OpinionLamp Post

Witches’ brew in Afghanistan

The Pakistan trap

Afghanistan’s problem is that everyone wants it to be someone else’s problem!

In the 1980s, Pakistan was a happy sidekick in the US war against the USSR in Afghanistan, in return for money and relevance

When the Soviets left in 1989, America went home to savour its sole superpower status

In 2001, America came back and decimated the Taliban but could not annihilate them because Pakistan gave them sanctuary, pretending to fight them for American largesse while secretly suckling them

Donald Trump called their bluff in 2018 and began to talk directly to the Taliban, reaching a deal in February 2020

Finding itself marginalized and with the golden goose disappearing again, Pakistan tried to scuttle the deal through the terrible Islamic State of Khorasan Province whose suicide bomber blew himself up on 26 August 2021 outside Kabul airport killing almost 200 people including US soldiers

Italy said one of its aircraft was targeted while taking off from Kabul airport moments before the blast

Khorasan is the ancient name for a region that once included parts of Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, and Turkmenistan

Joe Biden threatened retribution, and within a few hours a US drone eviscerated the alleged “mastermind” based in Nangarhar Province that borders Pakistan and through which the Mujahideen entered Afghanistan to fight the Soviets in the 1980s

Two days later, a drone took out a car laden with explosives rushing to the airport

In late 2020, the intelligence head of ISKP was killed by Afghan special forces near Jalalabad, according to the Afghan National Directorate of Security. He was Pakistani

Another release claimed that of some 400 plus ISKP captives in their custody, the highest, 299, were from Pakistan, while 34 were from China (presumably Uighurs)

The carefully crafted February 2020 Doha deal between the Taliban and the United States committed coalition forces to withdrawal by specified dates with intra-Afghan negotiations to follow regarding the future political setup of the country

As usual the spoiler-in-chief is Pakistan

With peace between the Taliban and the USA, Islamabad was losing leverage over both

In 2015 the Afghan government handed over several Uighur militants to China and asked it to order Pakistan to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table

In 2015, Pakistan hosted talks in Muree between the Taliban and the Afghan Government

In 2018, Qatar organized talks between the US Government and the Taliban. Pakistan was kept out wanting to prove time and again that no solution to the Afghan imbroglio is possible without its benevolence, Pakistan unleashed its rabid ISKP canines on Kabul Airport

America’s enemy, and that of the world, is not the Taliban, It is Pakistan

President Biden should look inside Pakistan; he will find the terror head honchos there, just as America found terror kingpin Osama son of Laden there in 2011

The Taliban’s spiritual guide, the one-eyed Mullah Omar, died in a Karachi Hospital around 2013, even though edicts in his name continued to be issued by Pakistani Intelligence for months

It would be a favour to the world if America bombed Pakistan into the stone age as George Bush had threatened to do soon after 9/11, for it would obliterate the epicentre of global Islamic terrorism

It would redeem America’s badly dented image

Badly shaken after the Kabul airport blast, the Taliban said that they remained committed to the Doha Peace Deal and planned an inclusive caretaker Government that would include leaders from all ethnicities

As of date they are unable to form a Government while anti-Taliban resistance in the Uzbek-dominated northeastern Panjshir valley is exploding

Joe Biden warned that it was in the interest of the Taliban, which is now the de facto ruler of Afghanistan, to ensure that the ISKP does not “metastasize” beyond what it is

America poured money and resources into Afghanistan and Kabul became a rollicking international city with clubs and hotels and theatres and flashy cars and shopping malls

Women relished their freedom and went to school and office and did not cover themselves from head to toe

Yet it all collapsed within a few months and Kabul is back to being a besieged capital of a nation in turmoil

The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry

What went wrong? Was it an attempt to control the minds of the Afghan people?

Take the example of India

We have gifted so much to the people of Afghanistan, roads, buildings, dams, schools etc

And we have not asked for anything in return

Our “investment” is in the goodwill that we earn

This is our policy with all nations

We prefer development to destruction

We sat out Taliban I from 1996 to 2001 and went back when the democratic government that replaced the Taliban asked us to return

The threat that the world thought it had eliminated with the destruction of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq in 2019, is rearing its ugly head again

ISIS is believed to be operational in 18 countries, including Afghanistan and Pakistan and the ISKP is supported by Pakistan-based anti-Taliban groups

After Shri Osama, the founder and head of al-Qaeda, went to meet his 72 houris in Jannat in 2011, the global jihadi movement lost its icon

In 2014 a fellow called Abubaker al Baghdadi (who had threatened to avenge Osama’s death) declared a worldwide caliphate (Islamic State) in Iraq and Syria after he drove Iraqi security forces out of key cities with military equipment abandoned by the USA

By December 2015, IS held an area extending from western Iraq to eastern Syria, containing an estimated eight to twelve million people, where it enforced its brutal sharia law, with about a third of Iraqi territory under its control

According to several Western sources, al-Baghdadi and IS received private financing from citizens in Saudi Arabia and Qatar and enlisted fighters through overseas recruitment drives

Thousands of radical Muslims, looking for some meaning to their humdrum lives, rushed to join IS, with Turkey (coveting Syrian oil) facilitating their travel

in 2015, Baghdadi sent some nasty fellows to the Pakistani badlands where Taliban fighters were resting and recuperating, and offered them a better chance to regain control of Afghanistan

Money is a great temptation and several hundred defected from the Taliban

Baghdadi then established the ISKP

Afghanistan had two insurgencies going on since at least 2015, the Taliban and the ISKP, one wanted an Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan and the other wanted to include Afghanistan in a global Islamic Caliphate

The two sides went to war in 2015, 2017 and 2019

In June 2019, ISKP released photos of weapons captured from the Taliban and published a video of its fighters renewing their Bayah (pledge of loyalty) to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

They criticized the Taliban for engaging in peace talks with the USA and called the Taliban apostates

ISKP claimed credit for killing dozens of Taliban fighters in 2019-2020

However, the Taliban fought back, riding piggyback on coalition attacks on the ISKP (the US had been sharing intelligence with the Taliban against the ISKP), killing dozens of its fighters and burning their houses in Nangarhar and Kunar provinces, ISKP strongholds

So many ISKP fighters were being killed every day that the remaining surrendered to the Afghan military, seeking protection from the Taliban

The Afghan Air Force later carried out airstrikes against the Taliban in exchange for ISKP’s surrender in the region

The dreadful Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan which had sworn allegiance to IS also fought alongside ISKP

The battle was between an extreme form of Islam and an ultra-extreme form of Islam

Several major attacks in Afghanistan between 2019 and 2021 involved collaboration between ISKP, the Haqqani network and other terror groups based in Pakistan

The August 2020 Jalalabad Prison attack (in which some Indians were involved) was an ISKP attempt to free hundreds of its jailed fighters

In the first quarter of 2021, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan recorded 77 attacks that were claimed by or attributed to ISKP, the ugliest character in the Star Wars bar for extremists that Afghanistan has become

A separate UN report published in June 2021 revealed that between 8,000 and 10,000 fighters from Central Asia, the North Caucasus region of Russia, Pakistan and the Xinjiang region of China had entered Afghanistan in recent months to fight for the Taliban, al-Qaeda or ISKP

IS, known for its gruesome videos of beheadings and other types of executions of both soldiers and civilians, and its destruction of cultural heritage sites, has massacred civilians at mosques, shrines, public squares and even hospitals

Last year, its gunmen went on a rampage at a maternity ward in a predominantly Shiite neighbourhood of Kabul, killing several mothers, nurses and mothers-to-be

In 2019, al-Baghdadi detonated a suicide vest when cornered by US forces that also killed some of his many children whom he was using as human shields

The same year, ISKP was “almost entirely eradicated” by US and Afghan forces

The survivors fled across the border to Pakistan where the ISI got to work on them

The Kabul airport explosion is the result

Despite its serious losses, ISKP still remains Afghanistan’s most violent terrorist group and will be used by Pakistan to keep the Afghan pot simmering without letting it boil over

Zia-ul-Haq had famously used this strategy with the Mujahideen during the Soviet war without provoking a Soviet attack on Pakistan

Many ISKP fighters are alienated members of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) or Pakistani Taliban, a radical offshoot of the Taliban that believes that the Pakistani state has killed Muslims in Afghanistan and must be punished

The Pakistani Taliban draw their ideological inspiration from their Afghan counterparts and consider the latter’s Emir as their own

Pakistan faces a serious threat from ISKP, which has already carried out several deadly attacks

Hillary Clinton had warned Pakistan some years ago that you cannot rear snakes in your backyard and expect them to bite only your neighbours

In the early 2000s, the Pakistan Army posted troops along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region to stop cross-border militant movement

Tribal jihadis retaliated, killing former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007, attacking the military’s General Headquarters in Rawalpindi in 2009, and Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport in 2014

The deadly 2014 attack on a school in Peshawar that killed dozens of children was a TTP operation

What does the future hold?

When the Taliban took over Kabul on 15 August, they released large numbers of prisoners from Pul-e-Charki jail, reportedly including al-Qaeda and TTP militants

These people are now at large thirsting for blood, and they will find it in Pakistan

Clashes (with casualties) between Pakistani troops and TTP in the tribal areas have begun

The Taliban claim that there are no TTP fellows in Afghanistan, which means that they will take no action against them

This is the same logic that Islamabad used when asked to hunt the Taliban in Pakistan

Pakistan keeps moaning that it has lost thousands of soldiers and civilians in the war on terror – the arsonist laments that his house has burned down

A few months before his death in 2017, asked if he regretted fathering Islamic terrorism, an unrepentant Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former US National Security Advisor and the architect of the policy to show shit in the Soviet backyard, responded cynically: “Which was more important for world history – the Taliban or the fall of the Soviet Union?”

What is more important today? Using a band aid on Afghanistan or eradicating the root of the sickness?

Pakistan must pay significant costs for its persistent efforts to squash Afghanistan’s emergence as a viable and independent state

 

Author:

Deepak Vohra

Ambassador Dr. Deepak Vohra, Made in India,
Special Advisor to Prime Minister, Lesotho, South Sudan and Guinea-Bissau,
Special Advisor to Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Councils, Leh and Kargil, Gauri Sadan, 5 Hailey Road, New Delhi 110001.

 

I am not Indian because I live in India, I am Indian because India lives in me!

They said: Hide from the storm; I replied: I am the storm  

 

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