The 9/11 attacks started a chapter of endless wars across the globe. The United States of America along with its allies started the war on terror which even after 2 decades is going nowhere. Post 9/11 Pakistan riding the bandwagon joined the War on Afghanistan. Over the year Pakistan played the role of a front-line ally of United States and NATO in the war of Afghanistan. Pakistan contributed to US war on terrorism in three domains; strategic, Tactical, and Logistics. The strategic domain involved diplomatic support along with planning and command and overall participation in the mission. For Logistics, Pakistan signed two agreements with the United States, Air Lines of Communication (ALOC) and Ground Lines of Communication (GLOC) agreement. Under these two agreements, United States and NATO forces used both land and airspace of Pakistan for moving logistics as well as supporting military operations in Afghanistan. The third and most significant domain was tactical. Pakistan military and intelligence service actively played part in the Tactical domain. Joint Counter-terrorism operations against Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations inside Pakistan and Providing military bases for Air and drone strikes in the AF-Pak region were major areas of cooperation in the tactical domain. US and coalition bombardment of Afghanistan in 2001 pushed Al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters into the Tribal areas of Pakistan. Pakistan on a number of occasions signed agreements with local tribal leaders to stop them from providing sanctuaries to these foreign fighters. But little was done in this regard. Followed by dozens of military operations in tribal areas. Along with that during hundreds of the Intelligence-based Operations across Pakistan, Pakistan’s security forces arrested and later handed over Hundreds of Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders and commanders to United States. Just alone around 350 Al-Qaeda top commanders and leaders were handed over to the CIA by Pakistan. But all this came with a heavy price including 70,000 deaths and billions of dollars lost to the economy. Over the years the relations between Pakistan and US witnessed many ups and downs. Pakistan on many occasions blocked NATO supply lines and US was forced to use other countries to support its mission in Pakistan. Nevertheless, the relations continued to deteriorate following these military operations. The rise in civilian casualties in US drone strikes greatly contributed to rising in Terrorism. Post 2007 the rise of TTP was followed by a serious wave of terrorism across Pakistan with daily bombing across Pakistan resulting in serious civilian and military casualties. Pakistan advocated for a Peaceful Settlement of the Afghan issue since the start of the war but US reliance on its military might served as an obstacle in this process. Better late than never after 2 decades of war Doha deal was signed. This was considered a major diplomatic victory by Islamabad. Islamabad considered the war in Afghanistan as a source of instability in Pakistan with TTP and BLA enjoying Safe havens in Pakistan. Moreover, TTP’s whole narrative was based on WOT that Pakistan is supporting the US war. Post US withdrawal from Afghanistan, Pakistan ended its cooperation with United States in all three tactical, strategic and logistic domains. Pakistan wanted to end this endless cycle of violence in the region through a political settlement. To deal with the threat of TTP Pakistan had three options; 1) Negotiations with TTP 2) Rely on the Interim Afghan government 3) Direct military action against TTP inside Afghanistan. Pakistan favored first and started negotiations with TTP mediated by the interim Afghan Government led by IEA. Despite multiple rounds, the talks failed. After the failure of the talks Pakistan clearly gave the message to the new Afghan regime that as per the Doha agreement it is their responsibility to ensure that Afghan soil is not used against anyone. The rise in TTP cross-border attacks indicates that little has been done by IEA in this regard. Meanwhile, TTP has announced a new war and claimed around 30 attacks in the last couple of weeks. Now Pakistan is left with only the third option which is carrying out direct military action inside Afghanistan against TTP. This option is most expensive and unfavorable to Pakistan as this would seriously damage the relations between the two countries. The air and drone strikes would be at the center of military operations against TTP. But the biggest problem with drones and Airstrikes is that they all rely on human intelligence which might be wrong at times resulting in serious collateral damages. Moreover, when it comes to air raids in the sub-conventional war. It comes with a heavy cost because usually, Terrorists reside with their families and mostly live in populated areas to avoid being targeted by the security forces thus the civilian casualties are always high and continue to fuel war. There is no longer any war in Afghanistan, the whole TTP narrative of “US collaborators” has no legs to stand on. Pakistan has refused to facilitate US military actions in Afghanistan. But Pakistan can’t continue this Pacifist policy for long when terrorism is on the rise at home. This is the time all the stakeholders must realize war is an endless cycle and innocent people continue to die in these wars. If IEA believes that the way forward is a political settlement, then IEA should adhere to the Doha agreement in Letter and spirit and not allow TTP to use their soil against Pakistan. TTP is continuously using Afghan soil for cross-border attacks. In these circumstances relations between both countries can’t improve nor will the war end.
About Author: Talha Ahmad is a Freelance Journalist. He is an independent Geo-Political Analyst, commentator, and keen observer of International Relations. He can be reached on Twitter at @talhaahmad967
Note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of the Pakistan Strategic Forum.