In 2001, when America devastated Afghanistan by launching the “shock and awe crusade,” Mullah Omar sent the message to Pakistan: “You have joined our enemy in their war on us, yet we regard you as our friend, because our national interests and destiny are linked.” These words have a deep meaning and need to be analyzed in depth, to formulate our national security policies, in this period of crises. In order to determine the policy framework, we have to find answer to the simple question: “Having supported the Afghan War of Liberation against the Soviet invasion, why America turned its guns on their old allies and continues to punish them even now by denying them the right to sovereignty over Afghanistan.” The reasons are:
One: The CIA and ISI, planned and conducted “this covert war, fought so overtly, supported by the Jihadis from seventy countries of the world.” Thus “a strong power base of resistance” emerged, which defeated a super power and was considered dangerous for the expanding American interests against the declining Soviet power.
Two: The upsurge of the Jihadi culture and the possible establishment of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan was seen as a threat to the rising power of the West and therefore it had to be contained and curbed.
Three. The ISI had developed world-wide contacts with the Jihadis and had grown into “a powerful tool of resistance.” Therefore, it had to be cut-down to size, before it could pose threat to American interests.
With these objectives in mind, power sharing was denied to the Mujahedeen, after the Soviet withdrawal and a civil war was induced, to weaken the Afghan resistance, These efforts failed, because the American invasion of 2001, united the Afghan resistance, which defeated the American and NATO forces, now reduced to a force level of 12000 troops, trying to deny power sharing to the Taliban, whereas, the Taliban stand united against American machinations and are engaged in a grim battle for victory which cannot be denied to them.
With the help of the Pakistan government, the ISI was purged, “denying them contacts with global Jihadis and the expertise of eight years long war of resistance was lost.” Therefore, ISI was of little help to the Americans and the allies, in their 2001-2016 war against the Afghan resistance. Now, the peace talks have failed and the war of resistance is growing in intensity, promising victory to the Taliban, the arbiters of their destiny. The dominant power in Afghanistan, therefore, is Taliban — “the irresistible powerbase of resistance” which will triumph over tyranny to establish the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
This power base exerts a gravitational pull over the neighboring countries. Russia, China, Iran and the Central Asian countries, which are developing close relationship with Taliban, who form the core of the resistance that will determine the future regional geo-political security parameters. Pakistan is still in a “coalition mode” with America, and our policy in this regard is in a state of limbo. However, to our good luck the Providence has offered the opportunity to Pakistan, by the Americans, who themselves “have down-graded the coalition relationship with Pakistan” and are promoting India, ready and willing to play “the game of deceit, and denial” against the Taliban.
This is the defining moment for Pakistan to take a bold decision. The logic is simple, with options available as new opportunities are emerging. Pakistan has to discretely disengage itself from border commitments and get engaged with the process of change taking place in the region:
• Consolidate the gains of Zarb-e-Azb; seal the borders effectively and deploy resources to effectively retaliate with punishing blows against Afghan forces incursions into Pakistan.
• Assists the government for the rehabilitation of the IDPs and settlement of the civil order, on priority.
• Hand over the border security duties to the tribals and the civil armed forces.
The American decision to extend the military support to the Afghan government with over 12000 troops is self defeating, as it amounts to reinforcing a defeat suffered at the hands of the Taliban during the past decade, despite enjoying the support of 150,000 American and NATO troops. The outcome is writ large in favour of the Taliban enjoying a stronger will and commitment to the cause – freedom of the motherland. With serenity of judgment, Pakistan has to play its hand discretely as the destiny unfolds the power of the gravitational force of the Afghan resistance, uniting the neighboring countries into a coalition of the willing, determining a new regional security order against the global power brokers involved in Afghanistan.
Few weeks back, Afghan forces instigated by some agents, attacked Pakistan across the Torkham border. Pakistan army retaliated, punishing the perpetrators of the crime, and shattered the conspiracy of opening a second front for Pakistan, so that none could dare take Pakistan army lightly.
The writer is a former Chief of the Army Staff