Regime change in Afghanistan and beyond
IT is said that those who don’t remember the past are condemned to repeat it. The British, the Soviets and a Coalition comprising 50 countries, led by the US did not learn from the past and suffered in Afghanistan.
Thus, since the fall of Kabul, international attention is focused afresh on Pakistan and its relationship with the Taliban.
While our regional approach to insist on a broad-based government and respect for human rights in Afghanistan, seems pragmatic and our diplomatic and humanitarian efforts to assist the world, are being commended, we ought to be cognizant of at least six onerous developments.
First; our efforts to help Afghanistan and others are promoting our image and they must continue, however, they also bring associated security risks which must be mitigated.
Second; it is likely that some of the ‘tens of thousands of Afghans’ who crossed international borders, before Kabul fell, (reported by the UNHCR), could have entered Pakistan, in the garb of traders or through the unfenced gaps in the Pak-Afghan and Pak-Iran borders.
Third; after the ISIS (K) attacks at Kabul and US retribution, President Biden reiterated: “This strike was not the last.”
If these continue, even for the right reasons, they may push terrorists to relocate to Pakistan.
Fourth; India has no shared borders or any religious or cultural affinity with Afghanistan; however, it has enjoyed substantial Machiavellian influence in the country due to its unflinching support to the regime brought in by the US.
It used this clout to manipulate perceptions of the occupied, the occupier governments and the masses, about Pakistan, to promote its own agenda.
Taking advantage of the post 9/11 environment, it sowed seeds of discord among Pakistan, Afghanistan and the US governments through fake narratives, to divert attention from its barbarity in Kashmir and to bracket the freedom movement there, with terrorism.
For the same reasons, they continued to endorse the untenable Afghan claims on Pakistani territory, who myopically opposed our border control measures through fencing.
This enabled India to destabilize us through coordinated terrorist attacks by their Afghan proxies like the TPP, Baloch rebels and ISIS (K).
Last year, the Indian FM disclosed that India had ‘400 plus projects, spread over all 34 Afghan provinces’.
Ostensibly, these are development schemes but as usual, India would misuse them, like their Consulates, to continue its dirty games in Afghanistan.
While offers from Pakistan for training the Afghan civil and military bureaucracy were mostly rejected by the former Afghan rulers, according to Indian media, 8000 Afghans, including 800-1000 officers have been trained over the last decade in Indian civil and military institutions.
The RAW-NDS nexus, witnessed during all terrorist attacks in Pakistan and the hostility and rancour, exhibited against Pakistan by former Afghan NSA and Vice President and others of the old regime, are indicative that these persons were thoroughly brainwashed, to regard Pakistan as the enemy.
The present Indian worry is that the change in Afghanistan may deny them their unlimited freedom to hurt Pakistan besides boosting the morale of the Kashmiris.
They have therefore vowed to do all that they can, to oppose and undo this. For this, they will use Afghan dissidents, former Afghan officials and their links with their Afghan alumnus.
Fifth; like the past, large cashes of arms and ammunition left by the Afghan security forces could have fallen into the wrong hands, most of which is likely to be smuggled into Pakistan.
Sixth; disappearance of evacuees and transit passengers, from Pakistan, as it recently happened in France, is also probable.
A dozen inferences are evident from the foregoing:
(1) Pakistan must revise its national and provincial action plans to face the new challenges.
(2) The new Afghan government must be cognizant of the clear and present dangers to its internal security from India.
(3) Pakistan must share all previous and new dossiers, containing evidence of Indian terrorism in Pakistan, originating from Afghanistan, with the new regime.
(4) For its own sake, Afghanistan must commit to respecting the Pak-Afghan border, disarm all former combatants and collaborate with us in dismantling terrorist outfits and foreign proxies on its soil.
(5) Afghanistan must not encourage export of its ideology to Pakistan or elsewhere and
(6) make early, serious and sustained efforts for return of all Afghan refugees to their country.
(7) We must communicate all our concerns to Afghanistan at the highest level, without mincing words.
(8) China and Pakistan must renew their offer to Afghanistan, to benefit from the CPEC, to support their failing economy.
(9) It is impossible that the US and its allies were ignorant of Indian misuse of Afghan soil against Pakistan which points at their complicity in the matter. For this, they must apologize to our people and compensate us.
(10) The US fear about the security and protection of its diplomats in Kabul are genuine, but it shouldn’t repeat its earlier mistake of closing its embassy at Kabul, as it did for a decade, in 1989. Doing so will hurt its own vital interests in the region.
(11) The West, led by the US, must engage and conditionally recognize the new Afghan government to prevent their country from becoming a breeding ground for terrorists, once again.
(12) Generous philanthropic and development assistance for Afghan people must come from donations by affluent OIC countries and others, through the Afghan Government and the UN, instead of NGO’s.
The events in Afghanistan have clearly demonstrated that money and force cannot conquer the will to fight for a cause.
This is a clear lesson for India to learn and reverse its policy on Kashmir and for the people of IO J&K to continue their struggle for self-determination.
The change of regime in Afghanistan is a reality, which the world can reject, only at its own peril.
As for those who accuse Pakistan for the fall of Kabul, the aphorism that ‘bad workers always blame their tools,’ is enough.
— The writer, a retired Lt Gen, is former President of National Defence University, Islamabad.