There are many reasons why Pakistanis should be deeply concerned about the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan. But perhaps the two most important reasons are equally existential and urgent.
First, the rise of the Taliban will spawn a global (and local) claim of the possibility of anti-republican, anti-modern, and political takeover of countries as an expression of the people’s Muslim identity. From school playgrounds in Texas to UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Timbuktu, young Muslims are drawn to the symbolism of a ragged collection of pious and simple fighters who defeat the mighty United States – the greatest and most formidable military power ever assembled in human history .
These narratives are not new and they are not only known to Muslims. In fact, the seeds of these narratives were sown where they will be harvested today, some forty years ago, when the US sought to empower and empower the grandfathers, uncles, and fathers of the Taliban who speak about Afghanistan today to take the Soviet Union fall. Americans don’t like to be reminded of this important story, but that shouldn’t stop Pakistani people from knowing it. The problem is what’s next.
Second, the rise of the Taliban will present a new and unprecedented counter-terrorism challenge for Pakistan that does not appear to have been conceived, discussed or planned by those whom the Islam of the Republic of Pakistan has tasked with shaping, and Pakistan’s messages to its own People and to the world. Al-Qaeda, Daesh, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and a large number of smaller splinter groups as well as the rest, escape and backend networks of groups banned in Pakistan can contact the Doha Shura. be friends or not with the Taliban. But they have a love affair with unregulated areas – and Afghanistan will be less unregulated under the Taliban than under the US occupation.
Political Islam of the early 1980s, when the love affair between Ronald Reagan and General Ziaul Haq was hottest, was at a crossroads. Given the leadership vacuum created by the assassination of King Faisal in 1975 and the judicial assassination of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in 1979, the still nascent abstractions of a coherent Muslim bloc were set in motion by the Iranian revolution, culminating in the rise of the Ayatollah in Iran in 1979. The American efforts to romanticize the Afghan “jihad” against the Soviet Union succeeded in inserting the image of the simpleton warrior into this vacuum.
That white noise that welcomes the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan on social media? This is the orphan of a process that has been developing for half a century. The replacement of a state-centered, modern pan-Islamic political identity with anti-republican, anti-modern, non-state actors like the Taliban.
The reason al-Qaeda, Daesh, TTP and hordes of other acronyms pose a deeper threat to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan than it did before August 16, 2021 is not because the Taliban necessarily have an anti-Pakistani agenda. That’s because they have a pan-Islamic agenda after the 1980s – and terrorist groups like Al Qaeda Da’esh and TTP are a face of that agenda. To understand how difficult it will be for Mullah Baradar and his Doha workers to make their promises to the Qataris, the Saudis, the Emiratis, the Americans, the Norwegians, the Iranians, the Russians, the Chinese and the Pakistanis , take a look at Hamid Karzai International Airport for the past week or so.
The tragic and heartbreaking images of ordinary Afghans fleeing their land deserve deep introspection on a fundamentally human level alone. But the even more profound question these images should raise for Pakistani strategists, the military, paramilitaries, intelligence and counterintelligence officials is this: If the Taliban need the help of over five thousand American and other Western soldiers to keep the airport safe, and? If all of this help is still creating the chaos and uncertainty that grips the airport and its surroundings, how exactly is Haibatullah Akhunzada going to ensure that the Nuristan Caves, the Marawara Valleys and the Bihsud Fields are free from the TTP?
Of course, no one will ask that question of Suhail Shaheen or Zabiullah Mujahid. The western press, once the domain of incredible reporters like Lyse Doucet, Declan Walsh and Jon Boone, now appears to be overrun by a parade of inward-looking post-Brexit and Trump-era reporters for Afghanistan – a country with almost 40 million – starts and ends at Kabul Airport. The Pakistani press has more to think about and reflect on. Too many Pakistani voices have portrayed the Taliban’s victory as an affirmation of Pakistan’s strategic rationale or, worse, affirmation of the glory of Muslim resistance to imperialism. Either way, the most important questions that Shaheen or Mujahid should answer, about the anti-terrorist plans of the new regime in Kabul, about the rights of Afghan women, about the structure of an urgently needed reconciliation process within Afghan society, are hardly ever asked responded. The Taliban’s public diplomacy and intelligence operations are the best of any key player in the Afghan muddle – and as we have learned from Western democracies like Emmanuel Macron’s France, as well as from fascist disasters like Narendra Modi’s India – a smooth presentation can gloss over much of ugliness .
President Biden is facing a lot of heat in Washington DC because of his handling of the US withdrawal. But few pay attention to the factors that were beyond the control of the United States.
President Ashraf Ghani had almost two years to come to terms with the sunset clause that the Americans introduced into his regime when Zalmay Khalilzad accepted Donald Trump’s offer to negotiate a US exit from Afghanistan. Instead of serving his country, Ghani chose to serve his fragile ego. How should Anthony Blinken or Lloyd Austin have dealt with Ghani other than physically removing him from the Arg? Of course, the heat will subside on Biden. But the counter-terrorism challenge in Afghanistan will only escalate. If both happens, all of the weapons (and drones and ball bearings and VBIEDs) in this wild, wild western saga will be aimed at the same target: the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
Dealing with the imminent pressures on Pakistan requires a skilful understanding of the triple threat posed by the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan: first, a wave of TTP, Daesh (and possibly al-Qaeda), and separatist terrorism rising up Afghan territory. Second, a constant and relentless Western press and a political orchestra that hold Pakistan responsible for everything in Afghanistan – similar to what it has done for the past two decades, but with Western capitals that have barely any physical skin involved. Third, a torn and fragmented internal state, torn by a combination of romance for the Taliban on the right (and part of the center), distrust of the security apparatus on the left (and the “periphery”) and the incompetence of the military and civil bureaucrats whose appearances (compared to the Suhail Shaheens of the world) show how broken the recruitment, relocation, secondment and promotion system of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan really is.
If Prime Minister Imran Khan (and make no mistake if the pressure mounts, it is this country’s prime ministers who are the primary – and only – targets of both public ridicule and private scolding) likes cricket analogies, here is one Who he should love: PM Khan is staring at something similar to the 1992 World Cricket Championship, except that in this scenario he’s not the captain of Pakistan (the eventual winner of that campaign). No. In this scenario, Imran Khan is the white Kookaburra. A first participant on the big show where everyone either wants to knock you out of the park or rub and scratch you enough times to make you dance to their tune. Pakistan, Afghanistan and the region should pray that Prime Minister Khan can withstand the pressure. Because it’s coming.
The author is an analyst and commentator.
This article originally appeared in the daily newspaper on August 24, 2021 The news. It can be accessed here.