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“Afghanistan Counterterrorism, Oversight and Accountability Act”: Expecting the Expected

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By Agha Iqrar Haroon

One of the famous US Foreign Policy academicians, Jan Melissen believes that Diplomacy is the management of change and deals with transformations in the relations between states while taking into account the changing fabric of transnational relations. Like the natural environment, diplomatic relations are not static and are based on interests and requirements of the stipulated era.

There is a debate going on in Pakistan regarding Pakistan’s relations with the United States, its past, present, and future. If you talk to any Career Diplomat, he would tell you that we are where regional development drove us. He can advocate that joining NATO (as a Non-NATO member), SEATO, and CENTO was the demand of the respective eras. He can convey to you that Indian involvement in Afghanistan in the 60s and 70s compelled Pakistan to design our Afghan Policy that was crafted in accordance with our US Policy and both developments designed our Middle Eastern Foreign Policy. Every intelligent Career diplomat will give you justifications what we gained and what we lost is linked with circumstances of previous eras. History books are full of statements about how did India plan Operation Jackpot against Pakistan to disintegrate former East Pakistan. Statements of Indian politicians and spymasters tell us how did India launch a hybrid war against Pakistan in the first two decades of the 21st century? . All these adverse developments against Pakistan took place when Pakistan was the strongest US ally in the region while India was not considered as US Strategic partner. During changing scenarios in the region in 1978-79, Pakistan was the front office of Afghan Jihad that is still an advantage or burden over Pakistan’s future. Instead of going into details about what did Pakistan gain and lost due to Afghan Jihad and being a Non-NATO allay during the war on terror, the reality is that Pakistan had gone through US sanctions in the 90s, and even then had always been a partner of what the US wanted to do in this region while having a relationship that is engulfed in a thick fog of mistrust. Eccentrically, Pakistan always wants to help the US knowingly that Pakistan is the most mistrusted friend according to US policymakers. Recently, Pakistan was the only country that helped US allies for their safe passage along with their Afghan contractors out of Afghanistan when US forces were in an extremely chaotic state of mind that had already been seen by the whole world through visuals of Kabul Airport.

My conversations with some retired bureaucrats and military men during and after the “Fall of Kabul” led me to think that soon Pakistan would face something very serious after safe withdrawal of US interests is concluded because who should be the scapegoat for Afghan war defeat would the most asked question in corridors of US offices? And of course, it could only be Pakistan—- who had been a mistrusted friend for ages. Therefore, the Legislation tabled by 22 US Senators for making Pakistan responsible for US defeat is not unexpected adverse development for people who understand the currents and undercurrents of Pak-US relations.

“Afghanistan Counterterrorism, Oversight and Accountability Act” was introduced by Senator Jim Risch, a ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. This Act was tabled after the meeting of Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on September 24 with Republican Senator James Risch on the sidelines of his United Nations-related engagements in New York. Moving the Act to the House after this meeting is a clear indication that US Senators did not buy Pakistan’s viewpoint and have decided to punish Pakistan for the US failures.  In addition to Senators Collins and Risch, the legislation was co-sponsored by Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Todd Young (R-Ind.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), John Hoeven (R-N.D), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), and Roger Marshall (R-Kan.).

The Legislation says that not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, and not less frequently than annually thereafter, the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense and the Director of National Intelligence, shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report on entities providing support to the Taliban. The Legislation wants a detailed report about the 20-year scene of Afghanistan from the day Operation Enduring Freedom started and ended at mid-night chaotic withdrawal of US-allied forces from Afghanistan. The Legislation wants:

  • an assessment of support by state and non-state actors, including the Government of Pakistan, for the Taliban between 2001 and 2020, including the provision of sanctuary space, financial support, intelligence support, logistics, and medical support, training, equipping, and tactical, operational, or strategic direction;
  • an assessment of support by state and non-state actors, including the Government of Pakistan, for the 2021 offensive of the Taliban that toppled the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, including the provision of sanctuary space, Financial support, intelligence support, logistics, and medical support, training, equipping, and tactical, operational, or strategic direction;
  • an assessment of support by state and non-state actors, including the Government of Pakistan, for the September 2021 offensive of the Taliban against the Panjshir Valley and the Afghan resistance; and a detailed description of United States diplomatic and military activities undertaken to curtail support for the 2021 offensive of the Taliban that toppled the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

In political and academic circles of Pakistan, this Legislation is considered an attempt to make Pakistan a scapegoat for ruthless US defeat in Afghanistan and can be related to the Public Hearing of Secretary of Defence, Gen Millay and Gen McKenzie where they faced grilling from Senators and even their resignations were demanded. Now all three will furnish reports about the reasons for their failure and the role of Pakistan in their failure.

In their Public testimonies, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin, General Milley, and Gen McKenzie indicated that the US has the right to invade Afghanistan again if it would have reason to believe that Afghan soil is being used for generating terrorism that can harm the US interests. Do they mean indirectly that they have the right to bomb not only Afghanistan but also those elements, who according to them were responsible for their failures?

Even in their Opening Statements at Senate Armed Services Committee, they were open in sharing their desires to reinvade Afghanistan at the time of their choice. Their statements say that they just need to have a “Reason to Believe” that Afghanistan has become dangerous again for US interests and they will run to Kabul to attack it.

Their statements indicate that the only solution of Afghanistan was to stay in Afghanistan and “withdrawal” was the reason for “chaotic withdrawal”.

Pakistan has learned to live with the US with feelings of mistrust. However, Prime Minister Imran Khan has categorically said several times in the past six months that Pakistan is not ready to become a scapegoat. PM Khan understands the Public pulse who is not ready to accept US bashing anymore. The democratization of access to information has turned citizens into independent observers as well as assertive participants in international politics and even grassroots of civil society have become interested in Foreign Affairs. The categorical position of PM Khan is actually an acceptance of the emerging new dynamics of Foreign Policy. Political governments and Prime Ministers are temporary components of any State and they keep changing but State institutions like Foreign Office are permanent. Therefore it is not very important what today’s Prime Minister thinks and says. The most important factor is what permanent State institutions like Foreign Office believe and think about future relations with any country.

Western Foreign Affairs experts believe that broader changes in diplomatic practice can at least partly be seen as a symptom of a change in the conduct of international relations due to the proactive and semi-official role of Think Tanks, Public Right Groups, and Experts Groups in designing Diplomacy of their countries. Is our Foreign Office ready to accept new international trends in forming Diplomacy and Foreign Affairs relations?

Disclaimer:

The views and opinions expressed in this article/Opinion/Comment are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the DND Thought Center and Dispatch News Desk (DND). Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of the DND Thought Center and Dispatch News Desk News Agency.

Central Desk
Central News Desk.

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