Analysts Say Some Neighbors Interfering in Kabuls Internal
February 10, 2003 [ 14:44 ]
By Ron Synovitz,
KABUL. The British group that publishes "Janes Defense Weekly" says
Afghanistan is facing "pressure and interference" from its neighbors and
other nearby countries.
The report by researcher Akram Gizabi was
released this month by "Janes Islamic Affairs Analyst." Gizabi says four
countries that actively tried to shape the affairs of Afghanistan during
the past three decades -- Pakistan, Russia, Iran, and Uzbekistan -- are
now on the scene again to varying degrees. And he warns that some
countries have questionable intentions in Afghanistan.
experts agree with Gizabis assessment. Among them is Christopher Langton,
head of defense analysis at the International Institute for Strategic
Studies in London. He told RFE/RL: "This, to my mind, is one of the most
disturbing things about the emerging situation in Afghanistan. The
[nearby] powers -- Russia, Pakistan and Iran, in particular -- are now
seeking to re-establish their influence in Afghanistan in a very partisan
fashion. That, to most peoples minds, cannot bode well for the future
unity of Afghanistan, which [Transitional Authority President] Hamid
Karzai, [UN special envoy] Lakhdar Brahimi, and the United Nations are
trying to build."
Out of all of Afghanistans neighbors, Gizabi
says Pakistan is responsible for most of the interference. The degree of
involvement by Pakistans government, rather than radical groups or
individuals within the country, is an issue that analysts are still
debating. Thats because Pakistan officially is an ally in the U.S.-led
But Gizabi maintains that Pakistans
intelligence service, the ISI, is now directly supporting the Taliban,
Al-Qaeda, and renegade Afghan commander Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who is
thought to be hiding in Pakistans autonomous tribal regions.
Reports of Pakistani agents working against Karzai and the United
States are nothing new to Afghans. Last September, after a deadly bomb
attack in a Kabul market, Karzai accused Pakistan of sheltering and
There also has been a recent upsurge of border
clashes and reported infiltrations into Afghanistan by militants thought
to have sheltered in Pakistans Northwest Frontier Province and
Baluchistan -- two provinces where pro-Taliban politicians recently won
U.S. military spokesman Roger King said former
Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters appear to have regrouped and aligned
themselves with Hekmatyar and his declared holy war against the United
States and the Afghan central government.
King said those fighters
are thought to have been involved in a fierce battle against U.S. troops
last month in Kandahar Province near the Spin Boldak border crossing with
Pakistan. "Our intelligence leads us to believe that they are most closely
aligned with [former Afghan Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyars] Hizb-e
Islami movement, which is Hekmatyars military arm. Weve had reports over
the last several months that hes been attempting to consolidate with
remnants of Al-Qaeda and Taliban. So they would all go under the heading
of enemy forces -- anti-coalition forces. But thats who we believe they
are," he said.
A few days after that battle, when it became
apparent most of the fighters had escaped, 18 Afghan civilians were killed
by a freshly laid land mine on the outskirts of Kandahar.
Abdullah Popal told in a memorial ceremony for the victims this week
that elements in "neighboring countries" dont want peace and security in
Kandahars security chief, General Khan Mohammad
Khakreezwal, told the crowd that Afghanistans neighbors are still trying
to gain influence in the country by helping militants who oppose Karzai.
"Now they still dont want to leave us alone. We should not be used [as
puppets by our neighbors]. We should not be the cause of destruction --
and we should work for [the Afghan] people now," he said.
Khakreezwal stressed that the presence of the U.S.-led coalition
in Afghanistan should help the country protect itself from unwanted
foreign interference. "Now there is a good chance for the Afghan people,
with the international forces in the region, to release Afghanistan from
the grip of these people," he said.
Langton said the growing
number of reports about ISI involvement in Afghanistan does not surprise
him. "I think this is very much part of it. There is very little secret
now about the fact that the I.S.I. are back inside Afghanistan. And if
they are in Afghanistan, then it is not going too far to say they are
talking with the Taliban both in Pakistan and in Afghanistan," he told
Langton also said the recent fighting near Spin Boldak has
lent urgency to allegations of Pakistani involvement. "Recent events in
the southern mountains [of Afghanistan] have shown that the level of
attacks, the numbers of attacks, have risen and that infiltration by the
Taliban back into [Afghanistan] has also increased. And the ISI may be
playing a part in that for traditional, as well as for ethnic, reasons,"
Junaid Ahsan, a Karachi-based analyst at the Pakistani
Institute for International Affairs, argues that it would be imprudent for
Pakistan to help the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. "Viewing history, [and the
ISIs support for the rise of the Taliban during the 1990s], it may be
possible that covertly they now have some relationship or [are providing]
shelter. But officially, and viewing the international and regional
situation, it is not very obvious. And it doesnt seem practical that
Pakistan should take such a risky step," Ahsan said.
commanders in the southeastern provinces of Khost and Paktia have been
complaining for months about the ability of Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters
to cross freely back and forth across the border with Pakistan --
sometimes passing directly through buildings used by Pakistans border
Another issue that concerns Gizabi is a $40 million
military helicopter deal reached between Russia and Jamiat-e Islami, the
powerful former Northern Alliance faction headed by Afghan Defense
Minister Mohammad Qasim Fahim. The contract calls for Russia to provide
transport helicopters, gunships, and spare parts directly to Fahims
ministry rather than the Afghan National Army.
Langton said such
deals stoke tensions between rival factional militias that still dominate
the regions outside of Kabul. "Particularly, I would point at the Russian
involvement with Fahim in passing [weapons] on to him, and specifically
not to the Afghan National Army. And what sort of message does that send
given that Fahim has as a protege Mohammad Atta, who is a deputy governor
in [the northern Afghan city of] Mazar-e Sharif, and the separate
coalition up there of the Turks, Uzbeks, and [General Abdul Rashid]
Langton concluded, "The future, if this trend continues
with these outside powers picking partners in a disunified fashion, looks
rather bleak, to be honest."
Gizabi says Islamist hard-liners in
Tehran oppose the creation of a democratic government in Afghanistan and
are actively trying to destabilize Karzais government. He says Tehran
also has given sanctuary to terrorists from Al-Qaeda, including at least
two high-ranking members of its inner circle.
Iran has provided
military aid to the private militia of Ismail Khan, the governor of the
western Afghan province of Herat. Gizabi says Tehran also is training and
financing militant groups in central and northwestern Afghanistan like
Sepah-e Mohammad and Sepah-e Quds.
In northern Afghanistan, Gizabi
says Turkey and Uzbekistan appear eager to revive their support for
General Abdul Rashid Dostum by strengthening his private militia forces.
Last December, a document signed by Karzai and Afghanistans
neighbors called for constructive and supportive bilateral relations. The
so-called Kabul Declaration says friendly relations should be based on the
principles of territorial integrity, mutual respect, cooperation, and
noninterference in each others internal affairs.
But the reality
suggested by Afghan experts, Karzai, and other Afghan officials appears to
be at odds with the hopes expressed in the Kabul Declaration.