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Defeat Terrorism – End Sanctuaries

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By Dr. Zia Nezam,: Former Afghan Ambassador to Vienne, Brussels and Rome

Winning the Afghan people’s war against terrorism without wiping out sanctuaries outside Afghanistan is impossible.

Afghanistan today is challenged by an upsurge in terrorist attacks. These recent criminal acts have heightened tension within our National Unity government, and our leadership’s continued resolve is essential. We must be united now to  face continuing evil external and internal threats. For 16 years Afghani and Coalition forces have fought for us Afghans, yet a sense of security in Kabul is eroding as mounting numbers of innocent people are killed and maimed.  However, this spike of violence must unite us and harden our resolve to root out the Taliban and other terrorist gangs who would destroy the legitimate Afghan state.

The Taliban and their ilk are able to survive because they have safe havens. Across our eastern border in Pakistan, terrorists treat their wounded, train new killers, and replenish supplies. They are free to do this because the Pakistan politico-military leadership — proven by their actions — sees “good” and “bad” terrorists.  Bad terrorists are the TTP (Tehrik e Taliban Pakistan) who fight to destroy a modern Pakistan, but not terrorist groups who do not fight against Pakistan. The latter are not criminals there and are not challenged by the Pakistani army.

For global public consumption, Pakistan appears to be a staunch ally in the international war on terrorism. Yet its military offensives only target the TTP.  After battles against the Pakistani army, TTP fighters not killed or captured flee to Afghanistan and join the ISIS murderers. Thus, Pakistan in its picking and choosing terrorist enemies, rather than aiding us in rooting out all terrorist nests, perversely feeds terrorism in Afghanistan in another way.

All terrorist sanctuaries in Pakistan and Afghanistan must be rooted out if we are ever going to achieve regional peace and stability. Major leaders of the Afghan Taliban: Jalaluddin Haqqani, Sirajuddin Haqqani, and Hibatullah Akhundzada enjoy safe haven in Pakistan. These terrorists fight a proxy war for Pakistan’s leaders. Because the Pakistan nation-state was, and still is, only marginally more stable than Afghanistan, Pakistan for its national survival has long supported the Afghan Taliban regime. Clear-eyed analysts of our region know Pakistan’s support of the Taliban is the principal cause of continuing insecurity and violence in Afghanistan, not Afghan government or military ineptitude.

In 2016, Afghanistan suffered the highest number of deaths and casualties in its history, according to UN reports. With continued bombings, 2017 could ultimately be worse. Therefore, I urge that our NATO allies convince Pakistan to end its double game and join with us and Coalition forces to develop today a coordinated, if not combined, battle plan to destroy terrorist sanctuaries in Pakistan and Afghanistan along our common border. With unified multilateral military action, we can bring greater respective national security and further regional stability. Such action is vital for the survival of both Afghanistan and Pakistan.