My latest is up at FPM and I look at the assassination attempt against Hamid Karzai and the security pact signed between Afghanistan and India.
This is the third serious assassination plot against President Karzai. In 2002, another presidential bodyguard opened fire on Karzai but missed him, killing two others and wounding an American special operations member who was guarding the president. And a 2008 attack by Haqqani during a military parade Karzai was attending came close to succeeding when several bystanders near the president were killed.
The revelations regarding the plot come on the heels of charges made by the governments of Afghanistan and the United States that the Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) has close ties to Haqqani, as well as other charges made by Afghanistan tying the Haqqani network specifically to the assassination of the government’s peace envoy to the Taliban, former President Burhanuddin Rabbani.
Several other high profile assassination attempts in Afghanistan have succeeded recently, all tied to either the Taliban or Haqqani. In addition to the death of Rabbani, which has resulted in the suspension of peace talks with the Taliban, the president’s half brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, was killed by his own bodyguard in July. Less than a week later, Jan Mohammad Khan, a senior aide to the president, was killed in an attack on his home in Kabul. The Taliban is suspected of having a hand in both assassinations, with the possible knowledge of the ISI.
And as if the relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan couldn’t get any rockier, President Karzai’s surprise trip to India on Wednesday to sign a security pact with New Delhi, will no doubt roil the already tense relationship with Islamabad. According to the Washington Post, the pact will “step up cooperation in counterterrorism operations, training of security forces and trade.” The pact will also increase cultural and political exchanges as well as offer assistance to Afghanistan in stabilizing the country.
The security pact will no doubt anger the civilian government of President Zardari in Pakistan, and cause great concern in Pakistan’s military and intelligence services. Any move to draw closer to India by Afghanistan is likely to be seen as a betrayal in Islamabad. It is also the realization of the Pakistani military’s worst nightmare; a more independent Afghanistan with close ties to their mortal enemy India.
“[A]ny military or intelligence role for India will not be tolerable for Pakistan,” said former ambassador Maleeha Lodi in an interview last summer. While no active role is seen for India in peace talks, Karzai’s move to engage with New Delhi on security matters will worry Pakistan, who wishes a weak, compliant vassal state after America pulls out in 2014. In effect, Karzai is showing Islamabad that he has some diplomatic and military cards to play as well. If Pakistan continues its attempts to destabilize Afghanistan through the use of their proxy terrorists in Haqqani and the Taliban, the Afghan government won’t hesitate to expand their ties with India.