No one had predicted what happened in Afghanistan. A few weeks ago (July 8, 2021), when US President Joe Biden was asked if the Taliban would take over Kabul by force, he strongly ruled it out. He said that 300,000 troops of Afghanistan are highly trained and equipped with the best weapons and equipment 75,000 Taliban cannot fight it.
Then the world saw that all of Biden’s predictions proved to be wrong. The Afghan army did not try to fight the Taliban anywhere, but by surrendering they either returned to their homes or joined the ranks of the Taliban. Then the United States made another guess and that too proved to be wrong. One week before the fall of Kabul, the United States issued a warning based on intelligence reports that the Taliban could capture Kabul in three months. But this estimate also proved to be wrong. Then the United States made a final guess which proved to be correct and that guess came out on Friday 13th August that the Taliban would capture Kabul within three days. A day and a half after this warning, the Taliban conquered Kabul and thus at least one US prediction came true.
Many estimates not only of the United States but also of Pakistan proved to be wrong. The Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and National Security Adviser Moeed Yousuf were all heard saying that if a peaceful solution is not found through negotiations, Afghanistan will fall victim to civil war. Probably our leaders were making estimates based on twenty years old information when there was a time of warlords in Afghanistan.
Over the past twenty years, many of the ‘great’ and ‘renowned’ warlords have become insignificant and irrelevant. Hekmatyar, whom Pakistanis considered the most popular leader in Afghanistan, also became insignificant. But Islamabad had an understanding that private militias of these warlords would stand up to the Taliban and civil war would break out. Ismail Khan in Herat and Abdul Rashid Dostum and Ata Noor in Mazar-e-Sharif had gathered a few thousand fighters for a photo session, but all of them proved to empty cartridges and could not resist the Taliban. Ismail Khan surrendered, Dostum and Atta Noor fled.
Some former Northern Alliance leaders arrived in Islamabad on the same day as the Taliban took over. These leaders have only Panj Sher Valley area with them and nothing else. How can they be made partners in power when they have nothing on earth? Although the visit of these leaders was already scheduled, in view of the changing situation, Pakistan’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Sadiq Khan should have postponed the visit. We have given the wrong message to the Taliban on the very day of victory. ٰf they want to take political asylum here, we should give them, otherwise, they should be sent back because the current situation is not conducive for any such negotiation with them. Otherwise, we will harm our interests the same way that the United States did by miscalculations.
India’s estimates proved to be the most wrong. India used Afghanistan as a launching pad for its operations against Pakistan from 2002 to 2021. India not only damaged its own interests but also proved a curse for America. Pakistan had taken a real stand against the Taliban in 2001 and wholeheartedly supported the United States war-on-terror. But the United States befriended India instead of Pakistan and gave free rein to India and its intelligence agencies on Afghan soil. The late General Hamid Gul was right that Afghanistan was an excuse and Pakistan was the target. After the way the US and India used the land of Afghanistan against Pakistan, Pakistan had no choice but to come closer to the Taliban again. The results are in front of both the United States and India. There is no doubt that the United States will continue to seek to harm Pakistan’s interests in the future, but it must always keep in mind that the last laugh is always Pakistan’s. India put all its eggs in the basket of the Kabul administration. Pakistan feared that India would obstruct the peace process playing a spoiler role. Therefore, it tried India and the Taliban to talk to each other so that India’s negative role could be transformed into positive and get its support for the peace process. However, like the United States, India wanted civil war in Afghanistan. India had been supporting the Ashraf Ghani government and tried its best to keep Ashraf Ghani’s army in place. India has given billions of dollars to Afghanistan to build anti-Pakistan base camps. The Afghan NDS, in particular, was playing the role of RAW’s B team. Money from India used to spend for anti-Pakistan activities was sent to TTP, BLA, BLF, BRA and other militant organizations through NDS. All those networks are swept away after the fall of Kabul. India is empty-handed and totally isolated from the entire game.
India believed that it had restricted Pakistan’s operations on the Kashmir front by using the FATF platform. Pakistan remained silent on the Kashmir front but it slammed India on the Afghan front in such a way that it may not be possible for Modi to retain Ajit Doval in his post. Doval and his doctrine were done and dusted by the ISI in such a way that perhaps Indian intelligence could never erase that embarrassment from its face.
Where everyone’s guesses turned out to be wrong, all the guesses of a mild-mannered man sitting in Islamabad turned out to be absolutely right and Imran Khan should use the wisdom of this Darwaish for the benefit of the country. Former Pakistani Defense Minister, former Secretary of Defense, former Chief of General Staff, Lieutenant General (retd) Naeem Khalid Lodhi had said a month ago that there would be no civil war in Afghanistan, there will be very little bloodshed and peace will be restored very soon. All his predictions regarding Afghanistan proved to be correct and of course, Pakistan could benefit from his foresight. General Lodhi had realized that the Taliban would conquer most of Afghanistan without any major resistance and easily form a government. That’s exactly what happened.
Where everyone’s guesses turned out to be wrong, I pray that all my guesses turn out to be wrong too. I have said that the United States wants to use Afghanistan as a launching pad against China’s BRI program by pushing the country into the civil war. Afghanistan is the heart of Asia. If there is no peace here, then there is no peace in the whole of Asia and if there is no peace in the region, then BRI including CPEC cannot succeed. It seemed that the American plan was succeeding. But the way the Taliban have peacefully taken control of Afghanistan seems to have turned the tide on the US plan. But it is not possible for the United States to disassociate itself from this important strategic region and give China a free walkover. Now is the time to rethink what new tactics the United States will use to limit China and Russia in the region. Is it possible for the US to open a big front against Pakistan? With the full support of the Pakistani Taliban and mischievous groups, by creating a popular slogan and acceptable figures for the people, create a situation like Syria or Iraq? By giving examples of an ‘Islamic Emirate’ in Afghanistan, it is possible that a political and then a military campaign is being prepared by inciting the people against the corrupt judicial and political system of Pakistan. We must not forget that there are fault lines that can be exploited to shake our foundations. We must immediately keep our security and intelligence agencies vigilant, but for far-reaching consequences, we need to get rid of the current judicial system, which does not deliver justice even after many generations. If the Taliban can provide a better model of governance, their model of speedy justice will be appreciated in Pakistan as well. Instead of trying to prevent the establishment of a Sharia government in Kabul, we should focus on reforming our system. Judicial reforms were part of the National Action Plan and we must implement them. If we keep our house right, all conspiracies will die, but if we do not pay attention to correcting our fault lines, then our opponents and some friends are digging holes. The Afghanistan campaign is almost over. Now let’s focus on something at home.
*The writer is Managing Director at an Islamabad-based think tank Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies. He can be reached at [email protected]