Wendy Sherman and legislation in U.S Senate

Yasmeen Aftab Ali;

Yasmeen Aftab Ali

Two issues coincided recently. Both having the potential of having grave future implications for Pakistan. First is introducing of the legislation by 22 United States Senators seeking to impose sanctions on the Taliban in Afghanistan. In addition, same will apply to all governments that support the hardline groups in Afghanistan. A report is also sought to evaluate a role played by Pakistan that led to U.S defeat in Afghanistan in context of support to Taliban in the Panjshir Valley. (Among other clauses)

‘The ‘Afghanistan Counterterrorism, Oversight and Accountability Act’ also seeks a report from the Secretary of State about his assessment of Pakistan’s role in supporting the Taliban from 2001-2020; in the offensive that led to the toppling of the Government of Afghanistan and the looking into the Pakistan support for Taliban offensive against Panjshir Valley and Afghan resistance.’ (The Indian Express September 30, 2021). This point is definitely not on point. It is obvious by the way every province started falling to the Taliban. The run started even before the exit of U.S forces from the Afghan shores.

Panjshir had held out against the Soviet invasion for a decade, give or take. It also successfully resisted the Taliban from rule from 1996-200. However, anyone knowing Afghanistan will understand why Panjshir fell like a pack of cards. As opposed to their strategy in 1990s, the Taliban took the north of Panjshir. The strategy was simple but it worked. In 1990’s it was the Northern Alliance controlling the supply lines springing from Tajikistan. Briefly let’s touch upon the history of Tajikistan: A narrow stretch of Afghan territory separates Tajikistan from Pakistan-administered Kashmir. The importance of this region for India’s security is huge. Tajikistan is in Central Asia, a gas-rich region in which India has developed growing interests. Tajikistan also happens to be extremely anti-Taliban. India, in order to gain strategic depth, focused on the Ayni Air Base, also called as ‘Gissar Air Base’ located 10km west of the capital of Tajikistan-Dushanbe. In the post 1979 era of Soviet invasion of Afghanistan it had served as the key air base for Soviet military air transportation of its troops to Afghanistan. It fell into disuse and neglect later. Between years 2002-2010, India invested approximately $70 million in renovations, installing state-of-the-art air defense navigational facilities. The runway was further extended. This access offers immediate strategic depth in the region to India.

By taking over areas to the north of Panjshir, Taliban cut off the supply lines of Norther Alliance including those of arms, water, ammunition, fighters, fuel, food and a whole range of other necessities basic to facing an enemy.

As Kabul fell, the ISI Chief, General Faiz flew to Afghanistan. ‘The presence of the ISI Chief in Kabul is an indication of Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan,’ is the hype created by many foreign media outlets. Nothing can be further from the truth. During his one-day visit, he discussed issues related to repatriation and transit through Pakistan and situation on Pakistan-Afghanistan border. A smart move, emphasizing upon the priorities of Pakistan. The Afghan refugees came to return once things improved in their own country. They are a huge economic burden on Pakistan besides being a security hazard.  Trade between both was US$870.86 Million during 2020, according to the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade. The situation within Afghanistan, out of all countries impacts Pakistan the most given the porous border. Physically and immediately.

Unfortunately, the legislation proposed states:


Subclause (1) of 1: The assessment of support by state and non-state actors, including the Government of Pakistan, for the Taliban between 2001 and 2020, including the provision of sanctuary, space, financial support, intelligence support, logistics & medical support, training, equipping, and tactical operational or strategic directions;

Subclause (2) of 1: An assessment of support by state and non-state actors including the Government of Pakistan for the 2021 offensive of the Taliban that toppled the Government of Afganistan including the provision of sanctuary, space, financial support, intelligence support, logistics & medical support, training, equipping, and tactical, operational or strategic directions:

Subclause (3) of 1: An assessment of support by state and non-state actors including the Government of Pakistan for September 2021 offensive of the Taliban against the Panjshir Valley and the Afghan resistance and;

Subclause (4) of 1: A detailed description of United States diplomatic and military activities undertaken to curtail support for the 2021 offensive of the Taliban that toppled the Government of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

Sub-Clause (3) of (1) has been addressed. Reference sub-clause (1) of 1, facts of creation of Mujahedeen rechristened the Taliban are well documented and need no further collaboration. One question only: Stepping back in time, the Kerry Lugar Bill a clause within the Bill stipulated:  Limitation on Security-related Assistance: For fiscal years 2011 through 2014, no security-related assistance may be provided to Pakistan in a fiscal year until the Secretary of State, under the direction of the President, makes the certification required under subsection (c) for such fiscal year. It did not state, there was no comment in the Bill or clause stating the outcome of such a certification is rejected. Who will arbitrate, if at all? will it be a one-sided decision of the donor to deliver a decision on whether or not Pakistan has delivered on various grounds & stop aid if they feel it has not? Since funds came regularly, it is assumed that Pakistan fulfilled the requirements within the bill to be deemed eligible to receive the funds. Is not this clause in conflict to the decisions and fundings from the Kerry Lugar Bill? To reiterate, the Government of Pakistan during the preceding had demonstrated a sustained commitment to and is making significant efforts towards combating terrorist groups, consistent with the purposes of assistance described in section 201, including taking into account the extent to which the Government of Pakistan has made progress on matters such as (A) ceasing support, including by any elements within the Pakistan military or its intelligence agency, to extremist and terrorist groups, particularly to any group that has conducted attacks against the United States or coalition forces in Afghanistan, or against the territory or people of neighboring countries.

Sub-clause (2) of clause 1 is a rephrasing of sub-clause 1 more or less.

An introverted look into its own policies is needed by U.S. As reflected (4) of 1. But critical appraisal. Not a glowing itinerary of things that did not pay off.

Intertwined with this is the visit of US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman to India followed by Pakistan. In an interview to an Indian channel her choice of words about her visit to Pakistan can be termed only as undiplomatically harsh when she stated, “she was visiting Pakistan with a specific and narrow purpose,” adding that ” Washington does not see itself building a “broad-based relationship” with Pakistan.” She not only back tracked from her stance that must have won her approval in India, but also offering a lollypop that President Biden may soon give a call to the Pakistan prime Minister Imran Khan.

Although one can understand that US must be deeply disappointed and angry at not only the defeat it faced in Afghanistan but also the manner in which the Afghan security forces fell to Taliban, finding a scapegoat is probably not the right path to take. Or learn.

The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ She can be contacted at: yasmeenali62@gmail.com and tweets at @yasmeen_9


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