The recent attack on Afghan National Army’s 209 Corps Military Headquarters in Mazar-e-Sharif led to more than 170 casualties of Afghan forces with many more injured. Indeed this attack came as a shock to international community due to its extremely high death toll. Curiously most of the Afghan media began hurling accusations against Pakistan as being the main culprit behind the attack.

As the day passed, more and more shocking revelations came into limelight. Here are a few facts of April 21st attack which one rarely sees in other attacks of similar nature.

  • Two vehicles belonging to Afghan National Army were used by the attackers and the attackers inside were wearing Afghan Army uniforms
  • The two vehicles drove into the base while being a part of a military convoy
  • According to Afghan media, four of the ten attackers were serving soldiers of Afghan National Army who had defected to Afghan Taliban
  • In a bizarre turn of events, according to sources within the Afghan media, the rescuing Afghan commandos started killing the officers and soldiers of ANA held hostage by the terrorists. Afghan media sources point out to the careless use of Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPG’s) which increased the casualty figure of Afghan Army in this unfortunate incident

Looking at the aforementioned series of events, it can be inferred that the attack would not have been possible without inside help. No outsider could have access to ANA official cars, uniforms, IDs. In fact four of the attackers were serving soldiers of Afghan National Army. On top of that the disproportionate use of firepower by rescuing Afghan commandos resulted in a hike in casualty figures.

SOME IMPORTANT DEVELOPMENTS IN RECENT WEEKS

We need to look at the timing of this unfortunate incident. In recent weeks there were some important developments which took place.

Russia started to assert its influence in Afghanistan. It hosted two multilateral conferences in Moscow to solve the “Afghan Conundrum”. US dismissed the importance of these conferences as attempts of Russia to increase its influence in Afghanistan.

In recent weeks US started its diatribe against Russia vis a vis Russian support to Afghan Taliban. General John Nicholson had claimed that Russia was arming Afghan Taliban in Afghanistan. Afghan media also published stories of Afghan government and police officials in northern provinces of Afghanistan claiming that local people had seen Russian advisors on ground providing training and weapons to Afghan Taliban.

Russian Deputy Chief of General Staff Colonel General Israkov Sergi Yuryevich during recent visit to Pakistan was hosted by Peshawar Corps Commander Lt-Gen Nazir Ahmed Butt on a visit to North and South Waziristan.

Last month, a senior Russian military delegation ,led by Russia’s Deputy Chief of General Staff Colonel General Israkov Sergi Yuryevich , visited Pakistan’s tribal areas to witness firsthand the success with which Operation Zarb-e-Azb cleared the area from militant syndicates. Right in the aftermath of this visit, Afghan media had resorted to a disinformation campaign that Russian delegation visited Afghan Taliban camps in FATA. It is clear that an implicit “entente” between Pakistan, Russia and China is evolving vis a vis Afghanistan, where all three states see Afghan Taliban as a belligerent in Afghan conflict, which should be engaged through negotiations in an amicable manner.

President Donald Trump ordered a MOAB strike on ISIS stronghold in Achin District of Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province. Russian strategic elite perceives Afghan Taliban as a bulwark against ascendancy of ISIS-Khorasan. This strike was a clear message to Russians that US wanted to reassert its diminishing influence in Afghanistan.

The infra red image of the MOAB strike on ISIS in Achin Distric from the carrier.

It is pertinent to mention that 13 Indian nationals were killed in the US MOAB strike on ISIS-K. ISIS-K comprises mostly of former TTP elements who escaped Pakistan’s military operations in FATA. It was also responsible for some terrorist incidents in Pakistan’s Balochistan province. Presence of Indian nationals with anti-Pakistan militants in Afghanistan is a cause of concern for Pakistan.

There have been talks in US media, since the MOAB strike that US is going to commit more troops in Afghanistan. US interests lie in countering the growing Russian influence, countering the rise of ISIS-K and reassert its influence in Afghan theatre.

Russia had recently decided to increase its military presence in Tajikistan in the face of burgeoning ISIS-K threat emanating for Afghanistan. Russia already has military presence at 201st base in Tajikistan.

WHO WOULD BENEFIT FROM SUCH A FALSE FLAG INCIDENT?

The attack happened in Balkh province, which is close to both Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Afghan officials at the behest of US would be able to launch a diatribe against Russia for its alleged links to Afghan Taliban in Northern provinces of Afghanistan. This would malign the image of Russia among ordinary Afghans, thereby discrediting the Russian efforts for an amicable solution to the Afghan conflict and neutralize the growing Russian influence.

It will also allow Afghan establishment (at the behest of Indian establishment) to launch a disinformation campaign against Pakistan to increase diplomatic pressure on Pakistan. Such a campaign could be used to negatively influence the Trump Administration’s policy with regards to Pakistan.

It would pressurize Trump administration to commit more troops to Afghanistan and would change the public opinion in US in favour of deploying more US troops to Afghanistan.

Keeping in mind all these facts the question arises that was the unfortunate incident a calculated false flag attack to achieve certain long term goals? Elements within the Afghan Intelligence NDS (National Directorate of Security) had been used in a similar manner, as a proxy, to scuttle the Murree Dialogue process in 2015, when news about Mullah Omar’s death was released in a mysterious manner from Kabul’s corridors of power.

Such proxies with the Afghan military and civilian establishment will continue to be used at the behest of regional and extra regional powers at the cost of genuine national interests of Afghanistan.

Contribution & insights by Asfandyar Bhittani (Author and social admin @GroundZero)