Thought provoking: Pakistan’s continuing challenge: Afghan Gordian knot ! | By Gen Tariq Khan

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Thought provoking: Pakistan’s continuing challenge: Afghan Gordian knot !


AFGHANISTAN is unfolding exactly as had already been generally analyzed and predicted; the Americans would leave just as the Soviets did, civil war would commence with the Taliban eventually getting the upper hand and that the sitting Afghan government likely to be ousted, sooner or later.

There would be no compromise by the Taliban in accepting the newly structured constitution, that the Taliban would enforce an Islamic System and Islamic Law and that they would insist on calling the State by the name that they had earlier given, i.e: “The Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan” US Withdrawal was inevitable: Why expressions of surprise? Yet we see amazement amongst our surprised Pakistani intellectuals as if they are suddenly confronted with something wholly new and unexpected.

If this really be true, that these stalwarts were taken by surprise, then we are actually surrounded by the most ill-informed gentry who remain clueless and confused about the whole Afghan Spectacle.

Headlines in papers now scream that if the US withdraws, Afghanistan faces civil war – a blatant stating of the very obvious and that too after the fact.

This was bound to happen and when Pakistan eagerly put its best foot forward and facilitated US-Taliban dialogue the possible implication should have been clearly understood then by everyone.

First, that if there was no agreement a status quo wouldd remain in Afghanistan and that the Americans would have to choose between continuing to stay till stability was achieved or to leave despite the violence it would be subjected to.

In the second case, if an agreement was arrived at, the implications were very obvious: Given the clearly stated Taliban position on their aversion to the new Constitution, their own perception on a power sharing formula, the name of the State, Islamic Law and system of governance etc., there was very little to negotiate or discuss.

However, an agreement was arrived at despite the Taliban’s inflexible position on their principal points.

Such an agreement, was predictably, limited to a ceasefire arrangement between the Taliban and the US (not the Taliban and the Afghan Government) and that the US would be allowed and facilitated to withdraw unhindered from Afghanistan.

Thus Pakistani intellectuals should have realised that any negotiated settlement between the US and Taliban exclusive of the Afghan Government would mean civil war in which the Taliban would never reconcile with a Government that they felt had facilitated foreign occupation and that strongly opposed everything the Taliban stood for by way of governance, constitutional codes and human rights – especially emancipation of women.

Taliban are now unstoppable: The Taliban now want to wrest total control and there is no one to stop them.

There is also an element of vindication in an ethnic as well as ideological conflict that can only end when the last man standing is finally down from either one of the sides or Afghanistan, is divided to accommodate both warring parties.

This is the nature of the civil war that is likely to unfold and there is nothing that can stop it, moderate it or influence it.

The Taliban have seen off the combined forces of the International Coalition and the United States; they sense victory and correctly feel that the little that remains by way of resistance will be easily overcome.

The collapse of the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the US framed security apparatus that was constructed almost overnight was bound to fail.

Having now fought for the better part of 20 years, for us to expect that the Taliban will put down their arms and look for a political solution in a conflict where victory and success seem to appear so close at hand, is not just unrealistic but indicates a lack of understanding of the ground situation.

This was a conflict waiting to happen in the wake of the US attempt at fiddling with the very essence of the Afghan national character and nature that was based on history, tradition, culture and geography.

These elements the US ignored as they patched together an unrealistic “Afghan Unity Government” and gave them a Westernised Constitution to put into practice which was obviouslyy neither acceptable to the Afghan people nor did it have any place in the Afghan ethos.

Pakistan’s warnings to Taliban against takeover are irrelevant: Thus when Pakistan appears to show displeasure in a Taliban takeover of Kabul by force, it appears not only misplaced but totally irrelevant; after all, what exactly does Pakistan want: to support a hostile government that did its damnedest to harm Pakistan and work with the Indians towards this end? Most here in Pakistan would say good riddance!! To have apprehensions of a total Taliban success is natural but given the choices, the worst Taliban scenario is still better than having the best representatives of the present Afghan sitting Government.

A fact that has been demonstrated time and again through deep-seated hatred for anything Pakistani, with the latest insult passed on by the Afghan National Security Advisor, Hamdullah Mohib, stating that Pakistan was a brothel, just because he can.

Anyhow, why would the Taliban do anything any differently on the eve of a historical military victory and why would Pakistan assume that having ousted the United States, Pakistan would have a say in the matter? The other confusing thought doing the circles is that civil war would impact negatively on Pakistan? How would it – would the warring parties fight it out in Pakistan?

Dealing with its extremists is Pakistan’s responsibility: Yes, the fillip to extremists and fundamentalists in Pakistan would put pressure on conventional governance to follow suit and bring in an Islamic system of Government here as well.

That is not a product of an Afghan Civil War but Pakistan’s own ambiguous state of dealing softly with such elements.

Mullah Aziz on the loose in Islamabad, killer of Governor Taseer, Mumtaz Qadri becoming a hero, succumbing to TLP etc are not Afghan Civil War issues but a consequence of tentative and weak law and order enforcement by Pakistani governments.

For Pakistan to weather the storm till Afghanistan stabilizes or settles down to reasonable levels depends on the measures and steps that should be taken which would be basically Pakistan’s own internal actions.

These include Madrassa Reforms, sanitizing Islamabad of dubious elements, border management and enforcing the law. It must be understood that the Afghan War is coming to a close at a very critical time in the region and its actual impact lies in a different domain.

CPEC is coming of age and regardless of hiccups and glitches, it is moving on.—To be continued

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