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Former Pakistani Generals Ask 'Who Benefits?' From Kabul Attack

Forty-one people died in the July 7 bombing
Forty-one people died in the July 7 bombing
In Latin, the question is simple: "Cui bono?" Who benefits?

Not Pakistan, says retired Lieutenant General Asad Durrani, a former head of the country's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, when asked about the July 7 bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul that killed 41 people -- four Indians (two diplomats) and 37 Afghans, most of whom were seeking visas.

"I can't think that under this circumstances, [the culprit] would be Pakistan or its intelligence service, for the simple reason that we already have so many problems within the country," Durrani tells RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan.

"There are political problems, there are economic problems, [and] there are problems on the western borders [with Afghanistan]. So at this time for us to start or open another front -- a front that has been quiet for the last about four to five years," he notes. "The relations with India were improving. So there does not seem to be any reason for me, any good reason, that we should target this particular place and spoil our relations with India."

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has blamed the attack on "enemies of the strong friendship between India and Afghanistan." This was a thinly veiled reference to Pakistan, which has eyed archrival India's rising profile in post-Taliban Afghanistan with great suspicion.

Archrivals and nuclear-armed South Asian neighbors, India and Pakistan fought three wars over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir since independence in 1947. The December 13, 2001, militant attack on the parliament in New Delhi virtually brought the two to the brink of war as India deployed a million troops on its border with Pakistan.

But thanks to Western diplomacy, relations between the two neighbors have improved dramatically since 2002. As tensions eased, both neighbors engaged in a number of confidence-building measures, including easing travel restrictions, promoting cross-border links, and high-level talks on resolving bilateral disputes.

Bigger Problems

While it's true that Pakistan has looked with great suspicion at India's deepening involvement in Afghanistan, Durrani says Islamabad has too many problems to open hostilities with New Delhi.

"But even if one were to agree that Pakistan was concerned with the Indian role in Afghanistan, even then to carry out such an act, which has so serious repercussions for us.... Just imagine if we also have problems on the eastern front [with India], then I think Pakistan is in serious trouble," Durrani says.

Retired Lieutenant General Talat Masood, now one of the leading Pakistani strategic analyst and political commentators, agrees that Pakistan's interests are not served by attacking Indian targets.

He tells RFE/RL that Afghan officials accusing Islamabad of being responsible for the July 7 suicide bombing should back up their claims with evidence.

"What interest would Pakistan have in trying to destabilize Afghanistan? It itself is being terrorized and there are more incidents of terror nowadays in Pakistan or as much as in Afghanistan," Masood says. "So how it will help Pakistan to destabilize [Afghanistan]? The destiny of both countries is so intertwined."

In Washington on July 9, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that he saw no proof of "foreign" involvement in the Kabul blast. "I haven't seen any evidence or proof that foreign agents were involved," Gates told a news conference.

While Pakistan and Afghanistan trade accusations, Islamist militants in Pakistan's tribal areas and Northwest Frontier Province appear to be stronger than ever.

"The New York Times" reported this week that U.S. military and intelligence officials are concerned over an increasing influx of Arab, Central Asian, and North African militant recruits to Pakistan -- indicating that Al-Qaeda has consolidated itself in the country's northwest.

Pakistani efforts against Taliban and Al-Qaeda over the past six years have yielded mixed results.

As poorly planned military incursions in the tribal areas chalked up civilian and military casualties and alienated locals, Pakistan concluded a number of peace deals with the militants. The latest such agreement came on July 10, when Pakistani officials said they had signed a deal with Islamist militants after they agreed to stop threatening the city of Peshawar and dismantle training camps.

But the deals have angered U.S., NATO, and Afghan officials who see them as enabling militants to increase attacks inside Afghanistan.

Masood says Pakistan's new government, led by the Pakistan People's Party of slain former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, needs to come up with a comprehensive strategy to confront the militant threat. Such a policy needs to consider engaging armed opposition, pursuing rapid economic development while maintaining a credible military deterrent.

"Pakistan must have very clear-cut policy, the outline or the framework of which should be in the public domain. And this should be fully debated in the parliament [and] approved by the cabinet and pursued very diligently with great focus and attention," he says.

Until then, however, tensions look set to rise in the region in the face of attacks from Pakistan's tribal areas. Unless Islamabad can bring the area under greater control, Pakistan looks set to be further blamed for being complacent or even supporting militants as part of its regional strategic and military goals.
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    Abubakar Siddique

    Abubakar Siddique, a journalist for RFE/RL's Radio Azadi, specializes in the coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is the author of The Pashtun Question: The Unresolved Key To The Future Of Pakistan And Afghanistan. He is also one of the authors of the Azadi Briefing, a weekly newsletter that unpacks the key issues in Afghanistan.