistan. As Afghanistan was going through an internal struggle for power, Pakistan government decided to interfere by conspiring to oust the anti-Pakistani elements from Afghan government. IGFC Naseerullah Babar was tasked to train dissident Afghans for proxy purposes inside Afghanistan. This was Pakistan’s first act to use proxies in Afghanistan after a 26-year long proxy war perpetrated by Afghanistan in the name of Pashtunistan (1947-73).

1973-76: Afghanistan resorted to diplomatic attempts to support its proxy led war via not participating in the OIC alliance meetings held in Pakistan. Abdul Rahman Pazhwak, the Afghan delegate at the summit, tried to raise Pashtunistan issue on this Unity forum too but got snubbed as no country’s representatives paid any heed.

1973-78: Soon after Daud assumed power in Afghanistan again, the Afghan government started supporting and funding the Baloch separatist insurgents fighting against Pakistan. It is rumored that Afghanistan sheltered many of these insurgents giving them training, weapons, and finances for militant activities inside Pakistan. Their activities were focused in areas Afghanistan claimed as its own.

1973-78: Afghan government under Daud continued to support the Afghan Pashtunistan movement. NAPs newly formed militant wing ‘Pakhtun Zalmay’ elements of which later formed the TTP (Taliban) was founded, trained, and armed by Afghan secret police for terrorist activities in Pakistan. These actions were confirmed by Jumma Khan Sufi, in his memoirs “Faraib e Na Tamam”.

1973-onwards: Not only was Afghanistan supporting NAP terrorism in Pakistan itself, it also reportedly became a hub for Indian interference into Pakistan via Pashtunistan and Baluchistan proxies.

There is also evidence that the current Afghanistan government (Which was formed out of previous anti Pakistan faction) has continued support for anti-Pakistan elements such as the TTP and became a hub for Indian interference into Pakistan via Pashtunistan and Baluchistan proxies as Afghan and Indian governments enjoy close ties. It was revealed that NAP militant leaders operating in Pakistan were highly paid in foreign currency and had ties with Afghan and Indian intelligence as revealed by Jumma Khan Sufi in his memoirs. These groups continued its militant activities and in February 1975 Hayat Khan a senior KPK political leader was killed in a bomb blast. The assassination was carried out by NAP militant wing operating out of Afghanistan. In April 1978, Afghan President Daud and his whole family were massacred in the Soviet-sponsored “Saur Revolution”. The new pro-Communist Afghan regime announced support spread of communist ideals into Pakistani Pashtun regions and ultimately ended up in support of Pashtunistan movement. Later, in December 1979, the soviet secret service KGB assassinated Afghanistan’s President Hafizullah Amin and nearly 100,000 Soviet forces entered Afghanistan. The Soviets also threatened Pakistan not to interfere or it would support the Afghan Militants and Baloch separatists in Pakistan.

End Result

Soviet Afghan War: At this point the stance of the Pakistan concerning the regional conflict was clear. Pakistan wanted a complete Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan and the establishment of a non-communist government which would be free of Anti-Pak elements. Hence Pakistan along with United states retaliated to the threats by supporting, training, and arming the newly formed Mujahedeen against the Communist Afghan government and Soviet forces deployed there (the Soviet Afghan war). After the soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan and defeat of the communist government, a civil war arose between factions within the mujahedeen. The fighting was centered around the Masuds alliance and Qutbuddin faction. After Qutbudin’s defeat the Taliban arose and overtook most of Afghanistan pushing the Northern alliance back. This was followed by US invasion and a Taliban reemergence resulting in the stalemate we observe today. In the end Afghanistan is divided and suffers from the same fate it tried to force upon Pakistan. As a side effect many innocent people have died and will continue to die because of blind ethnic nationalism.

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