ANALYSIS: Pakistan’s new government unlikely to improve ties with Kabul

In this photo released by the National Assembly, the leader of Pakistan Tahreek-e-Insaf party Imran Khan, speaks at the National Assembly in Islamabad, Pakistan, on Friday, Aug. 17, 2018. (AP)
Updated 19 August 2018
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ANALYSIS: Pakistan’s new government unlikely to improve ties with Kabul

  • Analysts says Ghani’s politically and ethnically divided government has neither the ability nor the options to reduce the new wave of tension and mistrust between the two countries
  • Pakistan may resort to putting further pressure on Kabul until a new Afghan government is in place, say experts

KABUL: When Imran Khan won Pakistan’s elections last month, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was one of the first leaders to congratulate him. Ghani issued an official invitation to Khan to visit Kabul in an effort to start a new chapter in the historically uneasy relations between the two neighbors.
The sense of optimism in Kabul followed Khan’s pledge in his victory speech that he wanted a EU-style soft border with Afghanistan despite the fact that he had struck a pro-Taliban stance in the past.
Less than a month on, that sense of optimism seems to have faded following events on the battlefield, particularly a major assault by the Taliban on the city of Ghazni last week.
Local officials allege that Pakistan assisted the Taliban in Ghazni, and Ghani subsequently stated that Taliban soldiers wounded in the attack had been taken to Pakistan for treatment.  All of which reduces the odds of any improvement in relations in the near future.
Analysts have suggested that Ghani’s politically and ethnically divided government, which has suffered a number of successive losses in battle, has neither the ability nor the options to reduce the new wave of tension and mistrust between the two countries.
They predict that, instead, Pakistan may resort to putting further pressure on Kabul until a new Afghan government is in place. Presidential elections are currently slated for April.
“I do not think that these challenges and tensions will decrease until a new government comes to power here,” Ahmad Saeedi, an analyst who served as a diplomat in Pakistan told Arab News. “There will be even tougher times ahead, with militants possibly targeting more major cities and even Kabul.”
Saeedi said that recent talks between the Taliban and US officials may further embolden the Taliban to step up their attacks so they can speak from a position of strength in future talks, something he said Islamabad wants in order to balance India’s growing influence in Afghanistan.
He added that Washington and NATO — both of whom have troops in Afghanistan — may only want to prevent the total collapse of Ghani’s government, but that they do not seem to trust “the government’s weak leadership to have the ability to govern.”
Waheed Mozdah, another analyst, said Afghan officials have no strong evidence to prove Pakistan’s involvement in the Taliban’s victory in Ghazni, which has struck another major blow to Ghani’s administration.
He pointed out, too, that Ghani’s allegations are unlikely to help improve relations with Pakistan. “After Ghani’s allegations, I do not think Imran Khan even will visit Afghanistan,” he said. “Ghani’s comments are not helpful at all. He seems to have turned the new government in Pakistan against him.”
When contacted by Arab News, government spokesman Shah Hussain Murtazawi said Kabul expected these problems to be solved, but did not elaborate on the government’s plans to do so.
During a recent visit to Ghazni, Ghani accused Khan of not honoring his pledge as an ethnic Pashtun and directed the same charge at Pakistan’s army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa.
“Imran Khan, you are the son of Pashtun parents. Investigate this and give me an answer. Gen. Bajwa, you have repeatedly given me assurances over phone calls that special attention would be given to the issue of peace in Afghanistan once elections took place in Pakistan. Now give me an answer,” Ghani said, while addressing a group of tribal elders attending the jirga on Friday.


Major powers, Iran meet to salvage nuclear deal without US

European Union Foreign Affairs and Security Policy High Representative Federica Mogherini is seen at the start of a meeting on Libya hosted by France's Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York on September 24, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 28 min 20 sec ago
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Major powers, Iran meet to salvage nuclear deal without US

  • Highlighting just how difficult it will be for the Europeans to come up with concrete solutions, French state-owned bank Bpifrance on Monday abandoned its plan to set up a financial mechanism to aid French companies trading with Iran

UNITED NATIONS: Iran has ample reason to stay in the 2015 nuclear deal despite the US withdrawal and the remaining parties on Monday will discuss ways to blunt the effect of impending US sanctions on Tehran, the European Union’s foreign policy chief said.
Speaking before a gathering of senior officials from Britain, China, Germany, Russia and Iran, the EU’s Federica Mogherini made the case for Iran remaining in the deal that US President Donald Trump abandoned on May 8.
“An essential part of the agreement and its implementation regards Iran having the possibility of benefiting from the lifting of sanctions, and this is exactly why we are discussing tonight, operational concrete steps that we can put in place,” Mogherini told reporters before the talks at the United Nations.
“Iran has good arguments and good reasons to remain in the agreement. ... the more operational decisions we will manage to take and ... implement, I believe the more Iran will have reasons to do,” she added.
The European Union, however, has so far failed to devise a workable legal framework to shield its companies from US sanctions that go into effect in November and that, among other things, seek to choke off Iran’s oil sales, diplomats said.
Highlighting just how difficult it will be for the Europeans to come up with concrete solutions, French state-owned bank Bpifrance on Monday abandoned its plan to set up a financial mechanism to aid French companies trading with Iran.
The crux of the deal, negotiated over almost two years by the administration of former US President Barack Obama, was that Iran would restrain its nuclear program in return for the relaxation of sanctions that had crippled its economy.
Trump considered it flawed because it did not include curbs on Iran’s ballistic missiles program or its support for proxies in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq.
The United States began reimposing economic sanctions this summer and the most draconian measures, which seek to force Iran’s major customers to stop buying its oil, resume Nov. 5.
Their impending return has contributed to a slide in Iran’s currency. The rial has lost about two-thirds of its value this year, hitting a record low against the US dollar this month.
There are limits to what the EU can do to counter the oil sanctions, under which Washington can cut off from the US financial system any bank that facilitates an oil transaction with Iran.