Dangerous threats, emanating from western borders
Among entire region, Pakistan is the only country whose security situation has deteriorated after take-over of Afghanistan by Taliban in August 2021.
This is despite the fact that, Taliban take-over of Afghanistan was made possible because of hectic Pakistani efforts.
It was Pakistan which brokered the negotiations between Taliban and United States on the request of former US President Donald Trump.
As a result of the agreement, officially known as, “Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistanbetween the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United Statesas a state and is known as the Taliban and the United States of America” US and NATO forces pulled-out from Afghanistan in August 2021, paving way for the Taliban take-over.
The process of pull-out and take-over was quite peaceful except few incidents of bombing by Islamic State-Khorasan (Daesh) or by US drone attacks.
Taliban did not face any resistance from any quarter within Afghanistan while they were taking over the war-torn state, two decades after expulsion of their regime.
Even the former strong-hold of Northern Alliance ‘Mazâr-i-Sharîf’ fell to Taliban without any protracted fight.
This speaks of the fact that grounds were prepared for Taliban by former invaders which made everything possible for them except finances.
From the platform of UNHCR, United States covertly continued the support of Afghan masses in difficult months of extreme cold weather November 2021 to January 2022.
In January 2022, United Nations along with some Non-Governmental Organizations launched a massive plan for the humanitarian assistance of Afghan masses.
This over 5 billion USD humanitarian relief aimed to support 22 million people in Afghanistan and over 5.7 million displaced Afghans in neighbouring states of Afghanistan. This all was made possible by UN under the covert support-plan of United States.
This means that, Taliban Regime has full backing of the Washington, despite it is not yet recognized by any state.
This also means that US is tracking its strategic objectives within and in the neighbourhood of Afghanistan while using Taliban as a covert tool.
Russia and China alongside Pakistan were considered very close to Taliban, after their take-over of Kabul.
Nevertheless, there came a mysterious silence and chill in their relationship with Taliban regime.
Whereas, Pakistan provided huge humanitarian assistance to Taliban regime for the poor masses, others did very little considering Taliban still closer to their rival power.
Russia-Ukraine war further complicated the Moscow-Kabul relationship while Beijing has its own priorities in the region as well as at the global level.
All other neighbours of Afghanistan (Iran and Central Asian states) maintained very cautious relationship with Taliban regime right from their take-over of Afghanistan.
They are not allowing any Afghan movement to their borders except official and that too tightly controlled and strictly monitored.
Owing to its traditional intimacy, religious affinity and social underpinnings, Pakistan is the only country which is still maintaining a closer link with Taliban regime.
The attitude of the Taliban regime has been mostly arrogant and dictating towards the state and the Government of Pakistan.
In December 2021, the Taliban soldiers, guarding the Afghan border repeatedly disrupted the process of security fencing, undertaken by Pak Army.
Taliban soldiers removed the fence from a sizable portion, of Pak-Afghan border. It was not an incident or accidental event, rather a well-planned action, ordered by Taliban regime as Taliban defence ministry spokesman EnayatullahKhwarazmi issued a statement saying that, ‘Taliban forces stopped the Pakistani military from erecting an “illegal” border fence along the eastern province of Nangarhar’.
Such types of reactions speaks of an offensive gestures from Taliban and direct threat from a group which neither has neither international recognition nor ability to survive independently for a long.
Such aggressiveness was not seen by legal and elected Governments of Hamid Karazai and AsharifGhani.
Rather, despite presence of TTP elements in Afghanistan under NDS, there were very few attacks on Pakistani border posts from 2016 to 2021.
There have been continuous terrorist attacks on the Pakistani border posts, manned by its security forces along Pak-Afghan borders.
This is happening despite Pakistan has fenced over 90% of its border with Afghanistan; total Pak-Afghan border is 2,600 km.
As per a rough estimates, Pakistan lost “97 Pakistani soldiers and officers” in three months; January to March 2022.
This a huge number of soldiers, martyred while there is no formal war between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
There is unremitting phenomenon of terrorist attacks either by TTP elements or Afghan Taliban on daily bases.
Once Pakistan reacted in mid April 2022 by firing few rockets on the hideouts of TTP in Kunar Province, opposite Pakistani border, there was a very strong reaction from Taliban regime.
The Taliban spokesman ZabihullahMujahidwarned Pakistan of serious consequence by saying; “This is a cruelty and it is paving the way for enmity between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The Pakistani side should know that if a war starts it will not be in the interest of any side”. Nevertheless, Taliban regime is supporting and encouraging TTP elements to attack Pakistani military posts on daily basis.
These attacks and huge human losses of the trained soldiers and officers must not be viewed in isolation but have a larger and strategic perspective where the planner and benefactor may a third power.
The repeated trends of worsening security situation, emanating along Pak-Afghan border need serious attention and strategic orientation. Indeed, it indicates dangerous security threats with serious and long-term repercussions.
The incessant terrorist attack on Pakistani security posts and killings of thousands of soldiers is indeed the well-planned war of attrition which Pakistan can ill afford.
With a growing political instability and worsening state of economy, is there a plan to control the dangerous threats, emanating from Western Borders of Pakistan.
— The writer is Professor of Politics and IR at International Islamic University, Islamabad.