A report in the Washington Post claiming that US military authorities have been in discussions with their Pakistani counterparts to hand over approximately $7 billion worth of military hardware to Afghanistan’s neighbour has stunned and enraged much of the Afghan media, reigniting old Durand Line wounds.
Despite Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and NATO troops fighting insurgencies in Afghanistan side-by-side in the last decade, a source in the report claims Pakistan is close to securing nearly 1,600 mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicles and other modern military hardware which Afghan forces were hoping to receive.
“No final decision has been made on the handover of the equipment and it is still being discussed,” said Sedid Sediqi, spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Interior Affairs. “We hope that this decision will not be made and the equipment is not handed over to Pakistan”.
Sediqi said that Afghan forces have become accustomed to handling and using MRAP vehicles. “We really need them. We desperately need modern equipment,” added Sediqi.
Afghanistan Times ran with the headline: ‘Afghanistan Betrayed’, asking why such valuable military equipment should go to Afghanistan’s neighbour and not Afghan forces themselves. “The US has deliberately preferred Pakistan over Afghanistan. The latter has been fighting terrorism sincerely and bleeding profusely, but the US largesse has always showered on Pakistan,” wrote Afghanistan Times on the morning of March 24.
In its lead editorial on March 18, Hasht-e Subh – Afghanistan’s most-circulated daily – said others were benefitting from Afghanistan’s sacrifice.
“The people of Afghanistan, Afghan National Security Forces and the government of Afghanistan all want this equipment handed over to Afghan forces. According to the Declaration of the NATO Summit in Lisbon (ED: November 2010), NATO member states committed themselves to equipping Afghan Security Forces. But now that they are withdrawing from Afghanistan, they are going to hand over their equipment to Pakistan. We should not forget the war is devastating Afghanistan and Pakistan has one of the mightiest militaries in the region. Afghanistan’s National Army needs mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicles far more than the Pakistan army does.”
“According to the Declaration of the NATO Summit in Lisbon, NATO member states committed themselves to equipping Afghan National Security Forces.” Jawed Kohistani, a military analyst told Afghanistan Today that Afghanistan is being punished for Hamid Karzai’s refusal to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the US. “Not signing the Bilateral Security Agreement and criticizing the policies of the United States of America in Afghanistan in the media, especially calling the US a competitor as opposed to a partner, while challenging their policies on combating terrorism, has deprived of us some opportunities we had,” said Kohistani.
Dowlat Waziri, a spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defence (MoD), strongly rejected claims NATO-trained Afghan forces cannot operate the equipment in question. “All Afghan security forces have been trained by US and NATO forces and they are fully capable of operating equipment currently used by Western troops in Afghanistan,” said Waziri, urging the US military to hand over the equipment to the Afghan National Army (ANA).
Fazel Sancharaki, a spokesman for presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah, described the possibility of the weapons transfer to Afghanistan’s volatile neighbour as a form of punishment.
Old friend’s revenge?
“This decision by the USA is a kind of revenge towards President Karzai, but the people of Afghanistan will pay for it,” said Sancharaki. “Should Afghan security forces not be equipped and funded well, Afghanistan will again turn into the centre of international terrorism. In that case, the international community will be hurt.” Many observers in Afghanistan believe the Pakistan army directly or indirectly supports insurgent networks.
“President Hamid Karzai’s refusal to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement has led to this decision by the United States of America,” added Fahim Kohdamani, a spokesman for Islamist candidate Abdul Rab Rassoul Sayyaf. “Attacks by Afghan security forces on foreign troops may also have caused the US not to count Afghanistan as an ally,” added Kohdamani.