THE AFGHANISTAN DILEMMA
| Col. Bipin Pathak - 02 Sep 2021

 

By COL BIPIN PATHAK (VETERAN) , MILITARY INTELLIGENCE

The Heart goes for the people of Afghanistan who had hoped for an existence devoid of violence. With the Taliban push, oligarchy seems round the corner. As it is Afghanistan is a divided nation and once again it stands isolated spiraling the Afghanis into a cauldron of barbarism. It is amazing to see Taliban growing from Zero influence in 2001 to about 40 - 50% influence in Afghanistan by 2018.

By 2018 , Talibs had gained ground and were ferociously fighting the ANDSF . Year 2018 onwards witnessed mass displacement of locals and high casualties of ANDSF. Maybe Talibs had some understanding with USA as their casualties had seen a decline. Taliban seems to have a media mandate of being capable of spreading tentacles as far as Kerala and Kashmir. Sooner or later they would be embroiled in multi ethnic warfare with Northern alliance of Tazik , Uzbeks , Hazaras as adversaries.

Over the years, world focussed on development of Afghanistan , whereas Pakistan contemplated long term strategy to expand the influence of Talibs in the interiors. Intelligence related with their subversive activities was available but for reasons known to USA it was ignored and today the super power is facing ignominy including their Marines being killed at Kabul. USA should ostracize Pakistan to prevent the evil from escalating the centuries biggest human crisis in terms of barbarism , governance , displacement , economy , food & medicines.

Kabul blast of 26 Aug was attributed to ISIS ( K) as it is presumed that the Talibs and ISIS (K) are not on the same page. To immediately inculpate ISIS with blast may be a false flag operation by Pakistan. ISIS has components of TTP in its cadres and TTP is close to Taliban. The overt display of animosity between the duo seems a facade. In all probability Talibs themselves would have initiated these explosion with intent to dissuade locals from reaching airport and serve a warning to Foreign Forces to evacuate by due date as the situation around the airport may become turbulent. One should also assess the timing of the blast as it happened after the visit of Pakistan ISI Chief Lt Gen Faiz Hameed and Foreign Minister S M Querishi to Kabul .

For years, American's and allied soldiers sacrificed for consolidating and reconstructing Afghanistan . As seen , the two decades of experiment failed and in the end had to leave unceremoniously. Tons of costly military equipment like Attack helicopters, rifles, drones, vehicles, NVDs worth billion of dollars. including surveillance equipment from biometric identification to databases of personal information and monitoring of mobile networks is now in possession of the Talibs, seems unsafe as they are likely to use the same against the Resistance Force and other tribals/ locals not in consonance with their system of governance.

Since 14 Aug , Pakistanis have been exuberant with the Talibs rolling into Kabul. Their delusion of being a Regent will be short-lived. During the visit of Pak Foreign Minister S M Querishi , Tajikistan officially to condemned Taliban. Soon Uzbekistan and others would follow suit. On realizing Pakistans inability to garner support for Taliban 2.0 , the Talibanis may digress from Pakistan diktats and follow an independent policy of accommodation within and a pro active foreign policy.

Panjshir Valley , Till now Ahmed Masood’s support is limited to the Tajik ethnic group. Maybe in ensuing days his footprints may expand to areas as far as Helmand Province , predominantly Hazara’s . This success will pave a corridor for Iran as even earlier Iran had supported the Northern Alliance . Support of Uzbeks from the Balkh province will give the Resistance Front easy access to Tajikistan and Uzbekistan for support to contain the Talibs and subsequently overthrow the terror reign of Taliban. At present it’s difficult to predict the future course of events as talks are ongoing between the leaders of the Resistance Front and the Taliban. If they strike a deal / understanding the geo political assessment would change depending on the agreed system of governance.

To retain his foothold in Panjshir , Resistance Front has to Seek support /takeover the neighboring provinces of Badakshan , Kunduz , Baghlan , Nooristan and Kunar before they can threaten Taliban strongholds of Kandhar , Kabul & Jalalabad. A long drawn battle ahead.

Reasons for Afghan Army to Capitulate:

* Corrupt tribal leaders may be have been bribed by Taliban for exerting influence on their respective tribal soldiers to lay down their arms.

* Futility to fight after the fleeing of top political leadership and Questionable military leadership.

* Trained in American style of operations which included close air support , faster replenishment of arms/ ammunition including logistics, quicker reinforcements which now seemed a mirage. More so the ANDSF were trained in counter terror operations with minimal focus on conventional warfare which included holding of ground , resulting

in surrenders once their strongholds were surrounded by the Talibans. This demotivated and demoralized troops on ground.

* Lack of Air power , Shortage of critical defence items and Lack of political support.

* Ethnic composition of Afghan army was 40-45 % Pashtuns, 30-35 %Tajik, 10-12 % Hazara and 8-10 %Uzbek and other groups. Maybe this ethnic balance affected the spirit to fight as majority of Talibani’s are Pashtun’s.

China's interest in recognizing Taliban , it is evident that most of the western countries including USA would cut down all types of aids to the Taliban managed Afghanistan. Soon the country would be in crisis. The dragon would take advantage by offering infrastructural loans in lieu of exploiting the strategic minerals of Afghanistan like lithium , copper , cobalt , rare earth elements and lapis lazuli. Similar to countries like Srilanka and many African countries Afghanistan wouldd be in a debt trap and a vassal of China. China unlike Russia and USA would prefer economic interventionism rather than military misadventure in Afghanistan, as they too are aware of the end results. Without firing a shot the Chinese would be the real rulers behind the white robes. This they would achieve by providing developmental aid juxtaposed with making massive trade and investment deals. They will exploit the fragile economy of Afghanistan for their expansionist policy as emerging super power.

India's Apprehensions:

* L-e-T and J-e-M have bases and training grounds along the southern provinces that border Pakistan.

* Pakistan ISI will negate India's role in development and infrastructure works.

* Trade through Afghanistan would become unviable with fallout on Chabhar port.

* Sword of Damocles hangs on the fate of Zaranj-Delaram Highway , Salma Dam and other projects

* Welfare of Afghani’s.

India’s concern is also about Taliban militants , Pakistan would attempt to infiltrate. The Quetta Shura and the Haqqani network would prefer to continue in Afghanistan rather than suffer losses in Kashmir. The militant threat to Kashmir would continue unabated from Pakistan rather than Afghanistan. Presently , likelihood of Taliban militants committing misadventure seems remote as the factional animosity would keep them pre occupied for spatial domination in their own geographical vicinity rather than venture miles into Kashmir. The cadres would only be infiltrated once there is compatibility in command between Taliban and the other groups operating in Afghanistan after eviction of USA.

For 20 yrs , the world assessed Taliban as a waning terrorist outfit. Recent events have proved us wrong. How long will the world tolerate their threats . Time to emulate Operation Valkyrie of Jul 44 , when Claus Von Stauffenberg and others attempted to assassinate Hitler inside his Wolf’s Lair Field Headquarters near Rastenburg , East Prussia. The policy of target killing by neutralizing the top cadres who at present are either in Kabul/ Kandhar could also be considered as a future option and balkanization of Pakistan as with fragmentation of Pakistan. the pipeline of support would come to a standstill

US envoy Afghan - American Zalmay Khalilzad for reasons best known to him went to such an extent for appeasing Taliban that has overseen demise of the Republic of Afghanistan. The envoy ensured that the Americans believe his exit strategy with Taliban . Consequences an open book. America should investigate the debacle of this envoy who seem to have betrayed them at Doha.

Post 2001, intent of foreign forces was to address War on terror & nation building. As evident the world failed on both fronts. With such an assorted ethnicity & tribal affinity , an outsider has a negligible scope to be an agent of change. A peaceful united Afghanistan can only happen with consent & willingness of the various tribes consent for nation building. At present no window is available as the American influence has disintegrated & the Doha agreement seems to have derailed.

Consolidation and regrouping by ethnic groups other than Pashtuns may lead the divided nation into anarchy . A Resistance front under Amrulah Saleh , Ahmed Masood & Bismillah Khan Mohammadi has already taken shape in Panjshir Valley.

Representative Image - Courtesy Khabar.one news

Col Bipin Pathak is a retired Army Officer from Military Intelligence and can be contacted at bipin146184@yahoo.com.


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