July 6, 2011 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 703

Pakistan Launching Military Intervention to Subjugate Afghanistan

July 6, 2011 | By Yigal Carmon and Tufail Ahmad*
Pakistan, , Afghanistan, China | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 703


In the 1980s, Pakistan attained considerable influence in Afghanistan while fighting alongside the CIA and the Afghan mujahideen against the Soviet occupation there. In the mid-1990s, the Pakistan-backed Taliban took power in Kabul, cementing the Pakistani influence over the country. To further strengthen the Taliban in Kabul, Pakistan – along with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – recognized the Taliban regime.

The U.S. invasion of Afghanistan following 9/11 uprooted the Taliban and with it the Pakistani influence in Afghanistan.

Today, with U.S. forces preparing to withdraw, Pakistan senses that it once again has an historic opportunity to reestablish its control over Afghanistan. To this end, it is implementing a two-pronged campaign – military and political/diplomatic – to reshape Afghanistan as a Pakistani colony.

The Pakistani leadership descends on Kabul, April 16, 2011 (Image source:
Roznama Ummat, Pakistan, April 17, 2011)

Pakistan's Military Campaign

Missile Attacks

In June 2011, Pakistan launched a series of missile and artillery attacks on the provinces of Kunar and Nangarhar in eastern Afghanistan, killing dozens of civilians. In the midst of this Pakistani campaign, the Afghan foreign ministry expressed concern, warning Pakistan that "the continuation of such incidents could adversely affect the spirit of improving the trust and cooperation between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan."[1]

Afghan lawmakers strongly condemned the Pakistani missile attacks, describing them as an "invasion" and as a reflection of Pakistan's "dishonesty" in its bilateral talks with the Afghan government, meant to strengthen the Afghanistan peace process.[2] Criticizing the Karzai government for its silence over the missile attacks, Afghan lawmaker Farhad Azimi said: "I want to ask government officials as to why they call Pakistan a friend when it fires missiles into Afghanistan."[3]

Afghanistan's intelligence service, the National Directorate of Security (NDS), accused the Pakistan military of being behind the missile attacks. NDS Spokesman Lotfullah Mashal told reporters that Pakistan has long been operating in secret to destabilize Afghanistan by backing the Taliban in the Pakistani tribal regions, "but this time the Pakistani Army is taking its [military] intervention further, through heavily shelling Afghanistan in [broad] daylight."[4] Afghan President Hamid Karzai referred to the attacks for the first time only on June 26, slamming Pakistan for firing 470 missiles into Afghanistan’s eastern provinces.[5] A July 4, 2011 resolution of the Afghan parliament, which urged the UN Security Council and the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) to mount diplomatic pressure on Pakistan, described the Pakistani attacks in Kunar, Nangarhar, Khost and Paktia provinces as an "act of invasion" by Pakistan.[6]

Responding to the accusations, the Pakistani army denied targeting Afghanistan. Army spokesman Maj.-Gen. Athar Abbas said: "Rounds were fired for engaging the fleeing militants and there is a possibility that some may have accidentally gone across the border."[7]

It should be noted that the June attacks were not Pakistan's first use of force against Afghanistan this year. In early February, Pakistani planes bombarded Afghan Border Police posts and civilians' homes in Afghanistan's Nangarhar and Khost provinces. According to the website, the attacks were timed to convey a warning to President Karzai against visiting India that month.[8]

The June missile attacks by the Pakistani army were accompanied by raids by the Pakistani Taliban, which is backed by the Pakistani regime. In a July 2, 2011 testimony before the Afghan parliament, Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak said that two Pakistani helicopters recently entered the Afghan territory.[9] On July 5, 2011, Afghan border police commander Aminullah Amarkhel reported that hundreds of fighters from the Pakistani Taliban – who are supported by the Pakistani military – crossed the border into Afghanistan's Nuristan province, where they attacked police outposts and torched homes.[10]

Sabotaging American, British Military and Intelligence Efforts

The Pakistani military campaign to control Afghanistan has been accompanied by the expulsion of U.S. and British military and intelligence officials from Pakistan. According to an April 21 report in the Pakistani media, some 500 CIA personnel were told to leave Pakistan in the beginning of this year.[11] In late June, Pakistani Defense Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar revealed that Pakistan has asked the CIA to leave the Shamsi airbase in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province, from which drones are dispatched to monitor and attack the Taliban safe havens in the Pakistani tribal region.[12] In addition, 18 British military trainers have been told to leave.[13]

The Political/Diplomatic Campaign

Pakistan has also stepped up its diplomatic and political efforts to influence Afghanistan and undercut Western influence there.

Sabotaging U.S.-Taliban Negotiations

In June 2011, Pakistan informed the U.S. that the U.S.-Taliban peace talks could not succeed without involving Pakistan.[14] To reinforce this message of Pakistan, the Pakistan-backed Taliban have been carrying out suicide bombings in Kabul, Kandahar, Jalalabad and other Afghan cities. Afghan NDS spokesman Lotfullah Mashal said: "Unfortunately, neighboring countries, in particular the Pakistani Army has continued to intervene in different ways ranging from suicide attacks, roadside bombings to commando-style attacks on hotels, mosques and hospitals."[15]

Pakistan Presents Written Demands to Karzai, Aimed at Subjugating Afghanistan

On April 16, 2011, the entire top Pakistani leadership (except for President Asif Zardari) descended on Kabul for bilateral talks with the Afghan leaders.[16] According to reports in the Afghan media, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani presented Karzai with a set of written demands: Afghanistan must sever its relationship with the U.S. and forge ties with China; keep Pakistan informed on the training and number of the Afghan security forces; appoint Pakistani officials to Afghan government institutions; and clarify Pakistan's share in Afghan mining and development projects; in addition, future Afghan governments must implement Pakistani strategies, and Pakistan must be made aware of any agreement between Afghanistan and its Western allies, including the U.S. and NATO.[17] The claim that Pakistan has demanded to incorporate Pakistani officials into the Afghan government institutions may appear far-fetched. However, this would not be an unprecedented move. In the 1990s, when Afghanistan was under the Taliban, Pakistani nationals indeed served in the Afghan government.

Pakistani Army Seeks to Formally Influence the Future of Afghanistan

During the talks, it was also decided to set up a two-tier Afghan-Pakistani joint commission, composed of both military and government officials, which is to include Pakistani Army Chief General Kayani and ISI Chief Lt.-Gen. Shuja Pasha. The sole purpose of the creation of a two-tier commission was to create a formal role for Pakistani military and its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in Afghanistan, as the two countries previously did have an Afghan-Pakistan joint commission. Thus, for the first time, the Pakistani military has officially embedded itself in an institution that will shape Afghanistan's future. Speaking after the Kabul talks, President Karzai said: "The Pakistani prime minister, the chief of Army staff, and the intelligence agency chief would now represent the country on the peace commission, charged with finding a way of reaching a peace deal with the Taliban."[18]

Karzai Instructed to Forge Relations with China

During the April 16 talks, in a bid to weaken the Western influence in the region, Prime Minister Gilani also asked President Karzai to forge relations with China. According to a report in the Pashtu-language Khedmatgar Wrazpanra, the Pakistanis asked the Afghan leaders to establish strategic relations with China instead of the U.S., telling them that the U.S. has been defeated in Afghanistan, and that China was therefore a better ally for both Pakistan and Afghanistan. Gilani also advised the Afghanis not to allow the long-term presence of the U.S. forces in their country.[19]

Pakistani Defense Minister Confirms Plan to Involve the Pakistani Taliban in the Afghan Settlement

Pakistan and Afghanistan have conducted a series of bilateral talks with the aim of brokering peace with the Pakistani-backed Taliban in Afghanistan.[20] Obviously, any settlement will involve give-and-take with the Afghan Taliban. However, it seems that Pakistan also aims to involve the Pakistani Taliban, backed by the Pakistani army and intelligence, in the negotiations. This is evident from a June 28 statement by Pakistani Defense Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar, who said that both the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban would be involved in the peace process: "The government [of Pakistan] knows where the (Pakistani) Taliban are and where their groups are based, and contacting them is no problem. We will have talks to all Taliban," Mukhtar said.[21]

Afghan Political Commentator: "The Pakistani Government regards Afghanistan as a Pakistani Colony"

Afghans saw the Pakistani demands as a case of unabashed interference in Afghanistan’s domestic affairs. Political analyst Noor Ul-Haq Ulomi blamed the Karzai government for accepting the Pakistani hegemony and collaborating with Pakistan’s plan through the bilateral talks. In an interview with the Afghan television channel TOLO News, he noted that the "close friendship" between Karzai and Pakistani leadership was "hidden" earlier, and added: "Pakistan has never been honest with us."[22] Other political commentators accused the Pakistani government of violating diplomatic norms by demanding major concessions from Afghanistan. Former Afghan politician Sulaiman Layaq said: "The Pakistani government regards Afghanistan as a Pakistani colony. If Pakistan really offers the conditions to Afghan government, it is disrespectful to the independence of Afghanistan."[23]

* Tufail Ahmad is Director of MEMRI's South Asia Studies Project (; Y. Carmon is President of MEMRI.


[1] (Afghanistan), June 24, 2011.

[2] (Afghanistan), June 21, 2011.

[3] (Afghanistan), June 21, 2011.

[4] (Afghanistan), June 29, 2011.

[5] (Pakistan), June 26, 2011.

[6] Roznama Husht-e-Subh (Pakistan), July 5, 2011.

[7] Dawn (Pakistan), June 28, 2011. Although Afghan militants have recently carried out raids into the Pakistani regions of Dir, Bajaur and Waziristan, it is not clear who is behind them and Pakistan has not referred to these raids as the reason for its June missile attacks on Afghanistan.

[8] (Afghanistan), February 4, 2011.

[9] (Afghanistan), July 2, 2011.

[10], Afghanistan, July 5, 2011.

[11] Roznama Aaj (Pakistan), April 21, 2011.

[12] The Express Tribune (Pakistan), June 30, 2011.

[13] The News (Pakistan), June 27, 2011.

[14] Dawn (Pakistan), June 21, 2011.

[15], Afghanistan, June 29, 2011.

[16] The Pakistani delegation included Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Junior Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, Defense Minister Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar, Army Chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, Intelligence Chief Lt.-Gen. Shuja Pasha, and Defense Secretary Salman Bashir.

[17] (Afghanistan), April 19, 2011; Roznama Ummat (Pakistan), April 20, 2011.

[18] The News (Pakistan), April 17, 2011.

[19] Wrazpanra Khedmatgar (Afghanistan), April 30, 2011. The Pakistani plan to dent the U.S. influence in Afghanistan was also evident in the May 17-20 visit of Prime Minister Gilani to China. The visit was seen as an unprecedented Pakistani move to boost its military and diplomatic relations with China and to undercut the U.S. and Indian influence in Afghanistan. (For a detailed analysis of the emerging Pakistani-Chinese military relationship, see MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 691, "China Warns U.S.: 'Any Attack on Pakistan Would Be Construed As an Attack on China' – Evolving Pakistani-Chinese Alliance to Face the U.S./India," May 26, 2011, China Warns U.S.: 'Any Attack on Pakistan Would Be Construed As an Attack on China' – Evolving Pakistani-Chinese Alliance to Face the U.S./India).

[20] It should be noted that while the U.S. and Afghanistan speak of peace talks with the Taliban and with other militants, the Taliban themselves have never confirmed that they are involved in any peace talks with the U.S. However, Hizb-e-Islami (and some Taliban groups) appear to favor negotiations, providing that the U.S. sets a deadline for its complete withdrawal from Afghanistan.

[21] The Express Tribune (Pakistan), June 29, 2011

[22] (Afghanistan), April 19, 2011.

[23] (Afghanistan), April 30, 2011.

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