Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Pakistan Looks to Increase its Defence Footprint in Afghanistan


Monish Gulati

Introduction

Afghan Defence Minister Bismillah Mohammadi, on 27 January 2013, led a six-member delegation for a five-day official tour to Pakistan for talks on defence cooperation and border coordination. Pakistani Chief of Army Staff, General Kayani during his visit to Kabul in November last year had extended an invitation to the Afghan Defence Minister to visit Pakistan. This visit also came against the backdrop of the trilateral summit on Afghanistan in London.1 The two-day event (3-4 February) was held to inject fresh momentum to the ‘negotiated settlement’ on Afghanistan with the active and direct involvement of Pakistan.

Apart from General Muhammadi, the other members of the Afghan delegation were; Major General Afzal Aman, Director General Military Operations Abdul Manan Farahi, Director General Military Intelligence and Investigation Payanda Mohammad Nazim, Inspector General Training Ministry of Defence Aminullah Karim, Commandant National Defence College and US Colonel Dan Pinnel.2

Agenda

The two sides discussed the ‘Peace Process Roadmap to 2015’ charted by the Afghan High Peace Council and provided to Pakistan in November 2012. An end to the cross-border attacks and other border management issues were discussed as these have been a source of heightened tensions between the two countries. Afghanistan had earlier raised the matter of cross-border attacks with the UN Security Council in September 2012.3Defence officials also discussed the proposed Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) between the two countries which had hit a roadblock on account of cross border attacks, the Durrand line and safe havens for the Taliban on Pakistani soil. Pakistan had handed over a draft of the SPA to Afghan Foreign Minister when he visited Islamabad in November 2012.4 Also on the agenda was the training of Afghan security personnel in Pakistan.

Visit

The first official engagement of the Afghan delegation was a visit to the Pakistani Army Headquarters in Rawalpindi on 28 January 2013 where they laid a wreath at "Yadgar-e-Shuhada" or martyrs memorial.5 A meeting between General Kayani and Afghan Defence Minister was also scheduled. The delegation during its stay besides visiting various training institutions also met Pakistani Defence Minister Syed Naveed Qamar, and Secretary Defence Lieutenant General (retd) Asif Yasin Malik. 6 The Afghan Defence Minister also called on the Pakistani President and discussed defence cooperation and counter terrorism issues. President Zardari said Pakistan attached great importance to its ties with Afghanistan and added that the delegation’s visit would help further cement relations.7 The delegation left for Kabul on 31 January 2013.

Border Management

Implementation of recently concluded agreement on Tripartite Border Standing Operating Procedures was also discussed by the Afghan delegation. The agreement was directed at improving existing security cooperation and intelligence sharing mechanisms, on both sides of the Pak-Afghan border. The 36th meeting of the Tripartite Commission had been held in November 2012 in Kabul where a Tripartite Border Coordination Mechanism for enhanced border coordination and cooperation had been worked out. ISAF is the third stakeholder in the commission. Pakistan and Afghanistan on 31 January 2013 agreed to work out a ‘joint security plan’ to ensure peace on the border following the withdrawal of US-led foreign troops from the war-torn country in 2014. Under the plan, the border security arrangements would be gradually taken over by Pakistani and Afghan security forces and the role of the US-led NATO forces would be reduced.8

Training of Security Forces

The Afghan delegation on 29 January 2013 visited military training institutes in Quetta; the Command and Staff College and School of Infantry & Tactics (SIAT). The delegation was reportedly briefed about the academic courses being conducted at these institutions. The training programme proposed by Pakistan for Afghan army officers also includes professional training at National Defence University (NDU), Islamabad. The delegation was handed over a ‘selection list’ containing details of the training programmes being offered at various Pakistani security training institutes.

Afghan delegation was taken to the main campus of the National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST) School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, on 30 January 2013. NUST made an offer of 20 fully funded PhD scholarships for Afghan students in any discipline.9 Tour included a visit to the National University of Modern Language (NUML), Pakistan Ordnance Factory Wah and Special Operational School (SOS) Cherat.10

The delegates witnessed a military exercise at Tilla Range near Jehlum and appreciated the high standard of training displayed by participating troops. It was highlighted that the operational environment of Pakistan and Afghanistan were identical; hence, Pakistan could ideally serve a ‘natural’ professional training destination for the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).11 The delegation reportedly indicated that the female segment of the ANSF was reluctant to travel outside Afghanistan for training, however, a “brotherly Muslim country could serve as a place of interest for them too”.12

As per reported understanding reached between the two sides, the officers from Afghan National Army (ANA) would be visiting Pakistan initially for mid-career courses (MCCs). The training programme would see enrolments of the Afghan officers in Pakistan’s military training institutes in three phases. In the first phase, the mid-career Afghan army officers would train at Islamabad and Quetta. In the second phase, the Afghan recruits would receive training at Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) Abbotbbad and Military College Jehlum. “The third and final phase foresees training of Afghan police. The officials said that the plan for training Afghan National Police at the National Police Academy, Islamabad and Police Training College Sihala, Rawalpindi was under consideration.

There is also a proposal to train Afghan non-commissioned officers (NCOs); but has not been finalised. In this regard the Afghan delegates are reported to have visited the PMA Kakul, Junior Leadership Academy (JLA) Shinkiari, Mansehra and Military College Jehlum on 31 January 2013. The JLA Shinkiari is a military academy for NCOs and Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs). Pakistan estimates some 200 Afghan soldiers in the next two years to undergo military training in Pakistan. “There would be six-month, yearly and two-year training programmes depending upon the rank of the officers. Afghan authorities are expected get back to Pakistan in course of future meetings with their exact training requirements.13

Analysis

Pakistan has been offering Afghanistan to train its security forces for quite some time, however, Kabul had shown little interest, largely due to the trust deficit between the two countries.14 In fact after the sixth Trilateral Summit meeting (Afghanistan-Pakistan-Turkey) in Istanbul on 1 November 2011, Pakistan foreign office had declared that Afghanistan had agreed to let Pakistan train its security forces. It was indicated by Pakistan that the joint statement of the 6th Trilateral Summit, particularly paragraph six, welcomes the signing of the protocol on conduct of mutual exercises and on training cooperation. The documents adopted were two separate protocols: one for training of police personnel i.e. counter-terrorism/law enforcement and the other for the training of the military personnel.15 Afghanistan did not take on the offer as it was said that the proposal was not generous enough in terms of the stipends and other facilities that the Afghan trainees would receive.16
Pakistan believes that the NATO-led training mission in Afghanistan has been beset with ‘serious problems’ due to insider attacks as well as the reluctance of Western alliance member states to send their military instructors to Afghanistan.17 Some observers feel that in the future as NATO forces drawdown, there may well be a formal agreement on the deputation of Pakistani officers to Afghan training institutes including assistance in setting up new ones. Also about 4,500 US special operations personnel presently charged with training the Afghan Local Police (ALP), a force of 18,500 villagers armed, paid and trained to defend their communities against insurgents and have been deployed in 94 districts. The US special operations personnel maybe withdrawn on President Karzai request, made during his visit to US in January this year. ALP was intended to expand to 26,000 members by the end of 2014, with units dedicated to securing remote locations where traditional Afghan forces are weak or nonexistent.18

Pakistan has never been in favour of the training imparted to the ANSF by the Indian military.19 India had planned to train 20,000-30,000 ANA personnel, including about 500 officers, at facilities around the country over the next three years under a bilateral strategic partnership agreed during President Hamid Karzai's visit to New Delhi in October 2011.20

The outcome of the visit of the Afghan defence delegation was being considered vital in connection with the London Trilateral Summit.21 This may have been due to the fact that amicable resolution of the border management issues, especially cessation of cross-attacks, is a part of the peace roadmap and an Afghan condition to signing of the SPA. It is also likely that Pakistan may have been insisting on Afghanistan accepting its offer to train ANSF as a part of the SPA.

Conclusion

The extent to which Pakistan media has ‘read’ into the outcome of visit of the Afghan defence delegation is indicated by this comment; “General Bismillah is a non-Pashtun, a Tajik, by origin. This vindicates the fact that Pakistan is moving ahead with the vision of a broad-based relationship with Afghanistan.”22 Pakistani establishment has really been upbeat about the outcome of the visit and the Pakistani role in it. With regards to the peace process one analyst commented “the most important point was the reiteration by Gen. Bismillah of Afghan gratitude for the Pakistani release of Afghan Taliban prisoners to facilitate reconciliation.”13 A Pakistani spokesperson summed up the mood “It appears that Afghanistan has come to realize the centrality of Pakistan in peace and stability in Afghanistan".

End Notes
  1. Sikander Shaheen, Pakistan, Afghanistan move closer ahead of London talks, The Nation January 29, 2013.http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/ed...
  2. Shakil Shaikh Afghan minister sees Pakistan as natural training ground for Afghan army ,The News ,February 01, 2013http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-13-20660-Afghan-minister-sees-Paki...
  3. Sajad Afghan defense minister arrives to Pakistan on five-day trip, Khaama, January 28, 2013.
    http://www.khaama.com/afghan-defense-minister-arrives-to-pakistan-on-fiv...
  4. Afghan defense minister, Pakistan army chief discuss defense cooperation, Xinhua, 2013-01-28.
    http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/world/2013-01/28/c_132134313.htm
  5. Afghan defense minister, Pakistan army chief discuss defense cooperation, Xinhua, 2013-01-28.
    http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/world/2013-01/28/c_132134313.htm
  6. Sikander Shaheen. Afghan defence delegation leaves with renewed commitments,The Nation, February 01, 2013.http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/na...
  7. Kamran Yousaf. Deal in the making: Pakistan Army likely to begin training Afghan forces, The Express Tribune, January 29, 2013. http://tribune.com.pk/story/500094/deal-in-the-making-pakistan-army-like...
  8. Shaiq Hussain Pakistan,Afghanistan to work out joint security plan, Pakistan Today, February 01, 2013.http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2013/02/01/news/national/pakistan-afghan...
  9. Afghan Defence Ministry delegation visits NUST, Daily Times, January 31, 2013.http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2013%5C01%5C31%5Cstory_31-...
  10. Ser 8.
  11. Ser 2.
  12. Afghanistan, Pakistan to enhance border control cooperation, XINHUA, 2013-1-31.http://www.shanghaidaily.com/article/article_xinhua.asp?id=122841
  13. Sikander Shaheen. Pak Army hands over selection list to Kabul, The Nation, January 30, 2013.http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/na...
  14. Meena Haseeb. Pakistani army to begin training Afghan security forces, 29 January 29, 2013
    http://www.khaama.com/pakistani-army-to-begin-training-afghan-security-f...
  15. Pakistan to train Afghanistan's army: Foreign Office, Pak Tribune, November 04, 2011.http://paktribune.com/news/Pakistan-to-train-Afghanistans-army-Foreign-Office-244893.html
  16. Najmuddin A Shaikh Reconciliation is the key, Dawn, January 30, 2013. http://dawn.com/2013/01/30/reconciliation-is-the-key/
  17. Ser 13.
  18. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/9328f25e-5f2d-11e2-8250-0144feab49a.html#ixzz2...
  19. Ser 13.
  20. Rahul Bedi India steps up Afghan troop training,11/29/2011. IHS Jane's Defence Security Report.
    http://www.janes.com/products/janes/defence-security-report.aspx?id=1065...
  21. Ser 8.
  22. Ser 7.
  23. Ser 16.

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