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Commentary: Why Pakistan continues to provide safe haven for the Afghan Taliban

7 0 90

WASHINGTON: The Trump Administration’s decision to suspend military aid to Pakistan is one of the most significant US punitive actions against Pakistan since 2001.

The US has long been frustrated with Pakistan’s persistent acquiescence to safe havens for the Afghan Taliban and its branch in Pakistan - both benefit more from misgovernance in Afghanistan, but Pakistan’s aid helps a lot.

Worse yet, Pakistan has provided direct military and intelligence aid to both groups, resulting in the deaths of US soldiers, Afghan security personnel and civilians, and significant destabilisation in Afghanistan.


Pakistan has long been a difficult and disruptive neighbour to Afghanistan, hoping to limit India’s influence there, and cultivating radical groups within Afghanistan as proxies. It has augmented Afghanistan’s instability by providing intelligence, weapons and protection to the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network.

Why does Pakistan act this way? It fears an unstable Afghanistan that becomes a safe haven for anti-Pakistan militant groups and a dangerous playground for outside powers, even though this has already happened.

Pakistan bets that the Taliban will maintain significant power and perhaps even obtain formal political power in Afghanistan one day and does not want to alienate it. The Taliban is Pakistan’s only ally among Afghanistan’s political actors, however reluctant and unfriendly an ally it may be.

Pakistan further fears that targeting Afghanistan-oriented militant groups will provoke retaliation in Pakistan’s Punjab heartland.

Its long refusal to fully sever support for these groups is a product of Pakistan’s lack of full control over the militant groups it has sponsored, even though it is loathe to admit it.

Pakistan's military has been battling militants in the country's northwestern tribal regions. (File photo: AFP)

Such a disclosure of weakness would be costly: Reducing the omnipotent image of Pakistan’s military-intelligence apparatus with domestic audiences, including opposition politicians, and further encouraging misbehavior of militant........

© Channel NewsAsia