18.08.2022 Author: Vladimir Platov

Is Afghanistan becoming a Base for the Forces Opposing Pakistan?

TALL

In recent months, the situation between Pakistan and Afghanistan has increasingly mirrored that of the past few years, when the Afghan Taliban (representatives of the banned group in Russia), fighting against the government in Kabul, used Pakistan as their rear. And this has been evidenced by recent intensified clashes between separate Afghan Taliban groups and the Pakistani army on the Durand Line.

In December 2021-January 2022, for example, the situation on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border deteriorated, with the Pakistanis entering up to 15 kilometers into Afghan territory in an attempt to set up a stronghold there. These clashes have already resulted in casualties on both sides. There were “menacing” public statements by the Taliban’s (the organization banned in the Russian Federation) intelligence chief, Bashir, in response to which Afghanistan’s Deputy Minister of Information and Culture Zabihullah Mujahid called Pakistan’s state system “alien and hostile to Islam”.  Videos have even appeared on social media showing the Taliban ripping out border posts set up by the Pakistani side along the Durand Line. Today, tensions are still high, reeking of the gunpowder of a new war in the region.

To clarify the situation, it is worth reiterating that the Durand Line was inherited by the two states from British India as a demarcation line drawn by British administrator H.M. Durand in a pact with the Afghan Emir, Abdur Rahman Khan, in 1893. However, it has not been recognized by any regime in Afghanistan. Even when the Taliban first came to power, the Pakistan-Afghanistan border remained an open and sensitive issue between the two countries. However, it must be acknowledged that the Durand Line has divided Pashtuns living on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border into a “divided nation”. It should also be noted that Afghan Pashtuns, whose representatives have led the state virtually at all times, have maintained a strong desire to reunite all Pashtuns into a single state (the so-called “Greater Pashtunistan” project).

Islamabad has repeatedly tried unilaterally to solve the border problem, and with it the idea of a “Greater Pashtunistan” that poses a threat to Pakistani society. However, these Pakistani hopes did not materialize, there were major artillery clashes between the Taliban and the Pakistani army along the Durand Line.

The terrorist organization Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP, banned in Russia), which has a significant impact on the stability of Pakistan – the so-called “Pakistani Taliban” – is playing an active role in this confrontation. This formation emerged in 2007 with the aim to establish their own version of an Islamic state in Pakistan and seize power in Islamabad. In the intervening period, Pakistan has been the victim of repeated terrorist attacks by the TTP (banned in Russia). The formation has its own links with the Taliban in Afghanistan and, even before the Afghan Taliban came to power, was developing links with a section of them commonly referred to as the Haqqani network (banned in Russia). According to a UN report, the TTP formation has as many as 10,000 militias.

After coming to power in Afghanistan, the Taliban released some 2,300 TTP members from prisons, including Deputy Emir Maulvi Faqir Mohammad. The TTP’s position has since strengthened markedly, and the organization has had the opportunity to become not only a key ally of the Afghan Taliban, but also a lever of pressure on Pakistan on key issues.

The Afghan Taliban attempted to facilitate negotiations between Pakistan and the TTP to determine how their relationship would develop in the future. However, Pakistan cannot accept the TTP’s demands for their autonomy, having already had recent negative experiences with other groups. Nor can Islamabad accept the TTP’s views on the political system and social fabric of the Pakistani state. But the TTP has not shown any willingness to make concessions either.

All this exacerbates Islamabad’s struggle with the problems of extremism and terrorism by forces in Afghanistan, and the TTP continues to pose a threat to Pakistan.

What is happening now on the Durand Line and the Taliban’s actions in the Pakistani direction inadvertently suggest the involvement and provocation of an “external force”. After all, it is well known that Islamabad used to support the Afghan Taliban, but it is now the border problems, which have their roots in the British colonial past, that have worsened. There is an attempt to extend the Afghan destabilization to Pakistan in order to implement a geopolitical scenario prepared by a certain external power which, after the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan, was cut out of further active involvement in the fate of the region. Understandably, everything indirectly points to the US and its British allies in this regard, which is a wake-up call for both Kabul and Islamabad. It is these “external forces” that are now benefiting from the potential destabilization of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, which is hampering the development of the region’s economy. It is located at the crossroads of southwest and central Asia, and Russia and China are objectively interested in its development. However, the creation of an unstable environment there, which hampers the economic integration of the countries of the region, fits in perfectly with the plans already officially announced by Washington and London to prevent similar integration processes carried out by Moscow and Beijing, in particular, to strengthen regional associations such as the EAEU, the SCO and others. And, given the US and Britain’s recent course of further straining relations with Russia over its special operation to denazify Ukraine, and China defending its national interests in the Taiwan issue, it hardly makes sense to expect the Anglo-Saxon provocative activities towards Pakistan and Afghanistan to diminish…

Vladimir Platov, expert on the Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

 


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