Non-stop militancy from Afghanistan | By Dr Muhammad Khan


Non-stop militancy from Afghanistan

AMONG the entire region, Pakistan is the only country whose security situation has deteriorated after the take-over of Afghanistan by Taliban in August 2021.

This is despite the fact that the 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.

The process of pull-out and take-over was quite peaceful. 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 stronghold of Northern Alliance ‘Mazâr-i-Sharîf’ fell to the Taliban without any protracted fight.

This indicates that grounds were prepared for Taliban by former invaders which made everything possible for them except overt financial support.

Covertly the platform of UNHCR is being used by the US for continued support of Afghan masses ever since August 2021.

This means that the Taliban Regime has the full backing of Washington, despite it is not yet recognized by any state.

This also means that the US is tracking its strategic objectives within and in the neighbourhood of Afghanistan while using the 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 the 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 (US).

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.

Owing to its traditional intimacy, religious affinity and social underpinning, Pakistan is the only country which is still maintaining a closer link with the Taliban regime.

The attitude of the Taliban regime has been mostly arrogant and dictating towards the state and the Government of Pakistan.

In late 2021 and early 2022, 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 Enayatullah Khwarazmi issued a statement saying, ‘Taliban forces stopped the Pakistani military from erecting an “illegal” border fence along the eastern province of Nangarhar’.

Besides, there are repeated militant attacks from Afghan soil to Pakistani military posts and even civil population.

Indeed, Afghan soil is more frequently used by militants and terrorists of TTP who attack Pakistani military and killed over 100 soldiers and officers since Taliban takeover of Kabul.

Such types of reactions speak of offensive gestures from Taliban and a direct threat from a group which has neither international recognition nor ability to survive independently for a long time.

Such aggression and militancy was not seen by the legal and elected Governments of Hamid Karzai and Ashraf Ghani.

Rather, despite the 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 border.

As per rough estimates, Pakistan lost 100 Pakistani soldiers and officers since August 2021 which is a very high ratio.

There is unremitting phenomenon of terrorist attacks either by TTP elements or Afghan Taliban on a daily basis.

Once Pakistan reacted in mid-April 2022 by firing a few rockets on the hideouts of TTP in Kunar Province, opposite the Pakistani border, there was a very strong reaction from the Taliban regime.

Otherwise, the element of hatred against Pakistan and Pakistanis is more among the Taliban than a normal Afghan citizen which is quite visible on social media.

In April 2022, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid threatened Pakistan with serious consequences, once Pakistan fired a few rockets on the TTP hideouts in Afghanistan.

He said, “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, the Taliban regime is covertly and at times overtly supporting and encouraging TTP elements to attack Pakistani military posts on a daily basis which is unacceptable.

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 be a third party; an extra-regional power having strategic interests in the region.

That power is weakening Pakistan by creating social and domestic unrest, creating political chaos, defaming military and premium intelligence (ISI), promoting sub-nationalism and religious groupings.

Indeed, there is a larger perspective of these attacks from across the Pak-Afghan border. After Operation ‘Zarb-e-Azb’, Pakistan had emerged as the only victor state against the global war on terror.

This war was imposed on Pakistan by its same extra-regional power. The war caused more than 80,000 human losses and over $150 billion economic losses but, Pakistan preserved its sovereignty and territorial integrity by defeating all external threats and terrorism.

It was unpleasant and a failure for those who spent over $1 Trillion while being in Afghanistan for two decades.

In fact, Pakistan failed them in achieving their strategic objectives for which they felt frustrated and furious to punish Pakistan.

Bringing Taliban into power (their opponents in Afghanistan) through Pakistan is a huge trap, no one realized while being used.

Indeed, Islamabad could not assess this trap and its long-term strategic and economic implications which are quite visible now.

Indeed, time is running out for Pakistan and there is a need that all political parties must sit together and debate the most dangerous threat emanating from Afghanistan.

The strategic planners must revisit their old notes and plans to secure the strategic, social and economic interests of Pakistan.

— The writer is Professor of Politics and IR at International Islamic University, Islamabad.


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