What ‘The Spy Chronicles’ has to say about Afghanistan

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In an explosive recent book co-authored by the former chief of India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), A S Dulat, and the former head of Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI), Lieutenant-General Asad Durrani, the two old men display some shocking ignorance.

The book, The Spy Chronicles, is devised in the shape of extensive dialogues between the pair on the relations between India and Pakistan, but some other issues such as Afghanistan, Balochistan and Kashmir are discussed too. In essence, critical questions are raised regarding insurgency, terrorism, liberation, and application of military force and the role of the intelligence agencies.

The authors, Durrani and Dulat, served as chiefs of their respective intelligence agencies over the years, but they were not principal intelligence opponents, because of their close friendship. But of course, the reality is a lot more complicated than two retired army generals mirthfully discussing high policy on Afghanistan and the region, without having any consequences of the choices that they envisage the policymakers will make in any given situation over Afghanistan or perhaps Kashmir.

Durrani blindly calls Ashraf Ghani an embarrassment to Afghans. Ghani is the elected president of Afghanistan – bashing him will not resolve the issue of insurgency in the region, but paying more attention to the safe havens inside Pakistan and close cooperation between the two countries would lead to a fruitful result.

The war in Afghanistan will continue unless the main party, the Taliban, is involved in t. Talks are essential. Even the Americans have come around that view. [The]   agreed that Pakistan is the key to this dialogue, it won’t happen or progress without Pakistan.

Here Dulat makes a gesture of cooperation on Afghanistan to Durrani, but India has more historical close relations with Afghanistan than Pakistan. its the reason cooperation seems too complicated in the Afghan conflict. More specifically, Pakistan has imposed an extremist style of insurgency on Afghanistan for a long time and because of such militancy, the youth of Pakistan have been continuously radicalized and have positioned themselves to bring about changes in their country.

President Ghani is constantly proposing and working on regional connectivity projects with neighboring countries along with Pakistan in order to transform Asian countries economically and make the region grow richer in the future. Moreover, it all depends on Pakistan to bring stability into Asia instead of destruction, bring prosperity instead of war and famine.

Ghani is thoroughly committed to solving all the issues with Pakistan and other countries in the region so as to rely on his own economy and military, but Durrani believes that Ghani is hostile to Pakistan and has no constituency in Afghanistan. Well, Durrani might be right based on his intelligence assessment; the Taliban and warlords have full power in Afghanistan but are rejected by the majority of Afghans. These warlords and Taliban are in favor of violence to bring anarchy and form their constituencies. this might be the only reason that Durrani said Ghani had no constituency in Afghanistan, because Ghani is not a warlord or a Taliban member.

Ashraf Ghani is more harmful to Pakistan than Karzai ever was. At least Karzai, for whom I have sympathy and admiration, had his feet on the ground and knew how to play these games. – Lieutenant-General Asad Durrani

Hamid Karzai paid 20 visits to Pakistan during his presidency in order to make some arrangements with it; however, it never worked out with the Pakistani military. Ashraf Ghani visited once and declared his policy of no more visits to Pakistan because he knew that visiting, again and again, would not benefit Afghans.

[One] could see a new axis emerging: Pakistan, Iran, Russia, and China. During my visit to Moscow in 2012, I could see these countries closing ranks on coordinating policy on Afghanistan. Both the Iranians and Russians are talking to the Taliban. The Chinese have essentially said, you lead the war, and if it led to regional countries coming together, then we can probably play a role. – Lieutenant-General Asad Durrani

Ironically, the Russians and Indians also have a joint policy for Afghanistan that will result in the prosperity of Asia. The Chinese and Indians also have a policy on Afghanistan. These countries play a more constructive role in rebuilding and shaping Afghanistan’s future in collaboration with the Afghan government and at the same time with the Taliban.

The Americans are the target of the Taliban. Possibly in the future, the Americans jointly with regional countries as well as the Afghan government could have talks with the Taliban. But the scenario is more complicated concerning the fight with the Taliban, where hundreds and thousands of Afghan civilians die, every player in the great game of Afghanistan is searching for a way to resolve the issue, but it is up to Pakistan how to fix it – whether through death, destruction or prosperity. 

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