Rajgal & Khyber IV

The Pakistan Army has launched operation Khyber IV in Rajgal valley of Khyber Agency. The primary aim of the offensive is to stop the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) from gaining a foothold in the region. Military officials believe that the roots of the Parachinar bomb blasts are linked to activity in the Rajgal valley.
The operation has been launched at a time when relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan are on a mend after being quite low. The Afghan government led by Ashraf Ghani blames the Pakistani military establishment for what it says is not taking action against the Haqqani network. On the other hand, Pakistan rejects Afghan allegations and says that its military has targeted all militants indiscriminately.
The Trump Administration is hardening its stance towards Islamabad. Many analysts believe that the US will exert more pressure on Pakistan as is evident from its decision to recently cut off reimbursement funds. There is a growing rift between Washington and Islamabad over policies towards Afghanistan. The United States wants a greater role for India in Afghanistan while Pakistan fears that growing influence of its adversary will seriously undermine its national interests in the region.
The Trump Administration is examining options to increase pressure on Islamabad which include expanding US drone strikes, redirecting or withholding aid to Pakistan and perhaps eventually downgrading Pakistan’s status as a major non-NATO ally. The divergence in policies of Washington and Islamabad is detrimental to a peaceful Afghanistan.
The United States is supporting India diplomatically, militarily and economically in order to contain the rising influence of China in the region. China’s first-ever overseas base was made operational in Djibouti which lies in East Africa. India fears that the base will increase Beijing’s influence in the Indian Ocean.
China’s military ambitions have prompted the United States to support India, the natural ally of the US in the region. Pakistan has serious reservations regarding American support to its arch rival India. Pakistan believes that American arm deals with India will alter the balance of power in the region. Indian has enormously increased its defense spending in the recent years. The defense bud

get of India stands at 53.5 billion dollars while that of Pakistan is approximately 9 billion dollars. India has surpassed Pakistan in conventional warfare capabilities. Pakistan is increasing its stockpile of tactical nuclear weapons in order to cover the gap in conventional capabilities. Moreover, Pakistan also fears the presence of the Indian spy agency R&AW in Afghanistan, which according to Pakistani military circles is trying to sabotage the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
The apprehension of Kulbhushan Yadav has consolidated Pakistan’s stance. Later on, Kulbushan Yadav confessed in a video recording that he was involved in subversive activities in Balochistan and Karachi. The Trump Administration is planning to send more troops to Afghanistan. Despite sending more troops, Trump’s new Afghan policy has not been announced yet. Experts believe that the Trump Afghan policy will be in many ways similar to that of the Obama Administration. Like the Obama Administration, the Trump Administration will express support for the idea of reconciliation between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Pakistan has suffered a lot in the ongoing war on terror. The international community needs to acknowledge Pakistan’s sacrifices. Currently, Pakistan army has deployed more soldiers in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) than the combined NATO and Afghan soldiers in Afghanistan. Furthermore, the United States needs to work with Pakistan in Afghanistan, as peace in Afghanistan is not possible without Pakistan’s help.
Despite China’s rise, the United States is still the most powerful actor in the region and Islamabad cannot afford a strain in relations with the United States. Pakistan needs to maintain a balance in its relations towards Washington and Beijing. An unnecessary tilt towards one at the cost of other could result in distressing situation for our policy makers. Peace in Afghanistan is directly proportional to peace in Pakistan. Both Islamabad and Kabul need to resolve all outstanding issues through dialogue. Afghanistan should not collaborate with India in any anti-Pakistan activity. Afghanistan and Pakistan should cooperate with each other in tackling the menace of terrorism. Terrorism is a common enemy and a blame game will deteriorate security in the region.

Saad is a freelance writer based in Islamabad. He is an Engineering graduate.

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