In a sudden shift from his previous, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani has lashed out at the Pakistani government. While Afghanistan had made “sincere efforts for peace,” groups based in Pakistan continued to “send messages of war,” he said in Kabul.
The remarks are his toughest words against Pakistan since he took office, opened talks with Pakistan and then more recently sent representatives to peace talks with the Taliban in the Pakistani town of Murree.
“Pakistan still remains a venue and ground for gatherings from which mercenaries send us message of war,” President Ghani told a press conference convened shortly after a massive suicide attack targeted the Kabul international airport, where at least 5 people were killed and more than 16 wounded. The attack is a part of one of the deadliest waves of violence unleashed by the Taliban in the past week. The group claimed responsibility for this and three other big bombings since Friday in which more than 50 have died.
President Ghani called the recent attacks in Kabul a “turning point for Afghanistan,” adding that “the incidents of the past two months in general and the recent days in particular show that the suicide training camps and the bomb making facilities used to target and murder our innocent people still operate, as in the past, in Pakistan.”
Condemning the attacks, the MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup called them cowardly. “India always stands with Afghanistan in its fight against terrorism,” he said.
Meanwhile Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it had “taken note” of Mr. Ghani's comments, and maintained it “stands shoulder to shoulder with Afghanistan in grief” over the attacks.
President Ghani’s comments, that came a day after he telephoned Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Army Chief Raheel Sharif to demand a plan of action against terrorists attacking Afghanistan, are being described as a “potential game changer.” “He has clearly put Pakistan on notice,” a senior Indian official told The Hindu . “He is not a man given to rhetoric and has shown his patience is limited.”
On his first visit to Pakistan last year, Mr. Ghani had taken the unprecedented step of visiting the Pakistani military headquarters in Rawalpindi. He built a close relationship with the civilian and military leadership there, after which Afghan and Pakistani intelligence agencies, National Directorate of Security (NDS) Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), negotiated an MoU. His remarks on Monday indicate a rethink of that relationship and put a question mark over the reconciliation and talks process with the Taliban based in Pakistan. “The security of our people and the national interests of Afghanistan lay the basis of our relationship with Pakistan. We can no longer tolerate to see our people bleeding in a war exported and imposed on us from outside,” Mr. Ghani said, asking if Pakistan’s shelter to violent groups should qualify it as “friend or enemy.”
Within Afghanistan, some experts said Mr. Ghani’s comments displayed his realisation of the “hopelessness” of the situation. “This was bound to happen,” former National Security Advisor Aimal Faizi told The Hindu. “It was a blunder to have believed the Pakistani military would stop the attacks, and Ghani’s remarks show he has little hope about the Taliban’s ability to deliver peace after the announcement of Mullah Omar’s death,” Mr. Faizi added.