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Pakistan, Afghanistan to resume proxy war: US paper

Updated April 22, 2014

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This file photo shows a border crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan. - File Photo
This file photo shows a border crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan. - File Photo

WASHINGTON: Pakistan and Afghanistan may resume their proxy war after the Americans leave the region, a US newspaper warned on Monday while another said that the Pakistani government was holding talks with the Taliban against the army’s wishes.

The Los Angeles Times noted that Pakistan’s civilian government was “pushing back” against the country’s powerful military as politicians expanded their influence and since he returned to office in June, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had taken several steps to make this point.

He took up a case against army personnel over the disappearance of imprisoned militants, engaged the Taliban insurgents in peace talks and indicted Gen Pervez Musharraf on treason charges. The government and courts have denied the ailing Musharraf’s appeals to seek medical treatment abroad.

The military-civilian tussle, the report noted, presented a dilemma for the United States, which was eager to see democratic reforms but also supported the Pakistani army’s desire to go after the Taliban militants.

“US military officials fear that the (US) troop drawdown (by December 2014) will give the Pakistani Taliban more freedom to move in and out of Afghanistan,” the report added.

The newspaper pointed out that the civilian government’s efforts to reduce the military’s influence had its limits, particularly as talks with militants had stalled. “On the all-important issue of India, Mr Sharif has deferred to the military, which is opposed to making swift concessions to its rival.”

In a separate report, The New York Times noted that an eruption of violent rivalries and internal disputes in the past month had strained the militants’ cohesion, casting doubt on their ability to make peace.

An outbreak of infighting between rival Taliban groups in Waziristan earlier this month left at least 40 militants dead and exposed a violent rift in the movement’s operational heartland.

The fight stemmed from a leadership crisis that started with an American drone strike that killed Hakimullah Mehsud. Now the Taliban is led by a lame-duck figure, Maulana Fazlullah, who has struggled to keep his commanders in line, the report added.

The Taliban chose Mr Fazlullah to quell feuding between rival factions of the Mehsud tribe but it further increased the in-fighting as the Mehsuds appeared reluctant to accept a leader who was an outsider, said the report, pointing out that Mr Fazlullah was from Swat.

The newspaper also noted that the fighting within TTP was not just about tribal differences or over leadership. The Haqqani Network, which has a major influence in Waziristan, was pushing the Taliban to make peace with Pakistan, so that it could use them in Afghanistan after the Americans left.

Fazlullah, on the other hand, wanted to focus on fighting Pakistan.

The report also noted that last week in Kabul, former and serving Afghan government officials unveiled a policy of sanctuary and limited financial assistance to Taliban factions that wish to resume fighting inside Pakistan.