Pakistan Interest In Afghanistan To Counter Indian Influence: US Report

Washington: Pakistan's strategic security objectives in Afghanistan almost certainly continue to be countering Indian influence and mitigating spillover of the Afghan civil war into Pakistani territory, a US government report has said, citing inputs from the Defence Intelligence Agency.

"Pakistan continues to support peace talks, while maintaining ties with the Afghan Taliban," US Department of State Office of the Inspector General noted in its latest quarterly report on Afghanistan.

"According to the DIA, Pakistan's strategic security objectives in Afghanistan almost certainly continue to be countering Indian influence and mitigating spillover into the Pakistani territory," the report said.

The report for the quarter April 1 to June 30 said the Pakistani government is concerned that a civil war in Afghanistan would have destabilising effects on Pakistan, including an influx of refugees and providing a potential safe haven for anti-Pakistan militants.

During the quarter, financial contributions to the Afghan Taliban increased in the Pakistan border regions, according to media reports, citing eyewitness sources. Solicitation efforts traditionally targeted mosques, but Afghan Taliban terrorists now openly visit the bazaar areas in nearby Pakistani towns, it said.

"The militants typically solicit contributions of USD 50 or more from shopkeepers. Local residents told reporters that solicitation efforts were now commonplace in the towns and cities of Quetta, Kuchlak Bypass, Pashtun Abad, Ishaq Abad, and Farooqia," it said.

According to the report, the DIA, citing media reports, said that Iran welcomes the withdrawal of US and coalition forces from Afghanistan but "almost certainly" remains concerned about the resulting instability in Afghanistan.

According to the DIA, Iran will continue to pursue influence in any future Afghan government through relations with the Afghan government, the Taliban, and power brokers, but Iran opposes the reestablishment of the Taliban's Islamic Emirate, it said.

As a resurgent Taliban continues to occupy new territory and an overtaxed Afghan National Defence Security Force is increasingly unable to provide security in certain areas, Afghan power brokers have increasingly begun raising private militias, it said, citing media reports.

"During the quarter, leaders related to the Northern Alliance spoke openly of a 'second resistance' to the Taliban, and some of the leaders began to mobilise anti-Taliban forces under their respective commands," the report said.

The Northern Alliance comprised militias of primarily Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara ethnicity, while the Taliban was largely of Pashtun ethnicity. The period of direct conflict between Northern Alliance and the Taliban included significant violence, often targeting civilians because of their ethnicity.

According to the Afghanistan Analysts Network, a resumption of conflict between the Taliban and the elements, which formerly made up the Northern Alliance, risks a recurrence of such violence.

In April, Ahmed Massoud -- a militia commander and son of the Northern Alliance's most prominent leader Ahmed Shah Massoud who was killed by al-Qaeda shortly before the attacks of September 11, 2001 -- said in a media interview that his followers were prepared for the "failure of peace".

In May, Ahmed Massoud told reporters that over 100,000 militia leaders, fighters and other stakeholders in northern Afghanistan have pledged support to his anti-Taliban movement.

He said public concerns about the stagnant peace process, US withdrawal of troops and apparent Taliban gains against the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) have led to an increasing number of Afghans to take up arms and organise independently, the report noted.

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