By General Mirza Aslam Beg :
Two years ago, Mullah Omar passed away.
“We belong to Allah and unto Him, we return”. May Allah rest his soul in peace. Ameen.
For two years Taliban kept his demise secret from the eyes of their own people as well as the international spies swarming Afghanistan, and have elected Mullah Akhtar Mansur, as his successor, later to be ratified by the Milli Shoora, which could not meet due to fear of aerial attack. It was the peace process launched by Pakistan which compelled the Taliban to make Mullah Omar’s’ death public, because, his conditions for peace were violated. Mullah Omar’s unflinching demands are: “You are defeated, exit now and let Afghans form an Islamic Government according to their traditions.” Mullah Mansur’s decision was thus challenged by the die-hard Taliban, forcing him to announce: “The peace talks cannot be held unless Mullah Omar’s demands were met. War against foreign occupation, therefore, will continue unabated.” The emerging situation thus leaves many questions to be answered.
Taliban would take time to convene the Milli Shoora under the existing threat of the aerial attacks, which means that talks would be put-off for an indefinite period. War will continue, unabated by the Taliban, who control almost seventy percent of Afghan territory and have established a new support base in the eight provinces in the north, which were earlier areas of influence of Northern Alliance, where the Movement for Independence of Uzbekistan (MIU) has joined hands with them, threatening the security of Central Asian States and North-West China.
The issue of succession is no problem for Mullah Mansur because he took-over as earlier-on designated by the Milli Shoora’s ‘Order of Succession.’ Similarly Mullah Mansur now has designated two of his deputies, namely Sirajuddin Haqqani and Mullah Haibatullah, endorsed by Jalaluddin Haqqani, the most powerful Taliban leader. The opposition to Mansur is mainly against his decision to engage in peace talks. The matter of succession is being raised as a conspiracy.
The cross-currents of interests of the Global powers and regional countries make the Afghan situation more complex. The American and their coalition partners, want Afghanistan destabilized, so that the emerging coalition of Russia, China, Pakistan and Iran does not materialize, and the China-Pakistan-Economic Corridor (CPEC) benefits, do not extend beyond Pakistan. India is particularly perturbed about the geo-economic impact of CPEC, on the Khalistan Movement in Punjab and the freedom movement in Kashmir, because both the movements complement each other, and the two regions, i.e. Indian Punjab and Indian held Kashmir find themselves deprived of the economic benefits of the CPEC, since Pakistan has decided, not to grant the ‘Most Favoured Nation Status’ to India, whose ‘Look North Policy’ thus would remain unrealized. An intriguing situation indeed, which could undermine the geo-political realities of the region.
A de-stabilized Afghanistan would seriously impact Pakistan’s security and its interests. Pakistan armed forces are presently engaged along the border regions of Swat to Balochistan, making it difficult for them to extricate unless peace returns in Afghanistan. This imbalance of our forces on two fronts, has encouraged India to test our nerves, by consistent violation of the Line of Control (LOC), and may well venture across the LOC to escalate the situation, India may also try to provoke Pakistan, violating Afghan borders, because it has considerable influence over there and their agents are fairly active on both sides of the border. If nothing else, Pakistan would face embarrassment. The benefits of CPEC would also remain limited, while the hostility on the borders would encourage the anti-state elements within, to expand their terror activities across Pakistan.
The Taliban are stable as a fighting force despite conspiracies. Jalaluddin Haqqani supports Mullah Mansur, whose strength is “his trust in Milli Shoora,” which does not oppose the succession process, but rejects Mullah Mansur’s decision to participate in the peace process. Mullah Mansur, therefore has corrected himself by declaring that the war will continue against the occupation forces. Whereas the social media is trying to create the impression that Taliban are fractured and divided and the tussle for succession has further aggravated the situation. If it all there is any threat to Taliban, it is from Daesh, who have found soft ground in countries like Syria, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Nigeria, Algeria, Mali, Yemen and now in Tunisia, to serve as the spring-board, into Europe. Air power has been used against Daesh, but has not proved to be the solution. The US State department admits that “the Daesh now are as strong today as they were some years back.” Whereas the Taliban have the solution. They are the unbeatable foot soldiers capable of eliminating Daesh from Afghan soil, but are handicapped by the marauding drones of the occupation forces, leaving vast swathe of Afghan territory undefended, where Daesh could find their haven and sanctuaries. Ideologically also, the Talibans are opposed to Daesh and are the only organized force to defeat Daesh on their own ground.
Taliban can define the peace paradigm in Afghanistan as the prelude to stability in the region. It is going to happen that way, though some may try to diverge and deflect them from their resolve to maintain unity. They have resolved not to be cheated again, as in the past after the Soviet retreat. With time, they have sobered down. Their sole objective is to establish an Islamic government in Afghanistan that would be able to maintain social harmony with the rest of the world. From the very depth of sorrow and sacrifice of four decades, Taliban have reached the point of atonement, which no longer can be denied to them. That is the verdict of history, under the Divine dispensation.
(Writer is Former Chief of Army Staff, Pakistan)