The Afghan government on Sunday dismissed reports that Pakistan demanded the dismissal of a number of key local security officials, and said that at no time did Kabul receive such a request from Islamabad.
Media reports circulating that Pakistan’s national security adviser Sartaj Aziz tabled a list of demands during his recent visit to Kabul including one that Afghanistan must oust certain security officials from their posts, including Rahmatullah Nabil, the head of the Afghan spy agency – the National Directorate of Security (NDS).
Aziz has however confirmed that ties between Kabul and Islamabad have soured following the spate of deadly attacks on the Afghan capital last month.
Ties between Afghanistan and its neighbor Pakistan dramatically improved following President Ashraf Ghani’s first state visit to Islamabad back in November when Pakistan pledged to get the Taliban to the peace talks tables in a bid to end the ongoing war.
In May, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced that the enemies of Afghanistan are enemies of Pakistan. This was followed by various other stakeholders attempting to enhance cooperation in curbing the influence of the Taliban.
In addition, the Pakistani army chief general Raheel Sharif visited Kabul several times where he held talks with Afghan officials on key issues facing the two countries – particularly that of the detention of at least five Pakistani Taliban leaders by the Afghan forces.
Later, Kabul agreed to allow agents of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) investigate the issue.
Afghan officials then came to realize that Pakistan was not being totally honest in its dealings with Afghanistan. As such, Ghani asked in a letter to Pakistani premier Nawaz Sharif that Pakistan address and abide by the commitments it made to Afghanistan.
Following the reported death of Taliban’s leader Mullah Omar, another group’s top commander Mullah Akhter Mansour claimed to be Omar’s successor. Mansour swiftly declared all-out war against Kabul and against foreign troops in Afghanistan. He was reportedly based in Quetta, the capital of Pakistan’s province of Baluchistan.
Mansour’s war cry was followed by a public outcry and for the first time Afghan religious scholars announced the Taliban’s war cry was un-Islamic.
“The question about when and where the peace talks will take place, this needs more consultations and deliberations. The second important issue is that if peace talks are kicked off, this time, we need to review it systematically and broadly,” a senior member of the government peace delegation, Mohammad Natiqi said at the time
These developments apparently were the initial steps that drastically soured ties between the two countries after the Taliban’s onslaught strengthened across the war-ravaged country. The Taliban appeared with more force on the battle fields and the group’s fighters launched several offensives against Afghan troops in Helmand, Faryab, Badakhshan, Kunduz, Nangarhar and Kunar provinces.
But, this was not the end. After a series of deadly attacks in August in the Afghan capital, particularly in Kabul’s Shah Shaheed area where high level explosives were used, Ghani accused Pakistan on live TV of being the source of the violence in Afghanistan by aiding the Taliban militants.
Security perceptibly deteriorated in Afghanistan’s northern regions after this – an area once seen as secure. The issue forced Ghani’s first Vice President, general Abdul Rashid Dostum to don his army uniform and join troops on the frontline and fight those he called agents of ISI. The Afghan spy agency also accused ISI of plotting the attacks on Kabul and vowed to revenge.
“The only option is that those plotting against Afghanistan on Pakistani soil must be arrested and handed over to Afghanistan and also those who are conspiring against Pakistan on Afghan territory must be arrested and handed over to Pakistan,” Pakistani political analyst Mukhtar Pacha said recently.
Rumors however persist that Pakistan’s Aziz tabled demands to Ghani calling for the dismissal of key Afghan officials – including Nabil from the NDS. Ghani reportedly refused.
Pakistan meanwhile accused NDS of colluding with the Indian intelligence agency to destabilize some areas in Baluchistan province.
In a recent move, Washington also criticized Pakistan of not being honest enough in its fight against insurgency. U.S officials warned it would cut financial cooperation to Pakistan if it does not take solid action against militants.