Wed, Nov 19, 2014 - Page 5 News List

Musharraf envisions Afghanistan proxy war

AFP, KARACHI

The departure of NATO combat forces from Afghanistan could push India and Pakistan toward a proxy war in the troubled state, former Pakistani president General Pervez Musharraf said in an interview with Agence France-Presse (AFP).

As Pakistan’s leader, Musharraf was a key US ally in its “war on terror,” but he now lives under tight security in Karachi, facing Taliban death threats and a litany of criminal cases dating back to his almost 10-year rule that ended in 2008.

The 71-year-old — who seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999 — praised new Afghan President Ashram Ghani, who made his first official trip to Pakistan last week in a bid to reset ties with Islamabad.

Pakistan’s support is seen as crucial to Afghan peace, as US-led forces are to pull out by the end of this year after 13 years battling the Taliban. However, the former leader said that calming tension between India and Pakistan — running high at the moment after some of the worst cross-border firing in years — is key to peace in Afghanistan.

“The danger for Pakistan is... the Indian influence in Afghanistan,” he told AFP at his house in Karachi. “That is another danger for the whole region and for Pakistan, because Indian involvement there has an anti-Pakistan connotation. They [India] want to create an anti-Pakistan Afghanistan.”

The neighbors have long accused each other of using proxy forces to try to gain influence in Afghanistan.

While India has tried to gain traction with the Tajik ethnic group in northern Afghanistan, Pakistan has sought to use its leverage with Pashtuns in the south and east, who make up the majority of the Taliban.

“If Indians are using some elements of the ethnic entities in Afghanistan, then Pakistan will use its own support for ethnic elements — and our ethnic elements are certainly Pashtuns,” Musharraf said. “So we are initiating a proxy war in Afghanistan. This must be avoided.”

Musharraf criticized former Afghan president Hamid Karzai for sending officials for training in India and not Pakistan.

“These small things add up to strategic problems,” he said.

Ghani and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif pledged last week to move on from the bitterness of the Karzai years, with Ghani saying three days of talks had undone 13 years of differences.

However, Musharraf said that regional rivalries could flourish again once NATO’s 34,000-member combat contingent leaves.

“When there is an absence of all these forces, then yes, there would be a vacuum... In that case, there can be more serious repercussions,” he said.

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