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Afghanistan: A Boiling Pot Home to 6,500 Terrorists

The latest UN Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Report on terrorism revealed that more than 6,000 Pakistani origin terrorists are still in Afghanistan having links to ISIS and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The report vindicated its stance that the banned outfit Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) operating from Afghanistan and supported by India threatened regional countries, including Pakistan. The reaffirmation of Pakistan’s narrative has finally acknowledged by the UN and the world, which Pakistan claimed as a victory of its foreign policy initiatives. Non-state actors like ISIS or TTP always look for safe breeding grounds like Afghanistan where the government is weak. Now it seems, looking at the prospects of US forces evacuating Afghanistan soon and things yet undecided there, TTP and IS are allegedly planning to launch new terror activities in the region from Afghanistan.

In the Aftermath of 9/11

Many analysts in Pakistan claimed that terrorism is breeding in Afghanistan after 9/11 exploited by India to vindicate its nefarious designs against Pakistan. It seemed sponsored or instigated by India mostly because they used renegade elements of TTP in Afghanistan to perpetrate terrorist attacks in Pakistan. Pakistan armed forces have conducted two successful operations namely Zarb-e-Azab and Radd ul Fasad, inside Pakistan to phase out the terrorist outfit TTP. The success of these operations can gauge from terrorist events in Pakistan that have been reduced to 90% in last three years. Such external elements instigating secessionist movements in Baluchistan have also limited through bringing them into the mainstream politics of Pakistan. 

Afghanistan Fortified by its Natural Geo-Dynamics

Throughout the history, no foreign warrior ever succeeded in Afghanistan. Afghanistan always proved to be the graveyard of forging perpetrators given the terrain of Afghanistan, a treacherously mountainous terrain with innumerable hideouts and its jingoistic culture. People of Afghanistan never accepted any foreign power and they fought against them with all their might. Although the inner strife in Afghanistan has always prevailed side by side, the Tajik, Uzbek, Pushtoons and various other tribes have been fighting for a long time. This is exactly what the US and allies must have experienced in their 19 years they spent in Afghanistan.

US Military Might on the Retreat from Afghanistan

The US-backed government since Hamid Karzai’s time has mainly its influence in Kabul and some surrounding areas. No actual control over other major areas of Afghanistan. The training of the indigenous Afghan military has been an uphill task which still can’t term as a viable military infrastructure that can ensure peace inside Afghanistan. The reason they always failed and had to face 2400 military casualties, despite spending billions of dollars in the past 19 years. The casualties of indigenous Afghan soldiers have been much higher than NATO and US forces combined. India has also involved in upgrading the Afghan militias but to the same fate. Ultimately, the US and the western bloc had to keep India aside in the recent dialogues with Taliban to negotiate a peace deal with the Taliban.

Genesis of Taliban

Pakistan was the front line state throughout the 80’s in the Cold War between the US and USSR. The final battleground of the Cold War, Afghanistan has always had linguistic, cultural and most importantly religious links with Pakistan. Almost 10 years of war in Afghanistan and proceeding civil wars forced many people to migrate to Pakistan. Hundreds and thousands of refugees came to Pakistan to take shelter. During such a long stay in Pakistan, many of them became part of Pakistani society. The influx of foreign immigrants in such a large numbers in a small country like Pakistan had its drastic impacts on Pakistan. They brought the culture of illegal weapons, illicit trade or smuggling, drug as well as human trafficking, and crime rate and polarization of the society also increased. Many such people came to Pakistan in 80’s, 90’s and the first decade of 2000’s religiously indoctrinated. During this exodus of the 80’s and 90’s, so many families got split up in Afghanistan who had their first relations, or their near relatives living in Pakistan; therefore, they had to move between the two countries too frequently. Intermarriages between people living on two sides of the border which complicated things far more than could anticipated then. Some skirmishing elements amongst such immigrants and their families had unknown objectives. They had active links with their masterminds inside Afghanistan and they had various agendas which came to know for later. They established their roots in various cities of Pakistan, especially on the border line of former FATA region in the then NWFP (now Khyber Pakhtunkwah) province and Baluchistan. As time passed they increased their influences, established their madrassas and penetrated in other provinces like Punjab, Sindh and Azad Kashmir. They had their crop prepared from the youth, indoctrinated them into religious fanatics who went to mosques as imams, schools, colleges and universities, and spread their influence further. Things went like this for almost 10-15 years a generation of indoctrinated religious fanatics was ready to execute their plan. Such religious fanatics from the Afghan population on both sides of the border formed the Taliban. Who knew at that time they and their offspring would use to fight against the people of that land who had given them food and shelter when their homeland was under fire. 

Taliban Government until 9/11

In 1996, the Taliban established their government in Afghanistan. The people who had got fed up from the long civil war welcomed the Taliban government. The iron handed governance model which Taliban exercised in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, established relative peace and order in Afghanistan to quite an extent. However, it transpired by later developments that Taliban came to power with much larger designs. They established a religious government and promulgated the Shariah rule; strict Islamic laws not accepted by modern world, they wanted to spread their influence out of their borders. And thereby, the 9/11 took place after which the world changed. The modern world led by United States perceived it as a threat to their liberty, freedom and way of living. The US not only attacked Afghanistan in November 2001 but also on Iraq later in 2003. The US also invoked the defunct NATO as its ally in this war hysteria. The prevailing ideology in those days was to curb extremism and terrorism wherever it was present as per their perception. In the years later, US instigated the change of regimes in all the countries where it thought the renaissance of Islamization was cooking up in hidden manner. Most of these proved to be a hoax and will always look as imperialist mindset, cultural exploitation, spread of influence by US and its hegemonic designs to keep itself prevalent over the international politics or promulgation of its so called “New World Order.” May be, it is part of a much broader agenda on the international chessboard. Though, we can devise various theories to figure out what were the dynamics behind the events that took place in the 10-15 years after 9/11.

Post-9/11 Fallout on Pakistan

Like in the 80’s, Pakistan was again the front line state in this war on terror after 9/11. But in the 20 years preceding 9/11, Afghans had become deep rooted in Pakistani society and therefore, Pakistan had to bear a serious brunt of this war on terror. Although the extremist minded from the Afghans and their sympathizers from the local population were hardly one percent of the 8 million refugees, but still they amounted to so many because they armed. They revolted against the US attack on Afghanistan and started fighting Pakistan’s armed forces also.  Despite many counter terror initiatives, the period of 10 years (2007 to 2017) were the bloodiest years in the history of Pakistan. This nightmare culminated into the ultimate attack on Army Public School, Peshawar, in which 149 innocent children and teachers martyred. Soon after that, two full-fledged military operations conducted by Pakistan armed forces to identify and weed out terrorists, their sympathizers and financiers; and the intelligence were also beefed up. It was during this phase of turmoil by the terrorism in Pakistan, that this situation exploited by its belligerent neighbor India. Later, Pakistan’s intelligence agencies uncovered a whole network of Indian intelligence agency, RAW operating in Pakistan with the arrest of Kulboshan Yadev.

Way forward

To conclude the investigation into the roots of the terrorist or extremist elements, the genesis of that mindset, and its culmination into the shape they have acquired now, the UN Report discussing is an acknowledgement of Pakistan’s version that the country has been attempting to make the world realize since long. Likelihood of joining together of the banned outfit, TTP and on the back-foot IS elements, both of in the quest of a sanctuary, or a safe haven where absence of rule of law, governance and military infrastructure to maintain law and order. It happens like this when issues are left unresolved and it lets the warlords play in the hands of foreign states who want to vindicate their own enmity with the already victim states like Pakistan. The report certainly calls for stakeholders to sit together and resolve the political issues of Afghanistan and the regional issues in South Asia with a fair arbitration, not tilted in one direction, as done to safeguard own interests. Afghanistan remains an interest to many major countries; however, the US sought to end its 19 year involvement in Afghanistan, most probably, before the US Presidential elections late this year. Despite that, the question remains unanswered that how could this region be stable and prospers in future but hoping that the positive trajectory of Af-Pak rapprochement might play a significant role in this nexus.

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