The winter of Our Discontent-Afghanistan
Afghanistan will continue to remain a never ending enigma for all. While Kabul is trying to distance itself from an inward looking movement to an outward looking government, it is obvious that the inner sanctum of the Taliban Leadership will be slow to take a meaningful leap in that direction.Stricter rules are emerging at regular intervals, the latest being the restrictions of women traveling alone from home beyond 40-45 kilometers. Some developments need understanding and emphasis as they will impinge on Pakistan:
- Recognition is delayed. It does not bother the Kabul Government as yet. The release of funds on humanitarian grounds is one good sign of a de facto recognition.
- Taliban suggested to all countries whose nationals were aligned with Kabul and present in Afghanistan, to talk to these elements on amnesty. Except for Pakistan that opted to negotiate with the TTP, all other countries i.e., China, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Chechens (Moscow) refused. Our talks will lead nowhere.
- The Taliban reportedly told the Chinese that they will remove all ETIM (East Turkestan Islamic Movement) from areas close to the Afghan – Chinese border and place them across to the far side of the country, they will be strictly monitored. The Taliban plan now to give the ETIM, Afghan nationality!
- No such deal to remove TTP from our border areas and settle them towards the AMU Darya was offered to Pakistan by the Taliban, instead all TTP have reportedly been given proper Afghan cards and weapon permits. The Taliban are comfortable sleeping with our enemy. One hears that if Pakistan – TTP talks fail, they too will be given Afghan Passports. Absorbing these elements then fighting them is the option taken by Kandahar.
- It is clear that the Taliban are unwilling to address Islamabad’s concerns. The removal of our border fences is just the beginning, Pakistan will face greater and more serious terrorism related activities in the months to come. If the Taliban feign helplessness despite our political support, it would be wise to look at our policy again.
- It appears there is a growing anti-Pakistan sentiment within the Taliban leadership which is not understood as yet. Is there a group within the Taliban which is showing visible hostility towards Pakistan?
- Russia’s relationship with the Taliban are considered more sincere than that with Pakistan or China, the argument appears that Russia can challenge and secure the Taliban back in case of US aggression. Pakistan and China cannot give that assurance. Russia wants Kabul to look towards Moscow for all its Defence needs henceforth and not towards the West. It is believed that Moscow wants no US or Indian presence or influence in Afghanistan. It has desired to develop oil and gas concessions in Jawzjan, Faryab and Balkh which will benefit Afghanistan. It is looking for minerals and rare earth for its own industry.
- China is stuck with its demands of return of all ETIM to Beijing. This will not happen so soon. Although it has renewed its 3 Billion Dollars Misaynak copper mines concessions with Kabul, yet there is a hesitation to move faster.
- Iran – Taliban clash along the Nimroz border has dampened their relationship. There always was an inherent discomfort when dealing with Tehran in the past. This state will continue.
- The US will eventually engage on a broader scale. Its initial response after exiting of ‘Afghanistan is a closed Book’ was illogical and weak. It cannot allow other players to take over its sphere. Its hope on India playing a key role in Post US Afghanistan was ill advised.
- Pakistan has correctly tried to raise the Afghan problem at the International Forum. The OIC Conference was a recognised zed effort. Islamabad must ensure that it wants reciprocal steps by Kabul in eliminating threats from its soil against it. We may ‘cool off’ and not be seen as their spokesman!
- An anti-Taliban grouping is emerging abroad with New Delhi playing a major role. The Taliban may or may not be aware of its magnitude but surely they would be aware of it prime movers. India will make a diplomatic breakthrough soon and establish its embassy like others present in Kabul. One may see the Kandahari Mullah traveling to New Delhi for medical treatment soon!