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Terrorism continues to spread from Pakistan, says Afghan envoy

Ambassador Shaida Mohammad Abdali has accused Pakistan of dragging its feet in going after terrorists even after the world community has endorsed Afghanistan’s position on terrorism.

world Updated: Mar 27, 2018 14:49 IST
Rezaul H Laskar
Rezaul H Laskar
Hindustan Times
Afghanistan,Pakistan,Pakistan terrorism
Shaida Muhammad Abdali is Afghanistan’s ambassador to India.(Sameer Sehgal / HT File Photo)

The Afghan envoy to India, Shaida Mohammad Abdali, says the lack of political will in some countries of the region to mount a coordinated drive against terrorism could have significant ramifications. He accuses Pakistan of dragging its feet in going after terrorists even after the world community has endorsed Afghanistan’s position on terrorism.

Following are excerpts from an interview:

Q. After a spate of terror attacks across Afghanistan, what is the current security situation?

A. Terrorism is an unresolved phenomenon…and terrorism is changing its face, its name and tactics. We are in a situation that makes us all worried, that after years of our counter-terrorism efforts, we have still not been able to curb the problem as we should have. Which I think is nothing but the lack of political will because terrorism is not an indigenous issue, it is a created issue.

Therefore, it’s policies that matter, not the result of policies — the result is the number of terrorist groups that we hear of under different names. We hope that the fight against terrorism will change from tackling the symptoms to the problem itself.

Over the last 16 years, Afghanistan has always asked the world community to focus on the mindset behind terrorist groups in our region. We believe our international allies were consistently misled by the false promises of the war against terrorism. The world community’s outlook has changed but we’re still not there in terms of what we’d like to see – clearly go after the real elements that breed terrorism.

Q. Which country are you referring to?

A. The state sponsorship of terror. No one can shy away from the fact that terrorism continues to spread from within Pakistan. Some may put it that it’s a capacity issue, some may say this is something that will take much longer than one expects. But whatever the reason, it is the responsibility of the government and state to stop the use of its soil against anyone. States have their responsibilities.

The fact of the matter is that terrorist groups still have found the place to live freely and to cross and to then hurt others.

We hope the world community, especially after they acknowledge the problem, today will no longer waste energy and time on rhetoric but on action — what we say we do.

Q. Has the US pressure on Pakistan had any impact?

A. Unfortunately, on the contrary, we have been on the receiving end. After the announcement of (US President Donald Trump’s) South Asia policy, the attacks intensified, and cross-border terrorism increased. That has just one message for me personally — to look at this as if (it’s a) “no” to a call that don’t use terrorism. The ball is in the world community’s court and we have to respond.

Q. What about the rise of the Islamic State in Afghanistan?

A. Many would say the Daesh (another name for Islamic State) of Syria and Iraq has always been there in the Middle East, but in Afghanistan, 80% or more are Taliban converted to Daesh. Taliban have changed their allegiance to Daesh…it is nothing but the continued deception of the world community by presenting terrorism under various labels, to grab attention and to use them.

Q. What about the reports of some Indians joining IS in Afghanistan?

A. It is quite possible. These terrorist groups, they look for people, hire them and use them. The other day I was reading in the newspaper about the presence of al-Qaeda and Daesh in Kashmir. No society would be immune to the kind of problem that we’ve seen in Afghanistan. That’s why we say that we should not be ignorant of the problem that is hurting Afghanistan more and not others, (people) would think this is not a serious issue for others.

If today 100 or so Indians can be hired by Daesh, isn’t it possible that they will add to this number in the years to come? They will, if India and others in this region will not start cooperation based on the interests of everyone — which is to have a safe region. That political will is required and I don’t believe it exists now.

I don’t have doubts about India but I doubt countries including Pakistan, because we don’t see the action that must be (taken against) terrorist groups there. We still see lingering, dragging feet on going after those terrorist groups for whatever reasons.

Q. Steve Coll’s new book, Directorate S, refers to former Pakistan Army chief Gen Ashfaq Kayani’s demand that Afghanistan should end India’s influence in the country. Your reaction.

A. It’s quite distressing to see the expectations of this nature from one neighbour to another neighbour. Can any country in our region accept a demand like this from a neighbour? Can Pakistan accept, for example, Afghanistan’s demand to cut its ties with China? No way, and we will never ask.

That’s the basics of the problem. On the one hand, we talk of sovereignty and we say countries are sovereign in decision-making and then ask to cut off ties with a neighbour.

I know of these demands, we have heard for years of a desire that we should have no ties with India. The Afghanistan that I know and belong to will never ever surrender to anyone’s demand of this nature, whether this is vis-à-vis India or any other nation.

This is a futile exercise — whichever country thinks Afghanistan will one day come round and bow and surrender and say we will do whatever you say. We did not bow to Russia, we did not bow to Britain.

Wrap up this demand and allow Afghanistan to live in peace with all neighbours. We have no designs on or bad feelings for any country, but a sovereign right to be friendly with countries that we have been historically tied to so strongly, including India…In no way Afghanistan will think of decreasing, let alone cutting off, ties with India. The relationship is not designed against anyone.

Q. What is the current status of the peace process with the Taliban?

A. Afghanistan, in the last three years, has shown to the world that it is sincere about what it says. It had two agendas under the current government – that we will have two channels of contacts for peace. One, a state-to-state relationship with Pakistan and two, contacts and talks with the Taliban.

We started with Pakistan, unprecedented steps were taken by President (Ashraf) Ghani to show that we were sincere to resolve the problems with Pakistan. I don’t want to go into details of how many visits took place, how much we waited and the mechanisms that were established, like the quadrilateral of Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the US.

The quadrilateral – I clearly see a reason for India to object. We have explained and India has always understood and accepted Afghanistan’s position. What was delivered after months and years of meetings of the quadrilateral – there was nothing but continued war.

Everything that Pakistan said, we did it, at immense political cost in Afghanistan. I must tell you we failed.

The latest peace offer to the Taliban could not have been imagined a year ago – that we would offer everything from holding passports, to having a political party in Afghanistan and with no conditions for talks. They have always asked for everything that we have offered, such as removing them from the blacklist and we offered them an office in Kabul and accepting them as a legitimate political party.

First Published: Mar 27, 2018 14:49 IST