By General Mirza Aslam Beg :-
The Durand Line forms the international border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, but it does not divide the Pakhtuns, a nation of over forty million, with sixty percent of them residing in Pakistan. Historically, this majority has maintained strong influence over the affairs of Afghanistan. No ruler at Kabul could govern without their support and consent. They are the main factor of security linkage between the two countries. During the seventies, when the Soviets installed Hafeezullah Ameen at Kabul, Pakhtuns revolted and established their support base in the Pakhtun tribal belt of Pakistan. Subsequently the Americans and the Pakistanis also joined them in their covert war, carried-out most overtly, against the Soviet occupation. The “jihadis came in droves from seventy countries of the world, establishing the base of Islamic resistance along the Durand Line.” – CIA
The Soviets lost the war and retreated. The Americans, defying the law of nature, denied power sharing to the Afghan Mujahideen, the winners, that led to civil war and the emergence of the Taliban in 1995, who gained control over most of Afghan territory by 2001, when the Americans struck, with great ferocity of ‘Shock and Awe’, to avenge the 9/11 terror attack on the twin towers in New York. Afghanistan was occupied, punished and pulverized but could not be defeated. And now as the occupation forces draw-down is coming to an end, the Taliban have launched the “Spring Offensive” because the Americans and their proxy government at Kabul are once again trying to deny power sharing to the Taliban – the winners. The grim battle for power thus has begun. “America’s longest war in history is getting even longer, with Obama’s overtures to the Taliban exposing fatal flaws in his Afghan policy.” – Brahma Chellaney
The Taliban of Afghanistan are fighting for the freedom of their homeland for the last thirty-five years and have defeated the mightiest of the mighty – a feat which remains un-paralleled in the contemporary history of warfare. Whereas our Prime Minister, on 12 May at Kabul, declared that “Afghan Taliban spring offensive and attacks will be construed as terrorist acts and we condemn such attacks.” He better seek guidance on this matter from the parliament, as he did in case of Saudi-Yemeni conflict. The DGISI has rightly signed the MOU with the Afghan DG National Defense Security (NDS) to ensure security on the borders, which is our common concern.
The Afghans are a very gracious people. They enjoy nationhood, which is two hundred years older than ours. They don’t see us as enemy, despite our joining the American war of 2001, waged against them. It was the proxy government at Kabul, which helped India, promote global conspiracy against Pakistan from Afghan soil. In 2007, I wrote some detailed account of the conspiracy, but no one took notice of it. Now I hope, we know that a strategic shift in the Taliban movement has occurred, seriously impacting regional security. Having lost their support bases and sanctuaries in Pakistan, due to our military operations, the pivot of resistance now has shifted to the North of Afghanistan, and together with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) estimated at 7-8 thousand strong, has gained a degree of influence in the provinces of Badakhshan, Takhar, Faryab, Zabul, Baghlan, Kunduz, Jozjan and Baghdis. With Taliban support, the IMU has built-up these bases to conduct operations in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzia. The Taliban have mobilized about 15000 fighters in the north and are jointly carrying-out targeted operations in these areas, which are considered strong-holds of Ahmed Shah Masood and General Dostum. This base of resistance in the north of Afghanistan, adds a new dimension to the Afghan conflict, which is “a reflection of America’s shrinking option, whether it can prevent the Taliban from marching into Kabul.”- Brahma Chellaney.
As of today, the Taliban are very different from the Taliban of the 1990s, when they had two masters – the CIA and ISI. Now they have one master – Mullah Omar. They had Seven Mujahideen leaders then, now they have one leader – Mullah Omar. The hard-core of the resistance now consists of the young Afghans, who have grown under the shadows of war and are hardened fighters. Their leadership has matured, having pragmatic approach for peace in Afghanistan. In December 2012, at Paris Intra-Afghan dialogue, they had declared: “We cannot be cheated by the enemy as in 1990. We will stand together to form an inclusive government, according to our traditions, once the occupation forces leave. This is our way to freedom.” The Taliban already control most of Afghan territory. Their summer offensive is putting serious pressure on the Afghan National Army, which is “falling like autumn leafs” – General Robert Seals, US Army. Last Sunday, Taliban struck an American convoy near Kabul air port, killing ten Americans and wounding more than two dozen.
Being an immediate neighbor of Afghanistan, Pakistan has the responsibility for peace in the Heart of Asia. War is not an option, because for the last twenty five years, the Americans had been trying to demolish Al-Qaeda but failed, and now find Al-Qaeda ghosts staring into their faces, such as the Dāesh in Syria and Iraq, Takfiris in Libya, Al-Shabab in Somalia, Boko haram in Nigeria, the Houthis in Yemen, Taliban in Afghanistan and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, emerging as the new base of resistance. Who is there to challenge them? None, really except the Iranians and Hizbullah, who too are getting exhausted, suffering heavy casualties.
Conspiracies and machinations of various sorts would make the situation dangerously complex and beyond control. The Heart of Asia conference, scheduled in Pakistan, late this year, holds the promise for peace, through “collective political and diplomatic wisdom” – a commodity we all seem to lack.
(Writer is former Chief of Army Staff, Pakistan)