Monday, August 10

On national TV President Ashraf Ghani lambastes Pakistan about terrorism in Afghanistan (UPDATED 6:55 PM EDT)

The 5.7 earthquake magnitude quoted in earlier news reports was later revised to 6.2 on the Indian Meteorological Department's reading of the Richter scale. While the quake was felt across a wide region in S. Asia, including the capitals of Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan, it was so deep, more than 200 km, it didn't cause devastation.  Still, coming so close to the time of Ghani's speech, it was an eerie coincidence -- or omen, depending on how you want to look at it.  

“The reality is that Pakistan is busy holding gatherings to discuss its undeclared war in Afghanistan.”  -- President Ashraf Ghani, August 10, as quoted by Bloomberg Business report on his speech

Ghani Addresses Nation, Blasts Pakistan
Monday, 10 August 2015 15:03 Updated 16:27
Written by Kathy Whitehead

Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani on Monday afternoon addressed the nation and made it clear that Friday's Shah Shaheed bombing in Kabul was unacceptable and that it was a game changer for the country.

He said that as the Peshawar school attack had been a game changer for Pakistan, the recent Kabul attacks, targeting civilians, had also changed the face of insurgency for Afghanistan.

He said the only message he was getting from Pakistan was one of war and that so long as there was bloodshed in the country, the relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan meant nothing.

"Pakistan still remains the venue and ground for gatherings from which mercenaries send us a message of war," he said.

According to him Afghanistan can no longer stand back and witness the killing of its citizens and said he does not know why those in support of Islam are keeping quiet about the recent attacks.

He went on to say that Afghanistan would not sit around the peace talks table with those at war against the country. In addition he emphasized that any moves towards peace talks in future would be done by Afghanistan only.

He said his stance on peace talks towards Pakistan was now very clear.

According to him, he has upheld his end of the bargain over the past ten months and that after coming in to power he met with Pakistan's leadership and held two-dimensional talks. He said key had been achieving peace with Pakistan and secondly peace with the Taliban.

However, Ghani said that at the time Pakistan President Nawaz Sharif said the enemies of Afghanistan are the enemies of Pakistan – "now the time has come for him to prove it", he said.

"We have earned the support of the region in our stance against insurgents and the peace process. We are not vanishing, we are integrating," he said.

He said Pakistan has to bring the Taliban to the talks tables and secondly stop harboring the insurgents – this includes barring them access to hospitals and other necessary services, he added.

He said Pakistan needs to have the same policy definition in regard to terrorism for Afghanistan, as it has for itself.

The focal area however for Ghani is that he wants action to be taken against those responsible for the deadly attacks these past few days against Kabul. He said action taken should be clear.

He said Afghanistan is not just asking Pakistan to bring the Taliban to the peace talks tables – instead Afghanistan wants Pakistan to take action against those who are launching attacks against Afghanistan.

"Terrorists were defeated in the battleground, so they are targeting the public and the cities," he said.

"Terrorism is a vast and a widespread concern."

"The blood of our people and the national interests of Afghanistan lay the basis of our relation."

"Our righteousness has been proven and everyone knows we made all sincere efforts for peace," he stated.

He said that Pakistan's decisions in the upcoming weeks will have a direct impact on Afghanistan's relations with them

Ghani's speech was delivered at a press conference at the Presidential Palace in the battle-weary capital of Kabul, which has faced a barrage of attacks against it over the past four days.

On Friday, three separate bombings claimed the lives of over 50 people, and injured over 400. The Taliban claimed responsibility for two of the three attacks.

These were followed by Monday morning's deadly suicide car bombing that killed at least five people and injured 16. The explosion occurred at the first checkpoint outside the busy Hamid Karzai International Airport.

Again the Taliban claimed responsibility and said a convoy of vehicles carrying foreigners had been the target.

Ghani's announcement comes on the heels of confirmation that the Taliban's supreme leader Mullah Omar died two years ago – news that appeared to throw the peace process into disarray.

The second round of peace talks, scheduled to be held on July 31, were postponed at the request of the Taliban, following news of Mullah Omar's death.

[Pundita note:  From The Los Angeles Times report from Afghanistan about Ghani's speech: "Ghani said he was sending a delegation of Afghan officials to Pakistan this week, the first high-level meeting between the countries since the Afghan-Taliban talks were called off."]

At the time Pakistan's foreign office said the planned second round of meetings would be delayed at the request of the Taliban leadership. This after Afghanistan and Pakistan held inaugural talks earlier in the month.

"Pakistan and other friendly countries of Afghanistan hope that the Taliban leadership will stay engaged in the process of peace talks in order to promote a lasting peace in Afghanistan," the foreign ministry said. 

The same day the peace talks were to have been held, the Taliban instead announced the appointment of Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour as new leader.

This has however reportedly led to a splintering of the group, with many insiders claiming that not all Taliban leaders are happy with Mullah Mansour's appointment. Senior members of the Taliban reportedly held open meetings in Pakistan to discuss the disputed appointment.

In addition, several top Taliban leaders have expressed strong opposition to his leadership, calling him a puppet of Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI).

Some political analysts, meanwhile, have said the Pakistani government is seeking to exploit divisions within the Taliban's ranks.

"It has always been said that Pakistan is using the Taliban leaders as a tool, and now this issue, once again, has been raised after the Taliban overtly began their activities and movement in Pakistan," political commentator Javed Kohistani said.

Other commentators believe the recent Taliban gathering in Pakistan is evidence of Pakistani clerics' attempt to stop the group from splintering.

"There were the same issues during Jihad; when the Mujahideen divided into many groups, Pakistan brought all of them to one table," National Solidarity Movement leader Sayed Ishaq Gilani told TOLOnews.

"Now the same thing is happening to the Taliban; Pakistani clerics are trying to use the group as a tool."


Frankly I don't think much of the commentaries about Pakistan and the Taliban that are quoted in the report. I agree with Amrullah Saleh's assessment, quoted in a July 31 report in The (U.K.) Independent about Mullah Omar's death:
The Taliban’s new leader, Mullah Mansour, is understood to favour peace talks. “They [Pakistan] want to bring in someone who can speak, negotiate and play a visible role [in the peace process], that is Mansour,” said Amrullah Saleh, the former head of Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security.
He said: “It is all calculated. It is all an ISI [Pakistani intelligence] game. The time for the mythical figure is gone. Someone reachable and touchable has to be brought in. That is Mansour.”
In other news from Afghanistan, a 5.7 magnitude earthquake struck there shortly after Ghani gave his speech. It was felt strongly in Kabul and across a wide region including parts of Tajikistan, India and Pakistan including Islamabad, which means it must also have shook Rawalpindi. 

So far no reports of building collapses or injuries from the quake. 

Related Pundita posts:

Aug 10

BREAKING NEWS: Powerful blast jolts Kabul; airport targeted; casualties (UPDATED) 

Camp Integrity in Kabul is run by U.S. contractor Academi, previously known as Blackwater

Aug 7

Afghanistan: Bombs Friday afternoon target Kabul police cadets and airport

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