Sep 24, 2021
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Taliban * and Pakistan

Pakistan becomes dependent on Kabul for security

The Pakistani government has proposed a roadmap that will lead to diplomatic recognition of the Taliban *. The idea was presented by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on September 22 in an interview Associated Press on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

“Be realistic,” “be patient,” “don’t isolate the Taliban,” Islamabad urges. Qureshi said that, six weeks after the Taliban seized power on August 15, Pakistan received information that the law and order situation had improved, hostilities had ceased, and many internally displaced Afghans were returning home. However, the Pakistani diplomat could not answer the question whether he had a forecast of what Afghanistan might look like in six months.

Pakistan is calling for patience in the hope that the world will finally see “a long-awaited Afghanistan where the rights of women and girls are respected, an Afghanistan that is not a haven for terrorism, an Afghanistan where we have an inclusive government that represents a diverse population.”

All of this is not yet available in Afghanistan. The composition of the Taliban government abounds with appointees from the ranks of the “old guard” when the Russian-banned Taliban * ruled Afghanistan in 1996-2001. Of the 33 individuals appointed to leadership positions, 30 are ethnic Pashtuns, although Pashtuns make up only 40-45% of the country’s population. Ethno-religious discrimination in appointments to positions of power has become the norm again. In the new Taliban cabinet, most of the posts have been given to representatives of the tribal confederations of the Afghan south. This imbalance has always existed in the Taliban Governing Body.

Afghanistan and Pakistan have a long history of cooperation. Pakistan was one of three countries to recognize the Taliban government in the 1990s and the last to sever official relations with it in 2001. Islamabad helped rebuild the group after US forces overthrew its rule. For nearly two decades, Pakistan has provided shelter and medical facilities to wounded Taliban leaders.

Now, however, Taliban leaders do not need such a safe haven, and the military arsenal left behind by the Americans obviates the urgent need for Pakistani weapons.

Pakistan is losing leverage over the Taliban and is itself becoming dependent on Kabul for security issues.

The rise of the Taliban to power will inspire Pakistani rebel or terrorist groups with ideological attitudes similar to those of the Taliban. The most dangerous of these is the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). While the Pakistani security forces have largely succeeded in limiting the terrorist potential of the group, possible contact between the two movements on both sides of the border and the resumption of CCI terrorist activities in Pakistan are of serious concern in Islamabad.

The Pakistanis have a request to the new Afghan government: they want the Taliban to curb the TPP. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, when asked if the Taliban leaders would ask the TTP not to conflict with Pakistan, replied: “It depends on Pakistan and the Pakistani ulama, not the Taliban, to decide whether the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan war is legitimate.” The implication is that the Afghan Taliban will not take responsibility for the activities of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan.

Moreover, the Pakistani Taliban may find themselves under the protection of the new Afghan authorities. The TTP leadership is in Afghanistan, and Nur Wali Mehsud, the head of the Pakistani Taliban, has renewed his oath of allegiance to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

Other international terrorist groups also continue to operate on Afghan soil. The August 26 explosion near the Kabul airport was a serious sign of the revival of the banned in Russia “Islamic State * of the province of Khorasan” (IG-K). In the first four months of 2021, the group committed 77 terrorist attacks. It expanded its ranks by recruiting Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan jihadists. Significantly, after the US withdrawal, IS-K views the Taliban as an implacable enemy. After the Taliban took over Afghanistan, most IS-Q prisoners were either released or escaped from Afghan prisons. It cannot be ruled out that in the event of an escalation of hostilities with the Taliban, IS-K will turn to cross-border violence to prove its status as the leading jihadist movement in Afghanistan.

On the eve of the 2001 US invasion, UN sanctions against the Taliban were based on concerns that various terrorist groups had found safe haven in Afghanistan. With the victory of the Taliban, these fears are returning.

To be “realistic,” as the Pakistani foreign minister suggests, it is imperative that any response to the Taliban excludes the use of Afghan territory as a haven for any terrorist group, not just the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, which is dangerous to Islamabad. For anyone, including al-Qaeda.

A UN report released in June 2021 warns: “A significant part of the leadership of al-Qaeda lives in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Their ties with the Taliban remain close, based on ideological similarities and shared involvement in terrorism. The Taliban have collaborated with al-Qaeda often through the Haqqani network, who is the deputy leader of the Taliban.

Today, one of the most wanted people by the FBI is the Interior Minister of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. With this composition of the new Afghan government, Pakistan’s call to “do not isolate the Taliban” is difficult to fulfill.

The world viewed the Taliban as an enemy to be defeated, not as part of the political landscape of Afghanistan. Risk analysis in Afghanistan must take into account the extremist nature of the Taliban.

Apparently, Islamabad’s “patience” towards the Taliban is explained by its strategic confrontation with Delhi. Pakistan has long viewed Afghanistan through the prism of India. In recent years, under President Ashraf Ghani, Afghanistan was considered particularly close to India, and this, of course, put Pakistan in a position where it was losing its ability to control Afghanistan.

At the same time, even if the rule of the Taliban in Afghanistan leads to an increase in the activity of local jihadists in Pakistan, it is doubtful that Islamabad will turn its back on the Afghan Taliban.

Joe Biden withdrew troops from Afghanistan, arguing in part by the fact that the war here distracts the United States from a more serious problem – China. Amid talk of Cold War rivalry between the world’s two largest economies, Islamabad may finally choose Beijing as its closest ally, which, unlike the US, invests heavily in Pakistan’s economy (in South Asia, the US considers India its leading partner).

And in their policy towards the Taliban, the Pakistani military, who largely determine the course of the country, facing the threat of terrorism from Afghan territory, will not retreat from what they consider to be Pakistan’s national interests.

Photo: REUTERS / Said Ali Achakzai

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