Dual policy’s fruits

NATO helicopters carried out an operation inside Pakistani territory, killing about 50 insurgents in North Waziristan. Pakistan lodged a strong protest against the incursion and said that it was “a clear violation and breach” of the UN rules for foreign troops in Afghanistan. Pakistan also said that it will have to “consider response options” unless corrective measures are taken. On the other hand, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) maintains that since Afghan forces in Khost province were attacked by “a significant number of insurgents”, this attack was carried out “after following the proper rules of engagement under inherent right of self-defence”. In its statement, ISAF said that the helicopters “crossed into the area of enemy fire” as per the ISAF rules of engagement. It has often been claimed by the US military that ISAF forces are allowed to pursue insurgents across the border during hot pursuit while Pakistan denies that any such agreement exists.

North Waziristan has become a constant pain in the neck for the US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan. For a long time now the US has been insisting that a military operation must be carried out there by the Pakistan Army. So far, Pakistan has been dragging its feet on the issue citing lack of resources and engagement on other fronts. From North Waziristan, the Haqqani network has become very active of late in mounting attacks inside Afghanistan. In response, in recent weeks there has been an escalation in drone attacks by the US military inside Pakistani territory, and particularly North Waziristan. The Americans have claimed from time to time that Pakistan is complicit in the drone attacks even though a ritual condemnation of such attacks is the norm for Pakistan.

The untenable consequences of the duality of our policy vis-à-vis terrorism have landed the country in hot water. It is time to take stock of the situation. If we continue to support the Afghan Taliban while fighting against the local Taliban, sooner or later the western forces will lose patience and the results could be grave. Instead of waiting and watching while continuing ‘business as usual’, we should reconsider the policy of the false distinction between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban and understand that support to the former could subject us to more ‘hot pursuit’ and even ‘boots on the ground’ from across the western border.

(my editorial in Daily Times)


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